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September 5, 2014 1

The American Face of Foreign Terror Recruits

marcos-alonso-zea-terrorism

Mar­cos Alonso Zea of New York attempted to join AQAP

U.S. intel­li­gence esti­mates indi­cate that sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of Amer­i­cans – as few as a dozen or as many as 300, accord­ing to some offi­cials – have trav­eled abroad to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Although most of these indi­vid­u­als have not been pub­licly iden­ti­fied, con­crete infor­ma­tion is avail­able about 20 Amer­i­cans who fought or attempted to travel abroad since the begin­ning of 2013. An analy­sis of their back­grounds pro­vides inter­est­ing sta­tis­tics that may sup­ple­ment our under­stand­ing of the peo­ple attracted to ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions and pro­vide clues about the many addi­tional, uniden­ti­fied Amer­i­cans believed to have trav­eled abroad.

For exam­ple, the infor­ma­tion tells us that:

  • They range in age from 18 to 44, but the major­ity are in their 20s.
  • Nine of them joined or attempted to join ISIS.
  • Six of them joined or attempted to join the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Syria Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Three of them joined or attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) in Yemen.
  • 13 of the 20, or 65%, are report­edly con­verts to Islam.
  • They come from across the coun­try: Six came from Cal­i­for­nia, two each from Min­nesota, Michi­gan, North Car­olina, Florida and New York. Other states rep­re­sented include Texas, Penn­syl­va­nia, Illi­nois, Mass­a­chu­setts and Arizona.
  • Only two of the 20 were women. (ADL has doc­u­mented 13 female cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the U.S. arrested on ter­ror­ism charges since 2002.)

The num­ber of Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied as attempt­ing to join ISIS spiked sharply in 2014. Seven of the nine Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied above attempted to join the ter­ror group just this year.  Whereas in 2013, half of the Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied attempted to join the con­flict in Syria, but only one to ISIS.

This influx of Amer­i­cans attempt­ing to join ISIS is tak­ing place as ISIS steps ups its threats against the U.S., includ­ing behead­ing Amer­i­cans and expand­ing its sophis­ti­cated online media cam­paign designed to moti­vate and recruit westerners.

Indeed, con­fir­ma­tion by U.S. offi­cials that two Amer­i­can men with links to Min­nesota were killed last month in Syria is the lat­est indi­ca­tion that ISIS has replaced Al Shabaab in Soma­lia as the ter­ror­ist des­ti­na­tion of choice for Amer­i­can mil­i­tants. 

A full list of names follows:

  • Ahmad Abousamra of Mass­a­chu­setts: Believed to be work­ing with ISIS in Iraq or Syria (iden­ti­fied in 2014).
  • Abdi­rah­maan Muhumed of Min­nesota: Killed in Syria in August 2014 appar­ently fight­ing with ISIS.
  • Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain of Cal­i­for­nia: Killed in Syria in August 2014, appar­ently fight­ing with ISIS.
  • Don­ald Ray Mor­gan of North Car­olina: Arrested in August 2014 on firearm charges; believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Adam Dan­dach of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in July 2014 on pass­port fraud charges; believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas: Arrested in June 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Moner Abu-Salha of Florida: Killed in a sui­cide attack he car­ried out in May 2014 on behalf of Jab­hat al Nusra.

    moner-abu-salha-nusra

    Moner Abu-Salha of Florida joined Jab­hat al Nusra

  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley of Col­orado: Arrested in April 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Mohammed Has­san Ham­dan of Michi­gan: Arrested in March 2014 for attempt­ing to join Hezbol­lah in Syria.
  • Nicholas Teau­sant of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in March 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh of North Car­olina: Arrested Novem­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Mar­cos Alonso Zea of New York: Arrested in Octo­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.
  • Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Octo­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join Al Qaeda. Nguyen had pre­vi­ously fought in Syria.
  • Amir Farouq Ibrahim, of Penn­syl­va­nia: Assumed dead in July 2013 and believed to have fought with ISIS.
  • Justin Kaliebe of New York: Arrested in June 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.
  • Nicole Mans­field of Michi­gan: Killed in May 2013, report­edly fight­ing with Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinios: Arrested in April 2013 for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Eric Har­roun of Ari­zona: Arrested in March 2013 for trav­el­ing to Syria to fight with Jab­hat al Nusra. 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 Jab­hat al Nusra or with the Syr­ian Free Army, which is not con­sid­ered a ter­ror­ist organization.
  • Matthew Aaron Llaneza of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Feb­ru­ary 2013 for attempted domes­tic ter­ror­ism and plans to travel to join the Tal­iban in Afghanistan.
  • Shel­ton Thomas Bell of Florida: Arrested in Jan­u­ary 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.

In addi­tion to those indi­vid­u­als above, two appar­ent Amer­i­cans have been fea­tured in pro­pa­ganda videos from Syria, although their iden­ti­ties have not been fully verified:

  • A man called Abu Abdu­rah­man al-Trinidadi, allegedly Amer­i­can of Trinida­dian ori­gin, fea­tured sup­port­ing ISIS in a video released in August 2014.
  • A man called Abu Dujana al-Amriki, allegedly Amer­i­can, fea­tured sup­port­ing ISIS in a video released Novem­ber 2013.

Yet another Amer­i­can has been iden­ti­fied as fight­ing with ISIS because of his death in a Syr­ian airstrike in Sep­tem­ber 2014. Fur­ther infor­ma­tion about that indi­vid­ual has not yet been released.

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August 20, 2014 0

Americans Respond To ISIS Recruitment

Update– 8/27/14: Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain of San Diego, died while fight­ing with ISIS in Syria in August 2014.

Even as it fights on a num­ber of fronts in the Mid­dle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al Qaeda-inspired ter­ror­ist group that claims sov­er­eignty in sec­tions of Syria and Iraq, con­tin­ues to recruit west­ern­ers through its sophis­ti­cated online pro­pa­ganda cam­paign.al-hayat-ad-propaganda

Some Amer­i­cans are heed­ing the call.

In 2014, five of the six Amer­i­cans arrested in the U.S. for attempt­ing to join the con­flict in Syria and Iraq were accused of attempt­ing to join ISIS: Don­ald Ray Mor­gan of North Car­olina in August (arrested on weapons charges but believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS); Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley of Col­orado in July; Adam Dandich of Cal­i­for­nia in July (charged with pass­port fraud but believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS); Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas in June; and Nicholas Teau­sant of Cal­i­for­nia in March. The sixth, Mohammed Has­san Ham­dan of Michi­gan, allegedly attempted to fight in Syria with Hezbol­lah.

Fur­ther­more, In June the FBI said it launched an inves­ti­ga­tion into 15 Somali Amer­i­cans from Min­nesota believed to have joined ISIS.

At least two other Amer­i­cans have appeared in videos released by ISIS and Jab­hat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Syria.A video released in August 2014 fea­tured an alleged Amer­i­can national called Abu Abdu­rah­man al-Trinidadi encour­ag­ing oth­ers to join ISIS. And in May, Moner Abu Salha of Florida was iden­ti­fied in a Jab­hat al-Nusra video as hav­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in a sui­cide attack.

U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials esti­mate that over 100 Amer­i­can nation­als have trav­elled to join the con­flict in Syria, a con­flict that has since spread to Iraq.

The effect of ISIS’ increased strength and noto­ri­ety, as well as its advanced online recruit­ment strate­gies, appear to be hav­ing an effect. Of the seven known Amer­i­cans who either trav­eled to or attempted to travel to Syria to fight with mil­i­tants last year, only one was believed to have fought with ISIS; a video released online in Novem­ber 2013 fea­tured an appar­ent Amer­i­can called Abu Dujana al-Amriki, prais­ing ISIS.

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November 21, 2013 0

Continued Concerns Over Wave Of Americans Fighting In Syria

eric-harroun-jabhat-al-nusrah-syria

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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