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April 7, 2015

Right-wing Terror Attacks in U.S. Approach 1990s Levels

Recent terrorist attacks, plots and conspiracies by right-wing extremists in the United States are approaching the level of attacks in the mid-1990s when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, based on a chronology of such attacks compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.  The chronology was released as part of ADL’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.right-wing_plots_attacks_1995-2014

The list of right-wing attacks and attempted attacks chronicles 120 different incidents between January 1995 and December 2014, illustrating a steady stream of domestic terror incidents in the United States stemming from extreme-right movements over the past two decades.  Targets included ethnic and religious minorities, government officials and buildings, law enforcement officers, abortion clinics and their staff, and others.

Examined over time, the attacks illustrate the two major surges of right-wing extremism that the United States has experienced in the past 20 years.  The first began in the mid-1990s and lasted until the end of the decade.  The second surge began in the late 2000s and has not yet died down.

During both surges, the number of right-wing terror attacks and conspiracies outnumbered those in the intervening period.  From 1995 through 2000, 47 incidents occurred, while from 2009 through 2014, 42 incidents took place.  The eight-year intervening period of 2001-08 produced 31 attacks.  The surge of recent years has not produced a two-year period with as many incidents as the years 1995-1996, which had a high of 18 attacks, but it has come close, with 16 attacks for the years 2011-12.

When analyzed on the basis of perpetrator ideology, the list shows that the various white supremacist and anti-government extremist movements have produced the vast majority of the right-wing terrorist incidents over the past 20 years, with 50 each.  Anti-abortion extremists come in third place with 13 incidents.right-wing_terrorism_by_movement_1995-2014

Incidents on the list include terrorist acts and plots by white supremacists, anti-government extremists, anti-abortion extremists, anti-immigration extremists, anti-Muslim extremists, and others.  The list does not include spontaneous acts of violence by right-wing extremists, such as killings committed during traffic stops, nor does it include lesser incidents of extremist violence or non-ideological violence committed by extremists.

Some incidents had perpetrators who adhered to more than one ideological movement; in such cases, the movement that seemed most important to the perpetrator was used for categorization.  Categorization was by perpetrator ideology rather than type of target, a fact important to note, as different movements sometimes chose the same type of target (white supremacists and anti-abortion extremists both targeted abortion clinics, for example), while some perpetrators chose targets that did not closely tie in with their main ideology (such as anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph targeting the 1996 Atlanta Olympics).  The 2001 plot by the Jewish Defense League to attack Muslim-related targets in California is not listed, as ADL includes such incidents under Jewish nationalist extremism rather than right-wing extremism.

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February 17, 2015

New ADL Report: Homegrown Islamic Extremism In 2014

homegrown-terrorism-isis-imageThe rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its increasingly sophisticated social media communication and recruitment strategies influenced a diverse group of people from around the world, including from the United States, throughout 2014.

The ADL’s new report, Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2014: The Rise of ISIS and Sustained Online Radicalization, presents key findings and trends that result from ISIS’s increasing reach, and its ramifications on domestic security.

The report describes how at least 17 American citizens and permanent residents motivated by the ideology propagated by ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups overseas were charged in 2014 with terror-related offenses.

Three others were identified as having died while fighting with terrorist groups abroad and an additional five minors are believed to have attempted to join such groups but were not charged. Of these 25, nearly all engaged to some degree with online terrorist propaganda and 19 are believed to have attempted to join or aid ISIS.

These individuals range in age from 15 to 44, with 11 in their twenties and 7 in their teens. At least one quarter were converts to Islam. 32% were women.

The report also draws on findings from previous years, noting for example that residents from 20 states have been charged in connection with Islamic extremism since 2012.

In addition, the report describes the new phenomenon of criminal acts that have not been defined by authorities as terrorism but that have been influenced by terrorist propaganda – including murders in New Jersey and Oklahoma and an attempted murder in New York in 2014.

Finally, it analyzes current terrorist narratives and recruiting techniques, including their use of social media to attract increasing numbers of followers and the way anti-Semitism is used to motivate recruits.

The full report is available on the ADL website.

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January 16, 2015

Ohio Arrest Is First Islamic Extremism Related Plot Since 2013

Christopher Lee Cornell

Christopher Lee Cornell

Wednesday’s arrest of Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen from Ohio, marked the first Islamic extremism-related arrest of 2015 and the first incident of an attempted domestic terror attack motivated by a radical interpretation of Islam since 2013.

Cornell is accused of attempting to attack the U.S. Capitol building by planting and detonating pipe bombs at and near the building and then using a semi-automatic rifle to increase casualty counts. The plot was the first since December 2013, when Kansas resident Terry Lee Loewen allegedly attempted to bomb the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Cornell’s alleged plot comes at a time of increasing calls for violence and homegrown extremism by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS), as well as the continued influence of Al Qaeda propagandists including Anwar al-Awlaki and the power of social media in the modern radicalization process.  Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011, was an English-language spokesman for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Cornell was reportedly hoping to undertake his attack as a way to support ISIS. This fits with current trends in extremism: The vast majority of the identified Americans known to have engaged with extremism in 2014 sought to join or aid ISIS.

Cornell, who used the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, Tweeted ISIS propaganda and Awlaki quotes and apparently found justification for his alleged plot in the propaganda materials he accessed from ISIS and Anwar al-Awlaki.

Although ISIS leadership is currently at odds with Al Qaeda leadership, the group still cites Awlaki as an ideological leader. It is not uncommon for apparent terrorist supports online to share materials from both including ISIS and AQAP despite fighting between the groups’ leadership.

According to court documents, Cornell claimed to have contacted members of ISIS in hopes that they would assist him in his efforts to attack the U.S. He also watched extremist videos and used his computer to research bomb making instructions and information about how to purchase firearms, and he communicated with an undercover informant he believed to be a co-conspirator using instant messaging services. He told the informant “I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks,” according to court documents.

Some of his apparent Tweets indicated support for lone wolf attacks, including one that praised attacks in Canada by Martin Rouleau Couture and Michael Zehaf Bibeau stating, “May Allah reward the brothers who fought and received Shahada (martyrdom) in Canada! May these recent attacks send terror into the hearts of the kufr (disbelievers)!

According to family members, Cornell had converted to Islam less than a year prior to his arrest.

According to FBI Director James Comey, the FBI is currently tracking nearly 150 Americans who traveled to Syria, “a significant number” of whom went there to fight. Other reports have indicated that close to 90 additional Americans are believed to have died fighting or attempted to travel abroad to join extremist groups but failed.

17 of the 22 individuals who have been publicly identified as engaging in terrorism in 2014 sought to join or aid ISIS.

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