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November 19, 2013

ADL’s Terrorism Update Focuses On How FTOs Attract American Recruits

The November 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 Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda affiliate organization in Somalia, and its capacity to attract American recruits to its cause. Al Shabaab claimed that three Americans participated in the group’s deadly attack this September on the Westgate Mall in Nterrorism-update-subscribe-adlairobi, Kenya, and nearly 50 other American citizens and permanent residents have either travelled to Somalia or have otherwise aided the terrorist organization since 2007.

The Profile in Terror features Omar Hammami, an American citizen from Alabama who once served as a primary English-language recruiter for Al Shabaab before he was apparently killed by other Al Shabaab members on September 13, 2013.

This edi­tion of Terrorism Update also includes infor­ma­tion on a recent terror-related arrest in North Carolina, which under­scores a con­tin­ued trend of Amer­i­cans attempt­ing to join ter­ror­ist groups in the Syr­ian con­flict, as well as arrests in New York and California.

An update on one of the leaders of Revolution Muslim, the fringe anti-Semitic Muslim organization based in New York that justified terrorist attacks and other forms of violence against non-Muslims, is also highlighted in this edition, as is ADL’s collection of resources on Inspire Magazine, the English-language propaganda magazine produced by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Readers can subscribe to the ADL Terrorism Update to automatically receive the bi-monthly newsletter.

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November 13, 2013

North Carolina Arrest Marks 6th American In 2013 Associated With Al Qaeda In Syria


Basit Javed Sheikh

A North Carolina man was arrested November 2 on charges of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusra. His arrest underscores a continued trend of American citizens and permanent residents attempting to join terrorist groups in the Syrian conflict; it marks the fourth such arrest and sixth publicly disclosed case of Americans fighting or attempting to fight in Syria this year.  It also demonstrates the increasing power of Facebook and other social media platforms in terrorist recruitment and propaganda.

Basit Javed Sheikh is a 29 year-old permanent resident originally from Pakistan, residing in Cary, North Carolina. His arrest marked his third failed attempt to travel to Syria – attempts that were made and advertised over social media.

Since January 2013, Sheikh allegedly created at least seven Facebook accounts with the pseudonym Abdul Basit or Abdul Basit II. During that time, a number of those accounts were shut down by Facebook for being in violation of its terms of use, but he persisted in creating more. At this time, there appear to be two active accounts likely belonging to Sheikh. The first, Abdul Basit II, was created October 21 and is already heavily populated with posts extolling terrorism worldwide – ranging from praising the Pakistani Taliban to showing an Islamist fighter pointing at Jerusalem to an image of Islamist militants with an quote from Islamic sources saying, “A section of my community will continue to fight for the right and overcome their opponents till the last of them fights with the Antichrist.” The second currently active profile, Abdul Basit, was created October 29, 2013, and has a gun as its profile picture.

Sheikh allegedly was even more active on his older Facebook profiles. According to an affidavit in support of his arrest warrant, he regularly used the site to post jihadist videos and propaganda and to interact with other extremists. In addition to being a member of a now-defunct Jabhat al-Nusrah Facebook group, Sheikh allegedly posted multiple times about the war in Syria and about the need to join the fighting there, and quoted a number of sources praising martyrdom.  He also allegedly posted videos and comments calling for the death and punishment of American leaders and soldiers, including one video that said, “Let the mujahideen kill them and destroy them…Allah give victory to Sheikh Usama [bin Laden].”

Sheikh also appears to have been included in conversations of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. In one thread of an online forum, he was included in a note blaming Jews for “intentionally spread[ing]” moderate – or, as the thread called it, “wrong” – interpretations of Islam that, among other things, “states that jihad is HARAM [forbidden].”

Sheikh had initially travelled to Syria in the fall of 2012, when he reportedly joined the Free Syrian army but left because he disagreed with the group’s motivations. He then booked a flight in September 2013, but did not follow through because he “could not muster the strength to leave his parents.” His continued Facebook posts, however, suggested that he was determined to try again.

Ultimately, it was Sheikh’s alleged online activity that led to his arrest on his third attempt. After joining a Facebook page created by the FBI that purported to promote extremist Islam, Sheikh allegedly began to regularly converse with an FBI agent over Facebook, Skype, and email. According to the affidavit, he made a new set of travel plans to Syria in consultation with the agent, insisting that he was eager to fight in jihad even when told he could back out, and was arrested at the airport.

Since 2007, over 50 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged in con­nec­tion with attempts to join ter­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

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October 18, 2013

Long Island Arrest Highlights Continuing Lure Of Terror Groups Abroad


Marcos Alonso Zea arrested for attempting to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A Long Island man was arrested Friday for attempting to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The arrest came exactly one week after an Orange County man was arrested for attempting to travel abroad to join Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Both arrests highlight the continued trend of American citizens joining terrorist groups abroad and the continued allure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. At least three American citizens or permanent residents have attempted to join AQAP in 2013 alone. And at least nine others have attempted to join foreign terrorist groups this year.

Marcos Alonso Zea, also known as Ali Zea, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to provide material support to terrorists, attempting to provide material support to AQAP, and obstruction and attempted obstruction of justice.

Zea, a 25-year-old Muslim convert from Brentwood, Long Island, allegedly flew from New York to London with plans to continue from there to the Arabian Peninsula on January 4, 2012. He was detained by customs officials and returned to the United States.

His own plans stymied, Zea allegedly encouraged a co-conspirator from his mosque, 18-year-old high school senior Justin Kaliebe, to make the trip. Zea discussed plans to fight abroad and provided him with money to fund the trip, according to the indictment. Kaliebe was arrested at JFK International Airport on January 21, 2013, and is scheduled to be sentenced December 6, 2013.

Zea’s computer reportedly contained a number of materials designed to encourage radicalization, including copies of Inspire Magazine, AQAP’s English-language periodical, and a video from Al Qaeda in Iraq depicting an attack on a military vehicle.

Since 2007, over 50 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged in con­nec­tion with attempts to join ter­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

In addition to Zea, eight others have attempted to join foreign terrorist groups this year. They are:

  • Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of California, arrested on October 11, 2013 for attempting to join Al Qaeda.
  • Amir Farouq Ibrahim, of Pennsylvania, linked with ISIS and assumed dead in Syria in July 2013.
  • Justin Kaliebe of New York, arrested June 25, 2013 for attempting to join AQAP.
  • Nicole Mans­field of Michigan, killed in Syria in May, 2013, reportedly fighting with Jabhat al Nusrah.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinios, arrested April 19, 2013 for attempting to join Jabhat al Nusrah.
  • Eric Harroun of Arizona, arrested March 27, 2013, for traveling to Syria to fight with Al Qaeda linked rebels. He 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 Al Qaeda affiliates.
  • Matthew Aaron Llaneza of California, arrested February 8, 2013, for attempted domestic terrorism and plans to travel to join the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Shelton Thomas Bell of Florida, arrested January 29, 2013 for attempting to join AQAP.

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