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April 4, 2014 0

Online Terrorist Propaganda & The Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary

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Com­mem­o­ra­tive graphic of Boston bomber Tamer­lan Tsar­naev in Inspire magazine

In the year since the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, which resulted in three deaths and over 260 injuries, ter­ror­ists groups that jus­tify and sanc­tion vio­lence have inten­si­fied their efforts to reach, recruit and moti­vate home­grown extrem­ists by adapt­ing their mes­sages to new technology.

Ter­ror­ist groups and their sup­port­ers are not only using social media and other Inter­net plat­forms to spread their mes­sages more quickly and effec­tively than ever before, but also to recruit adher­ents who live in the com­mu­ni­ties they seek to target.

A new ADL report, Home­grown Islamic Extrem­ism in 2013: The Per­ils of Online Recruit­ment & Self-Radicalization, explores the impact sophis­ti­cated ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda has had on a new gen­er­a­tion of home­grown extrem­ists. Face-to-face inter­ac­tion with ter­ror­ist oper­a­tives, the report con­cludes, is no longer a require­ment for radicalization.

Inspire mag­a­zine, for exam­ple, which is designed to engage and recruit sym­pa­thiz­ers in the U.S., has become a sta­ple of domes­tic ter­ror­ism, pro­vid­ing ide­o­log­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions encour­ag­ing attacks on U.S. soil as well as var­i­ous sug­gested meth­ods of attack. Inspire con­tained the very bomb-making instruc­tions that were used by the alleged Boston Bombers to con­struct their bombs in an arti­cle called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

The newest issue of Inspire, released last month, pro­vides detailed instruc­tions on how to build car bombs and includes sug­ges­ted loca­tions for where to plant them in var­i­ous U.S. cities. The author notes, “The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment was unable to pro­tect its cit­i­zens from pres­sure cooker bombs in back­packs, I won­der if they are ready to stop car bombs!”

The ADL report also explores the other Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents impli­cated in the U.S. on terror-related charges in 2013 and over the past five years, not­ing how many were directly influ­enced by ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda eas­ily acces­si­ble online.

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December 13, 2013 1

Terry Lee Loewen Planned Airport Bombing For Al Qaeda

A 58-year-old man from Wichita, Kansas, has been arrested for allegedly try­ing to blow up Wichita Mid-Continent Air­port with a car bomb in sup­port of Al Qaeda.tourismairport2.jpg [tourismairport2.jpg]

Terry Lee Loewen is charged with attempt­ing to use a weapon of mass destruc­tion, attempt­ing to dam­age prop­erty and attempt­ing to pro­vide sup­port to Al Qaeda.

Accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint, Loewen said he was try­ing to sup­port Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), Al Qaeda’s affil­i­ate in Yemen, by com­mit­ting “an act of vio­lent jihad.”

Three Amer­i­can cit­i­zens have attempted to join AQAP in 2013, includ­ing Mar­cos Alonso Zea and Justin Kaliebe of Long Island, and Shel­ton Thomas Bell of Florida.

Loewen, an avion­ics tech­ni­cian who report­edly works at the air­port, allegedly made state­ments online to an under­cover FBI agent about down­load­ing ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda online and want­ing to com­mit “vio­lent jihad” against the U.S. Accord­ing to the com­plaint, he also said:

“As time goes on I care less and less about what other peo­ple think of me, or my views of Islam. I have been study­ing sub­jects like jihad, mar­tyr­dom oper­a­tions, and Sharia law. I don’t under­stand how you can read the Qur’an and the sun­nah of the Prophet and not under­stand that jihad and the imple­men­ta­tion of Sharia is absolutely demanded of all the Mus­lim Ummah.”

“One last thing I would like to make clear if I haven’t already — I believe the Mus­lim who is labeled ‘a rad­i­cal fun­da­men­tal­ist’ is closer to Allah than the ones labeled ‘mod­er­ates.’ Just my opin­ion; if I’m off base, please set me straight.”

He also indi­cated that he “con­sid­ered sup­port­ing some of our broth­ers and sis­ters in prison,” and has been send­ing money to the fam­ily of Youn­nus Abdul­lah Muham­mad. Muham­mad is the co-founder of Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim, the fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion based in New York that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence. The arrest of the Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim lead­ers in recent years has led to its demise.

Loewen described Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim as “the first web­site that really helped me under­stand what obe­di­ence to Allah was.”

Accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint, he also expressed his admi­ra­tion of Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American-born Mus­lim cleric who encour­aged attacks against Amer­ica and the West to English-speaking online audi­ences for sev­eral years. Al‐Awlaki was among a grow­ing cho­rus of Amer­i­cans resid­ing abroad who used their online pul­pits to reach and influ­ence audi­ences in the U.S. by repack­ag­ing ide­olo­gies of extreme intol­er­ance and vio­lence into digestible sound bites.

Al-Awlaki’s mate­ri­als have inspired sev­eral Amer­i­can Mus­lim extrem­ists to carry out ter­ror­ist attacks in the U.S. and join ter­ror­ist groups over­seas. He was killed in a drone strike in Yemen on Sep­tem­ber 30, 2011.

Loewen, who also goes by Terry L. Lane, report­edly left a let­ter for his fam­ily dated Decem­ber 11 that said, “By the time you read this I will — if every­thing went as planned — have been mar­tyred in the path of Allah.”

Described by the U.S. gov­ern­ment as “the most active and dan­ger­ous” branch of Al Qaeda, AQAP has attempted to carry out mul­ti­ple attacks against the United States, includ­ing at least three failed attacks involv­ing U.S.-bound aviation.

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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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