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May 28, 2014 0

Reports Of American Suicide Bomber In Syria

Update — 5/29/2014: U.S. offi­cials have con­firmed that the sui­cide bomb­ing was con­ducted by an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen who grew up in Florida.

News that an Amer­i­can may have been one of four sui­cide bombers involved in an attack in Syria on May 25 con­ducted by Jab­hat al-Nusra (JN), Al Qaeda in Syria, has been cir­cu­lated by var­i­ous extrem­ists on social media over the past two days.syria-abu-hurayra-al-amriki-suicide-bomber

If accu­rate, the attack fur­ther indi­cates the inte­gra­tion of for­eign fight­ers, and specif­i­cally West­ern­ers, with ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in Syria.

Abu Hurayra Al Amriki would be at least the fourth Amer­i­can rumored to have been killed while fight­ing in Syria, join­ing Nicole Mans­field, Amiir Farouk Ibrahim and a man iden­ti­fied as Abu Dujana al Amriki. An appar­ent image of Abu Hurayra Al Amriki hold­ing a cat and jux­ta­posed to images of the bomb­ing was shared by sev­eral JN sup­ports on Twitter.

He would also be at least the fourth known Amer­i­can to have suc­cess­fully under­taken a sui­cide bomb­ing on behalf of an Al Qaeda linked ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. The other three, Shirwa Ahmed, Farah Mohamad Beledi and  Abis­dalan Hus­sein Ali, were among a wave of Amer­i­cans who joined Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda in Soma­lia, pri­mar­ily between 2007 and 2012.

The U.S. State Department’s “Think Again, Turn Away” account on Twit­ter, which aims to counter ter­ror­ist sen­ti­ments online, Tweeted: “another life wasted by #alqaeda’s cult of death. Thanks to them #Assad remains in power while Syr­i­ans suf­fer.” U.S. offi­cials, how­ever, have not con­firmed whether or not an Amer­i­can was actu­ally involved in the attack.

Two other Amer­i­cans, Nicholas Teau­sant and U.S. legal per­ma­nent res­i­dent Mohamad Has­san Ham­dan, are known to have attempted to travel to Syria to fight along­side ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions this year. There were sev­eral other Amer­i­cans pub­li­cally iden­ti­fied who joined or attempted to join the con­flict in 2013.

Con­cerns over Amer­i­cans fight­ing in Syria have been increas­ing since the start of the con­flict, with “dozens” believed to have trav­elled there thus far accord­ing to U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials. Last week, the Jus­tice Depart­ment appointed a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to inves­ti­gate indi­vid­u­als trav­el­ling to Syria, and they have long been the sub­ject of high lev­els of scrutiny by law enforcement.

Although casu­alty counts were unavail­able as of this writ­ing, the sui­cide attack report­edly killed or wounded “dozens” of Syr­ian troops. The attack had been directed at Syr­ian army posi­tions in the Idlib province of Syria.

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November 21, 2013 0

Continued Concerns Over Wave Of Americans Fighting In Syria

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Eric Har­roun was indicted on charges of con­spir­acy to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to a for­eign ter­ror­ist organization.

Update — 11/22/13: An Eng­lish lan­guage video glo­ri­fy­ing Islamist rebel groups in Syria and appar­ently fea­tur­ing an Amer­i­can was released ear­lier this month by The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate fight­ing in Syria.

Senior U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials on Wednes­day said that “dozens” of Amer­i­cans have trav­eled or attempted to travel to Syria to fight against the Assad regime.

ADL released a report in June high­light­ing the increas­ing num­bers of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens drawn to the con­flict in Syria and join­ing ter­ror­ist groups. As noted in the report, since 2007, over 50 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been charged in con­nec­tion with attempts to join ter­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab in Soma­lia and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula in Yemen, as well as Jab­hat al-Nusra in Syria.

Details of six cases in which Amer­i­cans joined or attempted to join the con­flict in Syria have been made pub­lic in 2013. Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of Cal­i­for­nia, Amir Farouk Ibrahim of Penn­syl­va­nia, and Nicole Mans­field of Michi­gan all suc­cess­fully joined the con­flict. Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illi­nois and Basit Javed Sheikh of North Car­olina attempted to join but were arrested en route. In addi­tion, Eric Har­roun of Ari­zona 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.

The  num­ber of Amer­i­cans attempt­ing to travel abroad to train and fight with ter­ror­ist groups con­tin­ues to raise seri­ous con­cerns about extrem­ists using their Amer­i­can pass­ports to return to the U.S. in order to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.

Syr­ian rebel groups, includ­ing the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate Jab­hat al-Nusra, have cre­ated social media space and 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.

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November 13, 2013 0

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

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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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