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June 20, 2014 3

Texas Terror Arrests Highlight Ongoing Travel Threat

texas-terror-michael-todd-wolfe-rahatul-ashikim-khan

Rahatul Ashikim Khan & Michael Todd Wolfe

The arrests of two 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zens in Texas in sep­a­rate inci­dents on Tues­day for allegedly plan­ning to join ter­ror­ist groups over­seas under­scores the ongo­ing con­cerns over Amer­i­cans join­ing ter­ror­ist groups abroad and the con­tin­ued allure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Dozens of Amer­i­cans and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been charged in recent years in con­nec­tion with attempts to jointer­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab in Soma­lia and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula in Yemen, as well as ter­ror­ists groups in Syria.

Michael Todd Wolfe of Austin, Texas, is alleged to have attempted to travel to join a ter­ror­ist group fight­ing in Syria. The crim­i­nal com­plaint filed against him indi­cates that he was ini­tially inter­ested in join­ing Jab­hat al Nusra, an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate, but later decided instead to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which broke with Al Qaeda ear­lier this year.

Wolfe, a con­vert to Islam who grew up in Texas, was arrested at George H.W. Bush Hous­ton Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Air­port just before he attempted to board a flight to Europe, en route to Syria.

Author­i­ties say the sec­ond indi­vid­ual, Rahatul Ashikim Khan of Round Rock, Texas, con­spired with oth­ers to recruit peo­ple who would “travel over­seas to sup­port ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties includ­ing com­mit­ting vio­lent jihad,” in par­tic­u­lar with Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Soma­lia and Kenya. Khan is a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen orig­i­nally from Bangladesh, and is a col­lege stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, Austin.

Demon­strat­ing the cen­tral role the Inter­net plays in online rad­i­cal­iza­tion and recruit­ment, both Wolfe and Khan had used the Inter­net to abet their activ­i­ties. Wolfe allegedly watched videos online of ter­ror­ism in Syria. Khan called him­self a “jihadi” and used an online chat room to iden­tify poten­tial ter­ror­ists between March 2011 and Jan­u­ary 2012, accord­ing to court documents.

Khan allegedly spent time on a chat room ded­i­cated to Abdul­lah al-Faisal, a Jamaica-born Mus­lim preacher who served four years in a British prison for urg­ing his fol­low­ers to kill non-Muslims, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, Hin­dus and Jews. Al-Faisel was also the “imam and spir­i­tual advi­sor” of Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim (RM), a New York-based fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence for many years.

Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing abroad to join ter­ror­ist groups have been a con­sis­tent threat since 2001, with three dis­tinct waves of travel appar­ent. Between 2001 and 2005, Amer­i­cans trav­elled mostly to join Al Qaeda Cen­tral and the Tal­iban. Between 2007 and 2011, travel and sup­port were espe­cially directed at Al Shabaab. Travel to Syria – the great­est threat since 2011 – has been the third wave; since the start of the Syr­ian civil war, as many as 100 U.S. cit­i­zens are believed to have trav­elled to Syria to join the fighting.

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March 20, 2014 2

Arrest Demonstrates Influence of Online Terrorist Materials

Nicholas Teausant

A 20-year-old com­mu­nity col­lege stu­dent from Acampo, Cal­i­for­nia, was arrested on March 17th for attempt­ing to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), a ter­ror­ist group for­merly affil­i­ated with Al Qaeda. His alleged activ­i­ties prior to his arrest demon­strate the dan­ger­ous influ­ence of English-language online pro­pa­ganda that is being dis­trib­uted by ter­ror­ist organizations.

The stu­dent, Nicholas Teau­sant, report­edly accessed a vari­ety of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda includ­ing issues of Inspire mag­a­zine, an English-language pub­li­ca­tion pro­duced by Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, and its com­pan­ion “Mujahid Pock­et­book,” which con­tains a com­pi­la­tion of arti­cles designed as a “how-to guide for becom­ing a lone wolf terrorist.”

Teau­sant also broad­cast his views over social media. In a Face­book post dated March 9, 2014, he asserted “the peo­ple you call ter­ror­ist aren’t really ter­ror­ist (sic) they are just doing what your to (sic) afraid to do, the gov­ern­ment fears these peo­ple and that’s why they are called ter­ror­ist.” He also posted mes­sages about car­ry­ing con­cealed weapons in public.

On the photo-sharing ser­vice Insta­gram, Teau­sant allegedly wrote, “Don’t get me wrong I despise Amer­ica and want its down fall…I would love to join Allah’s army.”

Accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint, Teau­sant dis­cussed bomb­ing the Los Ange­les sub­way sys­tem and pur­chas­ing fire­works and explo­sives prior to his attempt to join ISIS.

Teau­sant had enlisted in the U.S. army reserves in 2007 – seem­ingly prior to his attrac­tion to ter­ror­ism – but appar­ently never com­pleted train­ing because he did not meet the aca­d­e­mic requirements.

His arrest came the same day as that of Moham­mad Has­san Ham­dan, a 22-year-old per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dent resid­ing in Dear­born, MI, who was arrested for attempt­ing to travel to Syria to join Hezbollah.

Both arrests high­light the con­tin­ued threat of Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing to join ter­ror­ist groups in Syria as the civil war there continues.

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March 18, 2014 0

New Terror Magazines Highlight Al Qaeda Commitment To Recruitment In U.S.

Inspire 12 back imageAl Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s March 15 release of a new issue of its English-language pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zine, Inspire, cou­pled with Al Qaeda’s March 9 announce­ment of its new English-language mag­a­zine, Resur­gence, demon­strates ter­ror­ist groups’ per­sis­tent com­mit­ment to rad­i­cal­iz­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of home­grown Islamic extrem­ists through its online initiatives.

The Spring 2014 issue of Inspire pro­vides detailed instruc­tions on how to build a car bomb, with sug­ges­tions of loca­tions to plant them in New York City, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., North­ern Vir­ginia, Chicago and Los Ange­les, as well as in the UK and France. “Many Feisal Shahzads are resid­ing inside Amer­ica,” explains the edi­tor refer­ring to the man who attempted to det­o­nate a bomb in Times Square in 2010, “and all they need is the knowl­edge of how to make car bombs….The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment was unable to pro­tect its cit­i­zens from pres­sure cooker bombs in back­packs [a ref­er­ence to the Boston marathon bomb­ing], I won­der if they are ready to stop car bombs!”

As in the past, the new issue is replete with anti-Semitic state­ments and high­lights the sup­posed exis­tence of a “Jew­ish enemy” to recruit terrorists.

The lat­est issue of Inspire also refers to sev­eral home­grown Islamic extrem­ists that the pub­li­ca­tion claims to have influ­enced, includ­ing the Tsar­naev broth­ers who were respon­si­ble for the Boston Marathon bomb­ing; Nidal Hasan of the Fort Hood shoot­ing, and Feisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber.

Shortly before the release of this newest issue of Inspire, As-Sahab, the media arm of Al Qaeda’s cen­tral orga­ni­za­tion, released a slick video pro­mot­ing a new ter­ror­ist mag­a­zine called Resur­gence on March 9, 2014. The new mag­a­zine is likely mod­eled after Inspire, which has influ­enced numer­ous home­grown Islamic extrem­ists since 2010, includ­ing the Boston bombers.

The pro­mo­tional video for Resur­gence, cre­ated in “kinetic typog­ra­phy” designed for Eng­lish speak­ing audi­ences, includes a voiceover from a Mal­colm X speech on vio­lence. Over video footage of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, the voiceover says: “They only know one lan­guage,” allud­ing to vio­lence. “You can’t ever reach a man,” the voiceover con­tin­ues, “if you don’t speak his language.”

A new ADL report, Home­grown Islamic Extrem­ism in 2013:The Per­ils of Online Recruit­ment & Self-Radicalization ana­lyzes the rise of such online pro­pa­ganda and its effects and impact on domes­tic secu­rity. In addi­tion, the report looks back at 2013, when 14 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens or per­ma­nent res­i­dents were impli­cated in the U.S. on terror-related charges, rang­ing from domes­tic plots and con­spir­a­cies to pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ter­ror­ists abroad. Many were directly influ­enced by pro­pa­ganda eas­ily acces­si­ble online, includ­ing the Boston bombers.

As Inter­net pro­fi­ciency and the use of social media grow ever more uni­ver­sal, so too do the efforts of ter­ror­ist groups to exploit new tech­nol­ogy in order to make mate­ri­als that jus­tify and sanc­tion vio­lence more accessible.

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