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January 7, 2015 0

Paris Shooting Amid Increased Calls For Homegrown Attacks

Screenshot of an ISIS video encouraging attacks in France

Screen­shot of an ISIS video encour­ag­ing attacks in France

The attack on the French satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo that left twelve peo­ple dead comes at a time when ter­ror­ist groups are increas­ingly encour­ag­ing their sup­port­ers in the West to carry out attacks in their home countries.

While no one has taken respon­si­bil­ity for the attack thus far and the per­pe­tra­tors are still at large, online ter­ror sup­port­ers have already claimed the attack as a vic­tory for their cause.  Char­lie Hebdo has been the focus of ter­ror threats since 2006 for their satir­i­cal depic­tions of Muham­mad and of Mus­lim countries.

While it is still not clear whether this attack was inspired by out­side forces, it is notable that some ter­ror­ist groups have con­sis­tently encour­aged fol­low­ers to orches­trate attacks in their home coun­tries rather than trav­el­ing abroad since at least 2010, per­haps most notably with the release of the first issue of Inspire, an Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine pro­duced by Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP).

Sim­i­larly, a 2011 video released by Al Qaeda’s Cen­tral orga­ni­za­tion fea­tured Amer­i­can Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn urg­ing sup­port­ers in the U.S. to pur­chase guns and under­take shoot­ing sprees.

In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al Shabaab (the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Soma­lia), which had pre­vi­ously encour­aged their adher­ents in the West to join them abroad, began advo­cat­ing indi­vid­ual attacks in the West as equally valuable.

In addi­tion, ter­ror­ist groups have been claim­ing credit for such “free­lance ter­ror­ism,”  includ­ing lone wolf-style attacks. Both ISIS and AQAP, for exam­ple, wrote about and to some extent claimed credit for attacks in New York, New Jer­sey, Okla­homa, Canada and Aus­tralia.

The fol­low­ing is sam­pling of calls for home­grown attacks in 2014, includ­ing those in the U.S. and France:

Decem­ber 2014: An ISIS video call­ing for French Mus­lims to either travel to Iraq and Syria or under­take attacks at home stated, “Oper­ate within France. Ter­ror­ize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and hor­ror. There are weapons and cars avail­able and tar­gets ready to be hit. Even poi­son is avail­able, so poi­son the water and food of at least one of the ene­mies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.” This video has been recir­cu­lated by ter­ror sup­port­ers on social media in the after­math of the Jan­u­ary 7 attack.

Image from Inspire 13

Image from Inspire 13

Decem­ber 2014: The 6th issue of ISIS’s English-language mag­a­zine Dabiq praised indi­vid­ual attacks on var­i­ous West­ern coun­tries includ­ing the U.S., Canada, Aus­tralia and France, stat­ing, “There will be oth­ers who fol­low the exam­ples set by Man Haron Monis and Numan Haider in Aus­tralia, Mar­tin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in Canada, Zale Thomp­son in Amer­ica, and Bertrand Nzo­hab­onayo in France, and all that the West will be able to do is to anx­iously await the next round of slaughter.”

Decem­ber 2014: The 13th issue of AQAP’s Inspire mag­a­zine called for attacks on Amer­i­can, French and British air­lines and assas­si­na­tions of promi­nent West­ern finan­cial lead­ers.  Quotes included, “The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst night­mare,” and, “It’s not nec­es­sary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did, it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood shooter) did.”

Decem­ber 2014: An ISIS video fea­tured a Cana­dian recruit address­ing peo­ple in Canada who threat­ened the Cana­dian peo­ple and called upon Cana­dian Mus­lims to carry out attacks, stat­ing, “You either pack your bags or you pre­pare your explo­sive devices. You either pur­chase your air­line ticket or you sharpen your knife.”

Novem­ber 2014: An ISIS video titled “What are you wait­ing for,” released in French with Eng­lish and Ara­bic sub­ti­tles, called for attacks on France and fea­tured var­i­ous French mem­bers of ISIS call­ing on their com­pa­tri­ots to attack France or travel to Syria. One specif­i­cally stated, “I send a mes­sage to my broth­ers and sis­ters that live in the land of Kufr (apos­tasy) – France. If you are unable to come to Sham (Syria) or Iraq… oper­ate within France. Ter­ror­ize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and hor­ror. There are weapons and cars avail­able and tar­gets ready to be hit. Even poi­son is available….”

Octo­ber 2014: The 4th issue of ISIS’s Dabiq mag­a­zine included the text of a speech released in Sep­tem­ber (see below) that called for attacks on the West. It also included an image of indi­vid­u­als in busi­ness suits walk­ing on a side­walk with the cap­tion “Cru­sader ‘Civilians.’”

Image from Dabiq 4

Image from Dabiq 4

Sep­tem­ber 2014: ISIS released a text ver­sion of a speech by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s pri­mary spokesman call­ing for attacks in theWest. Ini­tially released in Eng­lish, French and Hebrew, this was the first sig­nif­i­cant instance where ISIS incited home-grown attacks rather than encour­ag­ing travel to Iraq and Syria. Excerpts from the speech include: “If you can kill a dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can or Euro­pean – espe­cially the…French – or an Aus­tralian, or a Canadian…kill him in any man­ner or way how­ever it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s ver­dict. Kill the dis­be­liever whether he is civil­ian or military….”

August 2014: A spe­cial edi­tion AQAP English-language mag­a­zine titled “Pales­tine: Betrayal of the Guilty Con­science” attempted to har­ness anti-Israel sen­ti­ment to call for attacks against the U.S. and the U.K. The mag­a­zine reprinted instruc­tions for build­ing pressure-cooker bombs and car bombs from pre­vi­ous issues of Inspire. Quotes included, “We tell the Mus­lims in Amer­ica and Europe: There is a bet­ter choice and eas­ier one to give sup­port to your ummah (the Mus­lim com­mu­nity). That is indi­vid­ual work inside the West such as the oper­a­tions of Nidal Has­san (the Ft. Hood shooter) and Faisal Shazad (attempted Times Square bomber).”

May 2014: Al Shabaab released a video that called on Mus­lims liv­ing abroad to either join the group in Soma­lia or under­take “a lone wolf mis­sion” in their home country.

March 2014: The 12th issue of AQAP’s Inspire mag­a­zine pro­vided instruc­tions for mak­ing car bombs along with a list of poten­tial tar­gets in the U.S., U.K. and France. State­ments encour­ag­ing attacks on the West include, “Whether the brother has a chan­nel to join the broth­ers [abroad] or not it is bet­ter for him to per­form his duty of Jihad in the West. On the bat­tle­field, you are just another sol­dier, but in the West you are an army on your own.”

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December 24, 2014 1

13th Issue of AQAP Inspire Calls for Attacks Against U.S. Airliners

AQAP-Inspire-13-magazine-cover

Inspire 13 cover image

Update: 12/24/2013 — Fol­low­ing noti­fi­ca­tion by the ADL, YouTube has removed the video pro­mot­ing Inspire 13 from its site.

The 13th issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, released on Decem­ber 24, lays out a strat­egy for defeat­ing the U.S. by attack­ing Amer­i­can mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy, man­power, media and econ­omy, and encour­ages lone wolf attacks against com­mer­cial air­planes and finan­cial figures.

The cen­tral fea­ture of the mag­a­zine, enti­tled “The Hid­den Bomb” presents step-by-step, illus­trated instruc­tions for con­struct­ing a home-made eas­ily portable bomb inside 17cm of a plas­tic water bot­tle case.  These instruc­tions fol­low pre­vi­ous issues of Inspire that included instruc­tions for pres­sure cooker bombs and car bombs, as well as sug­ges­tions for other types of attacks such as run­ning civil­ians over with cars.

This issue of Inspire sug­gests that the bombs be used against U.S. com­mer­cial air­lin­ers – specif­i­cally Amer­i­can Air­lines, Delta, United or Con­ti­nen­tal, and ide­ally over U.S. soil. It also pro­vides advice as to the best loca­tion on the plane and alti­tude at which to det­o­nate the device.

If an attack on a U.S. air­liner is not fea­si­ble, the mag­a­zine sug­gests attack­ing British com­pa­nies British Air­ways or Easy Jet, or French com­pa­nies Air­France or Air­France KL. A dif­fer­ent arti­cle fur­ther clar­i­fies the pri­or­i­ties of attack, stat­ing that, “the first pri­or­ity and the main focus should be on Amer­ica, then the United King­dom, then France…. This goes on with the NATO coun­tries as per the known order.”

The guide claims that this bomb can be hid­den in a part of the body not included in air­port pat-downs and is unde­tectable by dogs, odor-detecting machines, or metal detec­tors. The arti­cle states that the bomb is detectable by mil­lime­ter wave scan­ners, but the mag­a­zine advises that “in most cases they are not used in local airports.”

Inspire 13 also encour­ages assas­si­na­tions of Amer­i­can finan­cial lead­ers listed as “eco­nomic per­son­al­i­ties” such as Ben Bernanke or “wealthy entre­pre­neurs” such as Bill Gates. It advises that if those per­son­al­i­ties remove their money from U.S. banks, stop invest­ing in the U.S., and declare that they dis­agree with Amer­i­can poli­cies, they will not be targeted.

The mag­a­zine also includes sev­eral sec­tions high­light­ing the actions of Al Qaeda mem­bers and indi­vid­u­als that it claims under­took vio­lent actions on behalf of the extrem­ist cause. These include Alton Nolan of Okla­homa, Michael Zehaf Bebeau of Que­bec, Mar­tin Rouleau-Couture of Ottowa, Zale Thomp­son of New York and Man Haron Monis of Aus­tralia – the major­ity of whom seem to have under­taken attacks through some com­bi­na­tion of per­sonal vio­lent ten­den­cies and encour­age­ment from ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda  but have not been asso­ci­ated with ter­ror­ist movements.

Image from the magazine advocating lone wolf attacks

Image from the mag­a­zine advo­cat­ing lone wolf attacks

“The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst night­mare,” states one article.

In some sec­tions, it attempts to exploit con­tro­ver­sial issues in the U.S. as ratio­nales for join­ing ter­ror­ist move­ments. For exam­ple, a short quote states, “If I am an Afro-American liv­ing in Fer­gu­son – I’d rather be labeled a ter­ror­ist.” One arti­cle pre­sented as an inter­view with an AQAP mem­ber states U.S. tor­ture of Mus­lim pris­on­ers as a rea­son to attack the U.S.

The major­ity of jus­ti­fi­ca­tions pre­sented for attack­ing the U.S., how­ever, have been uti­lized by Al Qaeda and its affil­i­ates since the group’s found­ing: Attacks should be under­taken because of alleged Amer­i­can sup­port for cur­rent regimes in Mus­lim coun­tries;; sup­port for the Russ­ian and Indian gov­ern­ments in their fights against ter­ror­ism; and hav­ing “sur­ren­dered to the Jews” in sup­port­ing the State of Israel.

Like other issues of Inspire, it also attempts to draw read­ers in by ask­ing provoca­tive ques­tions and mak­ing the attack sound sim­ple. “It’s not nec­es­sary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did,” notes a poem in the mag­a­zine, “it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (of the Fort Hood shoot­ing) did.”

Other sec­tions of the mag­a­zine include an essay com­mem­o­rat­ing Tamer­lan Tsar­naev of the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing, quotes about Inspire by Amer­i­can aca­d­e­mics and gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and a “Mes­sage for the Amer­i­can Peo­ple Regard­ing the Killing of Luke Somers,” the Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist taken hostage by AQAP and killed dur­ing a res­cue mis­sion ear­lier this month.

This edi­tion of Inspire was released together with a pro­mo­tional video that fea­tured images from the mag­a­zine to the back­drop of a song in Eng­lish that included the lyrics, “The bat­tle for the hearts and minds will con­tinue till the kuf­far (apos­tates or dis­be­liev­ers) in vice,” “Inspir­ing the believ­ers to jihad has become the newest fad,” and, “Amer­ica you are being watched…the mujahideen (reli­gious fight­ers) are com­ing for you.”

Inspire is per­haps the most noto­ri­ous Al Qaeda pro­pa­ganda vehi­cle. It has played a role in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of mul­ti­ple domes­tic extrem­ists, includ­ing the Tsar­naev broth­ers (of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing), Jose Pimentel (attempted bomb­ing in NYC) and Abdel Daoud (attempted bomb­ing in Chicago).

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October 27, 2014 1

New Spate of Lone Wolf Attacks Highlights Terrorist Propaganda

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

A recent series of attacks in the U.S. and Canada have renewed national con­ver­sa­tion about the dan­ger of lone wolf ter­ror­ism: Attacks under­taken by indi­vid­u­als act­ing entirely on their own, with­out belong­ing to an orga­nized extrem­ist group, ter­ror­ist group or cell.

When extrem­ists plan and exe­cute attacks alone, as indi­vid­u­als, there are far fewer oppor­tu­ni­ties for law enforce­ment to detect the attacks in advance and they are much more dif­fi­cult to pre­vent. Con­se­quently, “lone wolf” actions tend to be more deadly.

There is increas­ing spec­u­la­tion that the rise of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other for­eign ter­ror­ist groups – and its increas­ing sophis­ti­ca­tion – may con­tribute to such attacks.

ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), and other groups have called on Amer­i­cans, Cana­di­ans and other west­ern­ers to self-radicalize and com­mit lone wolf attacks against their home countries.

In Sep­tem­ber, a speech released by ISIS told sup­port­ers, “If you can kill a dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can or Euro­pean – espe­cially the…French – or an Aus­tralian, or a Canadian…kill him in any man­ner or way how­ever it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s ver­dict. Kill the dis­be­liever whether he is civil­ian or mil­i­tary…” One of the sug­gested meth­ods of attack was to “run him [the West­erner] over with your car.”

In August, AQAP issued an English-language mag­a­zine, which stated that the U.S. “needs sev­eral more attacks inside and out­side its ter­ri­to­ries. This could be done by a Mujahid group or a lone Mujahid,” and pro­vided updated instruc­tions for build­ing pres­sure cooker bombs and car bombs. Such sen­ti­ments have been a fea­ture of AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda for years.

More­over, expo­sure to vio­lent images com­bined with the incite­ment of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda may pro­vide the nec­es­sary ratio­nale to lead indi­vid­u­als with vio­lent ten­den­cies – and some­times unsta­ble behav­ior – over the tip­ping point towards vio­lence. And in pro­vid­ing that ratio­nale, ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda may also direct the vio­lence, lead­ing to a higher like­li­hood of attacks against law enforce­ment, author­ity fig­ures, or other sym­bolic targets.

Zale Thompson’s alleged attack against NY police offi­cers and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s alleged attack on the Cana­dian Par­lia­ment pro­vide exam­ples of this new type of lone wolf: Indi­vid­u­als with some degree of upset and insta­bil­ity who buy into the frame­work of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda to the extent that they under­take acts of violence.

Thomp­son, for exam­ple, was rumored to be depressed and suf­fer­ing from drug abuse. He was angry about what he per­ceived as oppres­sion of blacks in the U.S. In his embrace of rad­i­cal Islam, he read and wrote about “holy war” and behead­ings, and googled the phrase “jihad against police,” accord­ing to law enforce­ment sources. He also looked up infor­ma­tion on the two Cana­dian attacks before allegedly attempt­ing to kill the police officers.

Less is known about Mar­tin Rouleau-Couture, the man who allegedly ran over two sol­diers in Canada last week, but he, too, appar­ently engaged with extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda online and praised ISIS on his Face­book page.

Lone wolves aren’t the only ones who respond to online incite­ment. A major­ity of the Amer­i­can cit­i­zens who attempt to join for­eign ter­ror­ist groups abroad or to work on their behalf at home have been influ­enced by it to some extent – appar­ently includ­ing the three teenage girls from Den­ver who allegedly attempted to join ISIS last week.

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