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June 20, 2013 0

Syrian Front Attracts American And Foreign Fighters

eric-harroun-jabhat-al-nusrah-syria

Eric Har­roun

Update — Octo­ber 15: Arrest of Orange County man and fate of Pitts­burgh man drawn to Syr­ian front under­scores emerg­ing trend.

Increas­ing num­bers of for­eign fight­ers, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, have been attracted to the con­flict in Syria and are attempt­ing to join the rebels fight­ing against the Assad regime.

Accord­ing to some observers, there are some­where between 5,000 and 6,000 for­eign fight­ers already in Syria, com­pris­ing about 10% of the rebel forces. Esti­mates of fight­ers arriv­ing from Europe vary widely, from fewer than 200 to over 600. Var­i­ous rebel groups have claimed “mar­tyrs” from Britain, Den­mark, France and Ireland.

To date, there have been three pub­licly dis­closed cases of Amer­i­cans involved in fight­ing with rebels. Each has been linked to Jab­hat al-Nusrah (JN), a State Department-designated alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq (it is unknown how many Amer­i­cans have entered the con­flict on the side of rebel fac­tions unaf­fil­i­ated with Al Qaeda).

  • Eric Har­roun, a for­mer Amer­i­can sol­dier, was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly con­spir­ing to use a weapon of mass destruc­tion while fight­ing with Jab­hat Al-Nusrah in Syria. While Har­roun was not nec­es­sar­ily recruited, after arriv­ing in Syria he appeared in a pro­pa­ganda video put out by Jab­hat Al-Nusrah. On June 20, Har­roun was indicted on charges of con­spir­acy to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion and con­spir­acy to use a destruc­tive device over­seas. Eric Har­roun pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in Sep­tem­ber, 2013, and was sen­tenced to time served. That Har­roun fought in Syria is uncon­tested; how­ever, reports dif­fer as to whether he fought with Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, who was arrested in Chicago in April 2013, allegedly researched ways to join Jab­hat al-Nusrah on the inter­net. He allegedly found a web­site adver­tis­ing itself as pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion to those inter­ested in join­ing “your lion broth­ers of Jab­hat Al-Nusrah who are fight­ing under the true ban­ner of Islam.” The web­site, how­ever, was cre­ated by the FBI to attract poten­tial extremists.
  • Nicole Mans­field, a con­vert to Islam from Michi­gan, was killed in Syria in May 2013. Accord­ing to Syr­ian state-controlled media, she was killed in a car along with two oth­ers, includ­ing a Briton, while fight­ing with the rebels. Syr­ian media claimed that JN’s flag was found in the car.  It should be noted that the Syr­ian regime con­sid­ers all rebel fight­ers and their allies to be ter­ror­ists. Mansfield’s fam­ily did not know she was in Syria, but say that she had been inter­ested in the Arab Spring.

Syr­ian rebel groups, includ­ing JN, have cre­ated social media space and var­i­ous pro­pa­ganda to raise aware­ness, sup­port and poten­tial recruits for their cause in the English-speaking world. These include the exploita­tion of Face­book, blogs, Twit­ter and other platforms.

In the past, Amer­i­cans have proven will­ing to join mil­i­tant groups abroad. For exam­ple, since 2007, at least 52 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged in con­nec­tion with mak­ing trips abroad in attempts to reach ter­ror­ist groups, receive train­ing, or to par­tic­i­pate in ter­ror­ist attacks. Many of these indi­vid­u­als joined Al Shabaab, but other indi­vid­u­als trav­eled abroad to receive train­ing in Pak­istan or to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

The con­flict in Syria has attracted for­eign sup­port not just for the rebel cause, but for the Assad regime as well. Iran’s Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps is report­edly assist­ing the regime, and Hezbol­lah fight­ers have joined with the Syr­ian army in com­bat­ing the rebels.

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June 14, 2013 0

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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May 31, 2013 0

Inspire Magazine Highlights “Jewish Enemy” To Recruit Jihadists

The eleventh issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula’s English-language mag­a­zine, demon­strates how oppo­si­tion to Jews and Israel remains cen­tral to its efforts to appeal to and rad­i­cal­ize its readers.inspire-ipad-jews-al-qaeda

While hatred of Jews is intrin­sic to Al Qaeda’s ide­ol­ogy, Inspire has iden­ti­fied Jews as a key force at war with Islam since it was first pub­lished in July 2010. Every issue of Inspire has been filled with either direct threats against Jews and Jew­ish insti­tu­tions or dia­tribes against Jews and Israel.

For exam­ple, the bomb mak­ing instruc­tions pro­vided in the first issue of Inspire, which the Tsar­naev broth­ers allegedly used to build the bombs they used in the Boston Marathon, included ref­er­ences to “The Jews and Chris­tians” that “have dis­hon­ored the Mus­lims, des­e­crated our holy places, and cured the beloved Prophet.”

The most recently released issue of Inspire, which cel­e­brates the April 15 Boston Bomb­ing and encour­ages future attacks against the U.S., fur­ther demon­strates how anti-Israel and anti-Jewish nar­ra­tives are used to con­nect with the magazine’s readers.

An arti­cle titled The Inevitable by Abu Ziyad Al-Muhajir describes the “Blessed Boston Bomb­ings (BBB)” as an “absolute suc­cess” and quotes Osama bin Laden thusly: “As you kill, you will be killed until you leave our lands and stop sup­port­ing Israel.”

In another arti­cle, titled Mes­sage to the Amer­i­can Nation by Qas­sim Ar-Reimy, the author asks, “Is your sup­port for the Jews in Pales­tine excusable?”

The pack­ag­ing of these nar­ra­tives along­side other ele­ments of Al Qaeda’s broader ide­ol­ogy in Inspire has helped influ­enced numer­ous inter­na­tional and domes­tic extrem­ists, some of which have also uti­lized the bomb mak­ing instruc­tions pro­vided by the mag­a­zine in their attempts to carry out attacks.

The fol­low­ing is a sam­pling of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel nar­ra­tives from the pages of Inspire:

Direct Threats Against Jews

  • “If you go kill a group of Jews or Chris­tians after hear­ing that a pilot­less drone killed a group of Mus­lims in Waziris­tan… if it were to be the case, that would stop the strik­ing, killing, occu­pa­tion, humil­i­a­tion and dis­grace of our holy places that Amer­ica and the West perpetrates.”
  • “The short-term plan con­sists of tar­get­ing Crusader-Jewish inter­ests, as every­one who attacks the Mus­lim ummah must pay the price…”
  • “Our mar­tyr­dom bombers are on their mis­sions against Amer­i­cans, Jews, Indi­ans and Russians…”
  • On loca­tions to tar­get: “Media per­son­al­i­ties and media cen­ters that are lead­ing the war against the Mus­lims and jus­ti­fy­ing the attacks on them, com­ing from the Zion­ist and Zionist-friendly Cru­sader media institutions.”
  • On loca­tions to tar­get: “Places where Jews are gath­ered, their lead­ing per­son­al­i­ties and insti­tu­tions in Europe…”

Dele­git­imiza­tion of Judaism

  • “They were made to know that their reli­gious prac­tices were false, that Islam does not approve of either Judaism or Chris­tian­ity, and that they are con­sid­ered to be mis­guided and are des­tined to Hellfire.”
  •  “Allah has made it clear to us in the Qur’an that our worst ene­mies are the Jews and the polytheists.”
  • “They [the Jews] have the audac­ity to dis­tort the word of Allah”
  • “Look at the Jews and Chris­tians. They work day and night, sac­ri­fic­ing their wealth to serve their null religions.”

Israeli-American Con­spir­a­cies

  • “How many have the Zion­ist allies killed from the sons of Pales­tine with the sup­port of these blood­thirsty beasts [the Americans]?”
  • “Al Qaeda is fight­ing the Jews and Chris­tians and their stooges and defends the Mus­lims and the Mus­lim holy places.”
  • “Amer­ica is the one who sup­ports Israel in all of its crimes and its pres­i­dent prayed in front of the Wail­ing Wall and he declared his affir­ma­tion of mak­ing Al-Quds (Jerusalem) the cap­i­tal of Israel in sup­port of the jews in the judaiza­tion of Al-Quds.”

Destruc­tion of Israel

  • “It is jihad to lib­er­ate all of Pales­tine from the river to the sea, Allah permitting”
  • “Today we are fac­ing a coali­tion of Cru­saders and Zion­ists and we in al Qaeda of the Ara­bian Penin­sula will never for­get Pales­tine. How can we for­get it when our motto is: ‘Here we start and in al-Aqsa we meet’?”

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