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May 3, 2013 0

Boston Marathon Bombers Inspired By Anwar al-Awlaki

Reports are emerg­ing that Tamer­lan and Dzkhokhar Tsar­naev, the broth­ers allegedly respon­si­ble for the April 15 Boston Marathon bomb­ings, were rad­i­cal­ized, at least in part, by rad­i­cal cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.awlaki-boston-marathon-bombing-adl

Dzokhar, the sur­viv­ing Tsar­naev brother, report­edly told law enforce­ment offi­cials that he and his brother were inspired by Awlaki ser­mons avail­able online. Awlaki, an American-born Mus­lim cleric who encour­aged attacks against Amer­ica and the West, deliv­ered his ide­ol­ogy of extreme intol­er­ance and vio­lence to English-speaking online audi­ences for sev­eral years.

Prior to his death in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on Sep­tem­ber 30, 2011, Awlaki influ­enced a gen­er­a­tion of extrem­ists in the U.S and abroad. One indi­ca­tion of Awlaki’s wide­spread influ­ence is the num­ber of extrem­ists that have been found in pos­ses­sion of his mate­ri­als. In addi­tion to the Boston Bomb­ings, Awlaki’s influ­ence can be seen in at least nine other plots:

  • Quazi Nafis, who pleaded guilty to attempt­ing to bomb the New York Fed­eral Reserve Build­ing in Octo­ber 2012, report­edly watched Awlaki videos and admired him, accord­ing to friends and fed­eral officials.
  • Adel Daoud, who was arrested in Sep­tem­ber 2012 and charged with plot­ting to bomb a Chicago-area bar, shared Awlaki lec­tures with his friends.
  • Jose Pimentel, who was arrested and charged with state-level ter­ror­ism offense in New York for plan­ning to attack mil­i­tary per­son­nel and other tar­gets in Novem­ber 2011, posted at least fif­teen Awlaki videos to his YouTube chan­nel. On his web­site, Pimentel called Awlaki “The Destroyer Of The US” and posted tran­scripts of his mes­sages. Pimentel report­edly accel­er­ated his bomb-building efforts in response to Awlaki’s death in a US drone strike in Sep­tem­ber 2011.
  • Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, who was sen­tenced for his plot to attack a mil­i­tary facil­ity in Seat­tle in June 2011, sub­scribed to a YouTube chan­nel fea­tur­ing Awlaki videos.  In one of the videos Abdul-Latif made him­self, he laments that Pres­i­dent Obama “put a hit out on Anwar al-Awlaki, our brother sheikh.”
  • Anto­nio Mar­tinez, who was sen­tenced for attempt­ing to det­o­nate what he believed to be a car bomb at a Mary­land Army recruit­ing cen­ter in Decem­ber 2010, con­veyed to an under­cover infor­mant his admi­ra­tion for Awlaki.  On his Face­book pro­file, Mar­tinez sim­i­larly broad­cast his appre­ci­a­tion of Awlaki, writ­ing, “I love Sheikh Anwar al Awlaki for the sake of ALLAH.  A real inspi­ra­tion for the Ummah, I dont care if he is on the ter­ror­ist list! May ALLAH give him Kire amen [sic].”
  • Farooque Ahmed, who was sen­tenced for his role in a plot to attack DC-area pub­lic trans­porta­tion in 2010, was found to be in pos­ses­sion of CDs con­tain­ing Awlaki lec­tures and speeches.
  • Faisal Shahzad, who was sen­tenced to life in prison for his failed attempt to bomb Times Square in 2010, told inves­ti­ga­tors he was influ­enced by Awlaki.
  • Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 peo­ple at Fort Hood, Texas, sent 16 emails to Awlaki and received two responses.  In the after­math of the attack, Awlaki claimed he “blessed the act because it was against a mil­i­tary tar­get,” gave Hasan “per­mis­sion to carry out his attacks at Fort Hood,” and instructed him to “kill other Amer­i­can sol­diers,” although his email responses were rel­a­tively innocuous.
  • Five men who con­spired to attack the Fort Dix army base in New Jer­sey in 2007 were report­edly in pos­ses­sion of an Awlaki ser­mon and were also report­edly recorded dis­cussing the lec­ture enthusiastically.
awlaki-samir-kahn-inspire-aqap

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan

Awlaki was also a con­trib­u­tor to Inspire mag­a­zine which influ­enced numer­ous inter­na­tional and domes­tic extrem­ists moti­vated by rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam. Fed­eral law enforce­ment offi­cials report­edly con­firmed that the Tsar­naev broth­ers got bomb-making instruc­tions from Inspire mag­a­zine.

Addi­tion­ally, Awlaki is believed to have per­son­ally instructed Umar Farouk Abdul­mu­tal­lab to det­o­nate his bomb aboard a transat­lantic flight from Ams­ter­dam to Detroit on Christ­mas Day 2009 over Amer­i­can air­space in order to max­i­mize casualties.

Awlaki’s influ­ence is not lim­ited to plots. His pro­pa­ganda also influ­enced a num­ber of indi­vid­u­als accused of pro­vid­ing or attempt­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to ter­ror­ists. Recent exam­ples include Abdella Tounisi, four indi­vid­u­als from Cal­i­for­nia, Randy “Rasheed” Wil­son and Moham­mad Abukhdair. Notably, sev­eral Amer­i­can extrem­ists com­mu­ni­cated with Awlaki directly, includ­ing Nidal Has­san, Zachary Chesser and Barry Bujol, Jr.

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March 4, 2013 3

New Inspire Magazine Hits Digital Newsstands

The tenth issue of Inspire mag­a­zine, released by Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula last Thurs­day, offers its read­ers an array of ideas and advice for sup­port­ing the global jihadist movement.

In the issue, lone wolf attacks are specif­i­cally encour­aged: “Praises [to] the Knights of Lone Jihad…You are Lethal! You are Dev­as­tat­ing!” Would-be lone wolves are advised to engage in attacks on the road by caus­ing traf­fic acci­dents and torch­ing parked vehi­cles, as well as assas­si­nat­ing polit­i­cal lead­ers and for­mer polit­i­cal lead­ers who may be less pro­tected (Amer­i­can, British and French for­mer polit­i­cal oper­a­tives and diplo­mats are men­tioned by name).

Fol­low­ing Thursday’s release of Inspire, AQAP also released a com­pi­la­tion of the advice it has pub­lished for car­ry­ing out attacks as the “Lone Mujahid Pocketbook.”

Inspire also con­tains an inter­view with the Amer­i­can spokesman for Al Qaeda, Adam Gadahn. If the inter­view proves to be authen­tic, it is the first English-language mes­sage from Gadahn since a June 2011 video in which he called on Amer­i­can Mus­lims to launch lone wolf attacks on U.S. soil.  He has, how­ever, more recently appeared in Arabic-language videos dis­cussing the Arab Spring and Al Qaeda’s role in it.

Gadahn, who was a pio­neer in the field of so-called “jihadi media,” reit­er­ates its pur­ported impor­tance in the inter­view, call­ing on his fel­low pro­pa­gan­dists to “make every effort to reach out to Mus­lims both through new media like Face­book and Twit­ter as well as the tra­di­tional broad­cast and print media.” 

In an appar­ent call for vio­lence, Gadahn instructs “mujahideen around the world” to focus their efforts on “direct engage­ment at home and abroad with Amer­ica and its NATO part­ners, par­tic­u­larly France and Britain.” 

Another arti­cle from the mag­a­zine, called “We Are All Usama,” which focuses on the need for Mus­lim unity in the face of insults by the West, was used by jihadist hack­ers to replace sev­eral uni­ver­sity web­sites on Fri­day and over the weekend. 

The mag­a­zine con­tin­ues to focus on the Sep­tem­ber 2011 deaths of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born rad­i­cal cleric who became a lead­ing ide­o­logue and com­man­der of AQAP; and Samir Khan, who was believed to be respon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing the first issues of Inspire. Al-Awlaki and Khan, as well as a third indi­vid­ual named Abu Yazeed al-Qatari, are fea­tured in a “let­ter to the edi­tor” that praises the men for their com­mit­ment to jihad.

This issue is the first major media effort by AQAP in Eng­lish since May 2012, when it released the last two issues of Inspire, a recruit­ing pam­phlet, and a col­lec­tion of Osama bin Laden state­ments

Although Inspire con­tin­ues to solicit con­tri­bu­tions from its read­ers, dig­i­tal copies of the mag­a­zine appear to be secured which doesn’t allow for the mag­a­zine to be printed. This may be an effort to pre­vent its use as evi­dence in ter­ror­ism cases; the mag­a­zine has often been found in the pos­ses­sion of ter­ror­ism sus­pects as both a source of rad­i­cal­iz­ing mate­r­ial and for its easy-to-follow instruc­tions for car­ry­ing out attacks. 

In a fur­ther move to raise the level of secu­rity, AQAP also issued a state­ment on jihadist forums over the week­end indi­cat­ing that it would no longer com­mu­ni­cate with indi­vid­ual sup­port­ers plan­ning attacks via email and urged those already in con­tact to stop immediately.

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December 12, 2012 0

Shabaab Spokesman’s “Close Friend” Arrested

Two Amer­i­can cit­i­zens resid­ing in Alabama were arrested yes­ter­day in Geor­gia on sus­pi­cion of terrorism-related activity.

Randy “Rasheed” Wil­son was arrested in Atlanta attempt­ing to board a flight to Morocco. Wil­son allegedly claimed to be a close friend of Omar Ham­mami, the Alabama native who became the pub­lic face of Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Somali ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. His co-conspirator, Moham­mad Abukhdair, was arrested at a bus sta­tion en route to Canada from where he report­edly planned to join Wil­son.  Both were charged with con­spir­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to ter­ror­ists in an Alabama fed­eral court on Monday.

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Wil­son and Abukhdair expressed their admi­ra­tion for rad­i­cal American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, as well as repeat­ing their com­mit­ment to carry out vio­lent jihad, to an under­cover FBI employee.  They even turned over a cache of jihadist pro­pa­ganda, includ­ing Awlaki lec­tures, to the under­cover employee for destruc­tion. Wil­son, who is 25, appar­ently believed that “one way or another everyone’s gonna have to fight… there’s no deed bet­ter than jihad,” accord­ing to the tran­scripts of recorded con­ver­sa­tions sub­mit­ted to the court.

Wil­son had pre­vi­ously report­edly con­spired with another mutual friend of Hammami’s (who later became a con­fi­den­tial infor­mant) to travel to Soma­lia to join Al Shabaab. Abukhdair had been detained by Egypt­ian author­i­ties on sus­pi­cion of involve­ment in ter­ror­ist activ­ity and was deported back to the United States.  He appar­ently admit­ted to the under­cover FBI employee that he had jihadist mate­r­ial on his lap­top at the time and believed that “Allah pro­tected him” because Egypt­ian intel­li­gence had not found it.

The two men, who met online in 2010, sup­pos­edly dis­cussed sev­eral pos­si­ble des­ti­na­tions, includ­ing trav­el­ing to Soma­lia via Sudan, where they report­edly expected spe­cial treat­ment because of Wilson’s rela­tion­ship with Ham­mami. Abukhdair alter­na­tively pro­posed that they carry out attacks in the United States because he feared he would not be allowed to travel inter­na­tion­ally after being turned away from a flight to Jor­dan ear­lier this year.  Accord­ing to the charges, Abukhdair allegedly sug­gested engag­ing in hostage-taking oper­a­tions in the U.S. and demand­ing the release of Mus­lim ter­ror­ists being held in Amer­i­can pris­ons in exchange.

The court doc­u­ments assert that Wil­son and Abukhdair made def­i­nite travel arrange­ments to go to Mau­ri­ta­nia via Morocco in Octo­ber. The two also report­edly dis­cussed trav­el­ing to Mali from Mau­ri­ta­nia where Islamic mil­i­tants are active in the north of the country.

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