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July 22, 2013

Florida Teen, Shelton Thomas Bell, Latest American To Attempt To Join Al Qaeda


Shelton Thomas bell

The latest American citizen to apparently respond to Al Qaeda’s call by attempting to join the terrorist group is 19-year-old Floridian Shelton Thomas Bell.

Bell, who according to prosecutors attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, has been charged with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists.

Since 2007, at least 52 American citizens and permanent residents have been arrested or charged for successfully traveling or attempting to travel abroad to reach Al Qaeda affiliate groups. Many joined or attempted to join Al Shabaab in Somalia, while others have received training in Pakistan. More recently, some Amer­i­cans have been attracted to Jab­hat al-Nusrah in Syria.

Bell, reportedly a Muslim convert, “devised a plan to travel to the Arabian Peninsula to join Ansar al Sharia (AAS),” an alias for (AQAP), “and participate in violent armed conflict that he termed ‘jihad,’” according to the federal indictment.

Bell and a juvenile traveled to Jordan September 2012 and made contact with someone who could facilitate their travel to Yemen and introduce them to terrorists, according to the indictment.

The indictment also alleges that between May 2012 and September 2012, Bell and others engaged in physical, firearms, and other training in preparation for what Bell described as “the actions of jihad,” including “a night-time mission” in which they vandalized religious statues at a Jacksonville cemetery.

Bell allegedly also made video and audio recordings for the purpose of soliciting and recruiting others to participate in violent jihad.

Leaders of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville reportedly notified law enforcement about Bell because they were concerned about conversation he was having about weapons and jihad at their mosque.

AQAP has been described by the U.S. government as “the most active and dangerous” branch of Al Qaeda. The growth of AQAP has led American officials to indicate that Yemen could become Al Qaeda’s next operational and training hub for the group’s militants from around the world.

A key component of AQAP’s operational strategy entails reaching out to English-speaking audiences with its messages and propaganda in order to recruit new members. This material encourages Western audiences to adopt its ideology and carry out attacks against Western interests in the Arabian Peninsula and abroad.

The driving forces behind AQAP’s English-language propaganda machine were Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric, and Samir Khan, an American blogger and propagandist, both of whom were killed in a September 30, 2011 drone strike.

Bell, who worked as a computer repair vendor at a flea market in Jacksonville, is in jail awaiting trial on unrelated grand theft charges.

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June 27, 2013

ADL’s Terrorism Update Highlights New Inspire Magazine Resource

The June edi­tion of Ter­ror­ism Update, ADL’s newslet­ter pro­vid­ing news and analy­sis on inter­na­tional ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and their fol­low­ers in the U.S., is now available to our subscribers.

The feature article focuses on the increasing numbers of foreigners, including Americans, whTU for blogo have traveled to Syria to join with terrorist-linked groups fighting against the Assad regime. To date, there have been three publicly disclosed cases of Americans involved in fighting alongside rebel forces, each of whom have been linked to Jabhat al-Nusrah, a State Department-designated alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Inspire, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language terrorist magazine, is also featured in our June newsletter, which can be subscribed to on our website. ADL has created a new microsite focusing on Inspire, which has influenced numerous international and domestic terrorists since its inaugural issue in 2010.  The issue also contains articles on an AQAP propagandist facing extradition to the United States for providing “expert advice and assis­tance in pho­tog­ra­phy and graphic design of media” and disseminating AQAP materials, as well as an analysis of how the latest issue of Inspire celebrated the Boston Marathon bombings.

The newsletter includes an analysis of how the thwarted 1993 plot targeting New York City landmarks foreshadowed the escalating domestic terrorism threat, articles on terrorism-related arrests in Idaho and New York, and an update on an Iran-linked assassination plot.  The issue also has analyses of Anwar al-Awlaki’s influence on domestic terror plots, including the Tsarnaev Brothers, and on Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV, which was the focus of intense media scrutiny recently after two its journalists were supposed to be honored by the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

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June 14, 2013

Al Qaeda Propagandist Faces Extradition To New York

A British national of Vietnamese origin is facing extradition to the United States for his alleged role helping Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) create and distribute the type of online propaganda that has become a staple of domestic terroristsinspire-al-qaeda-pham

The indictment, filed in New York federal court in June 2012, alleges that Minh Quang Pham “provided expert advice and assistance in photography and graphic design of media” for AQAP. In addition to helping AQAP craft its propaganda, authorities also allege that Pham helped disseminate the propaganda.

These graphics, coupled with Western references, practical information and anti-Semitic narratives have made AQAP’s Inspire magazine an effective recruitment and radicalization tool. 

Before traveling to Yemen in 2010 and bringing his professional expertise to AQAP, Pham reportedly established a business in London as a web and graphics designer. 

The indictment also alleges that Pham met with two unnamed Americans, a likely reference to Anwar al-Awlaki, AQAP’s American-born ideologue who also served as its chief of external operations, and Samir Khan, an American blogger who was believed to be the principal editor of Inspire. Both Awlaki and Khan were killed in a drone strike in September 2011.

Pham is formally charged with providing material support to AQAP, receiving military training from a terrorist organization, firearms charges and two other related crimes. He reportedly traveled from the UK to Yemen in 2010 where he allegedly received weapons training, took an oath of allegiance to AQAP, and provided his expert media advice to the terrorist organization.

British authorities arrested Pham last June, coinciding with the announcement of the American charges against him. He had previously been in immigration custody after ammunition was allegedly found in his bag after he returned from the Middle East.  His extradition hearing is scheduled for August. 

If convicted on all charges, he faces the possibility of life in prison.

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