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October 3, 2014 2

Oklahoma Beheading & The Secondary Effect of Terrorist Propaganda

The evo­lu­tion of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda has been marked by tar­geted efforts to rad­i­cal­ize and recruit west­ern­ers, often encour­ag­ing them to stage attacks in the U.S. or join ter­ror­ist groups abroad. The influ­ence of this vio­lent pro­pa­ganda, how­ever, goes beyond its intended audience.alton-nolan-via-fb

Alton Nolan, who allegedly beheaded one for­mer coworker and stabbed a sec­ond last week in Okla­homa, did not have any appar­ent ties to ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions or appear to be respond­ing to a spe­cific call for attacks on behalf of any orga­ni­za­tion. But his actions can be viewed as a sec­ondary effect of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda, which any­one can access with ease.

Nolan’s online activ­ity sug­gests that his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may well have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing, rather than another form of vio­lence. Some of his Face­book posts, for exam­ple, indi­cate an affin­ity to vio­lent images com­monly prop­a­gated by Islamic extrem­ists. One post from March 2014 fea­tures an image of a behead­ing with text that jus­ti­fies that form of mur­der in Islam, an image of a woman receiv­ing lashes, and an image of a man hold­ing a poster that states “Islam will dom­i­nate the world.” Nolan included a cap­tion that stated “Sharia law will takeover (sic)…Cut the hands off the thieves…Islam is the true religion.”

In June 2014 he posted a screed against Father’s Day together with an image of a mil­i­tant from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He also wrote mul­ti­ple screeds against the U.S. and specif­i­cally the Statue of Lib­erty for allow­ing women to show their hair, sell­ing pork in gro­cery stores, and allow­ing same-sex marriage.

In May 2014, Nolan posted two images of what appear to be fright­ened women along­side quotes from the Qu’ran about pun­ish­ing “unbe­liev­ers” and the sen­tence “These piks aren’t qiute how their gnna be but jst sum piks. (sic)”

Such posts were inter­spersed with posts about UFOs, posts explain­ing why some peo­ple have blond hair, and posts about Black Moores enslav­ing “white Euro­peans” and keep­ing “white harems,” among oth­ers. Those posts are also signed “****InfoFromAMuslim****.”

In late 2013, prior to these posts, Nolan also had a series of posts sug­gest­ing that Blacks are the “true Jews” and dis­cussing Hitler, Neo-Nazis, and the KKK.

An analy­sis of all these posts indi­cates that Nolan was appar­ently fas­ci­nated by the vio­lence por­trayed by Islamic extrem­ism. He attempts to pro­mote him­self by preach­ing it. But he does not appear to have con­nec­tions to rad­i­cal extrem­ism, and the core of his vio­lent ten­den­cies appear per­son­ally motivated.

These sec­ondary effects of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda were sim­i­larly demon­strated in the case of a mur­der that took place in New Jer­sey in August. The accused per­pe­tra­tor in that case, Ali Muhammed Brown, had a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record and is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als in Cal­i­for­nia in June. In August, he was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­der was revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East.

This was not the first crim­i­nal charge against Alton Nolan, a 30-year-old for­mer employee at a food pro­cess­ing plant in Okla­homa. He had pre­vi­ously been con­victed on drug, resist­ing arrest and escape charges.

Nolan appar­ently con­verted to a rad­i­cal ver­sion of Islam in or around the time he went to prison. In Jan­u­ary 2014, he began sign­ing his Face­book posts and com­ments with the phrase “****InfoFromAMuslim****.”

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September 22, 2014 0

ISIS-Related Arrest In Rochester Underscores Online Radicalization

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Mufid Elfgeeh

The online activ­ity of Mufid Elfgeeh, whose arrest for attempt­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port for ter­ror, attempt­ing to kill U.S. sol­diers, and pos­ses­sion of firearms and silencers was made pub­lic this week by the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice, under­scores the cen­tral­ity of the Inter­net in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion and recruit­ment process.

Elfgeeh uti­lized mul­ti­ple online plat­forms includ­ing Twit­ter, Face­book, YouTube and the android appli­ca­tion What­sApp to try to raise money for for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and to recruit three other indi­vid­u­als to join for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. His online activ­ity also inspired him to devise a plot to kill Shi’a Mus­lims and for­mer Amer­i­can ser­vice­men at home.

Social media enabled Elfgeeh to not only learn about the activ­i­ties of for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions through videos, tweets and other online pro­pa­ganda, but to also con­nect with appar­ent sup­port­ers of those orga­ni­za­tions, in par­tic­u­lar the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Elfgeeh sought dona­tions for ter­ror­ists in Syria through Twit­ter. Among his alleged tweets were requests that peo­ple donate a third of their salary or at least “#Five_thousand_dollars_from_every_household” to sup­port mil­i­tants in Syria. He also tweeted and retweeted state­ments of sup­port for var­i­ous ter­ror groups includ­ing, “al-Qa’ida said it loud and clear: we are fight­ing the Amer­i­can inva­sion and their hege­mony over the earth and the people.”

On Face­book, Elfgeeh was a mem­ber of at least two Arabic-language Face­book groups in which group mem­bers reg­u­larly post and share al Qaeda and ISIS pro­pa­ganda. His own Face­book pho­tos included sev­eral images from Al Bat­tar media, an offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda wing.

Elfgeeh also allegedly used Face­book to com­mu­ni­cate with indi­vid­u­als he believed were mem­bers of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and with the indi­vid­u­als he was recruit­ing about plans to travel abroad to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.

In his recruit­ing, he ini­tially sug­gested Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) and Al Shabaab as pos­si­ble des­ti­na­tions, and later focused on ISIS. Notably, AQAP, Al Shabaab and ISIS are all ter­ror­ist groups that have become highly adept at dis­trib­ut­ing exten­sive English-language pro­pa­ganda.

On April 22 2014, he allegedly posted a mes­sage on Face­book attempt­ing to gain con­nec­tions in ISIS, stat­ing, “Who­ever knows a brother from ISIS who is able to com­mu­ni­cate well in Eng­lish, can com­mu­ni­cate with me through the pri­vate, due to the impor­tance.” He also com­mu­ni­cated directly on Face­book with an indi­vid­ual he was recruit­ing to join ISIS (the indi­vid­ual was in fact an informant).

Elfgeeh was allegedly devel­op­ing a plot to com­mit mul­ti­ple mur­ders in the U.S. as well, appar­ently inspired by acts of ter­ror­ism around the world includ­ing Al Shabaab’s attack of the West­gate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and, in par­tic­u­lar, by Mohammed Merah’s shoot­ings in France.

His inspi­ra­tion for this plot appar­ently came from watch­ing videos on YouTube. He allegedly explained that he had learned about Merah’s actions because, “[i]t’s in YouTube.” He also allegedly had watched a video that pro­vided jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and instruc­tions for his plot: The video, he stated, “tell[s] you what to do …it’s YouTube…they call them here…’individual wolf’ (an appar­ent ref­er­ence to lone wolf attacks).”

Elfgeeh is a 30-year-old nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. Orig­i­nally from Yemen, he resided in Rochester, NY prior to his arrest where he owned and oper­ated a store called Halal Mojo and Food­mart. He was arrested on May 31, 2014 and pleaded not guilty on Sep­tem­ber 18.

Elfgeeh is the sec­ond Amer­i­can arrested in 2014 for recruit­ing oth­ers to join for­eign ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions, fol­low­ing Rahatul Ashikim Khan of Round Rock, Texas, who was arrested in June.

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August 29, 2014 0

ISIS Succeeds Al Shaabab as Foremost Recruiter of American Militants

Con­fir­ma­tion by U.S. offi­cials that two Amer­i­can men with links to Min­nesota were killed this past week­end in Syria while fight­ing for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) serves as the lat­est indi­ca­tion that ISIS has replaced Al Shabaab in Soma­lia as the ter­ror­ist des­ti­na­tion of choice for Amer­i­can mil­i­tants. 

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Abdi­rah­maan Muhumed

As the num­ber of Amer­i­cans join­ing Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Soma­lia, has steadily decreased over the past few years (more than 60 U.S. cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dentshave trav­eled to or attempted to aid or joinAl Shabaab since 2007, Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing to or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS or fight with other ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in the region has increased.

Over 100 Amer­i­cans are believed to have trav­eled to Syria and Iraq to join the fight­ing over­all. In 2013 and 2014, 13 Amer­i­cans have been arrested for trav­el­ling or attempt­ing to travel to the region to join ISIS, Jab­hat al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) or other ter­ror­ist groups.

Six oth­ers have report­edly been killed, includ­ing Abdi­rah­maan Muhumed, the 29-year-old Somali-American from Min­nesota killed this past week­end with Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain from San Diego/Minnesota, Moner Abu Salha from Florida, Nicole Mans­field from Michi­gan, Amir Farouk Ibrahim of Penn­syl­va­nia, and a man using the pseu­do­nym Abu Dujana Al-Amriki, whose back­ground is unclear.

Abdi­rah­maan Muhumed was appar­ently one of 15 Somali Amer­i­cans from Min­nesota under inves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI for trav­el­ling to Syria. ISIS has report­edly sent rep­re­sen­ta­tives to recruit from the Twin Cities, alarm­ing com­mu­nity leaders.

Muhumed and McCain report­edly inter­acted on social media before their deaths; McCain allegedly wrote on Muhamed’s Face­book wall, telling him to “con­tinue pro­tect­ing our broth­ers and sis­ters.” McCain was also friends with at least one other indi­vid­ual who appar­ently trav­eled abroad to joina ter­ror­ist organization.

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Troy Kasti­gar

McCain’s appar­ent high school friend, Troy Kasti­gar, became a mem­ber of Al Shabaab and was fea­tured in an English-language pro­pa­ganda video called “The Path to Par­adise,” in which he encour­aged Amer­i­cans to join the ter­ror group. “This is the best place to be,” said Kasti­gar in the video, “This is the real Dis­ney­land and you should come here and join us, take plea­sure in this fun…. Come here and join us so that we can die for the sake of Allah.”

Mohamed Abdul­lahi Has­san, who was indicted on ter­ror­ism charges in 2008 for join­ing Al Shabaab, was also an appar­ent friend of McCain’s. Hassan’s state­ments on Twit­ter after McCain’s death included, “The Hard­est thing in Jihad is when a brother u (sic) love is granted Sha­hadah [mar­tyr­dom]. Today im (sic) expe­ri­enc­ing those feel­ings. May Allah accept @iamthetooth [McCain].”

Has­san, who is believed to still be a mem­ber of Al Shabaab in Soma­lia, has encour­aged other extrem­ists to con­sider join­ing ISIS. In one response on Ask.FM, he wrote, “Fight­ing Jihad in other Jihadi fronts is good. I’m not say­ing you shouldn’t, but I rec­om­mend Sham [Syria] because our prophet pbuh [peace be upon him] rec­om­mended sham so i’ll (sic) go with that.”

Al Shabaab itself appears to have taken a sim­i­lar strat­egy of encour­ag­ing travel to any ter­ror front. In the sixth install­ment of its English-language video series Mujahideen Moments, released August 27, an appar­ent Al Shabaab mil­i­tant called on “Mus­lims, those that are liv­ing the U.S., espe­cially in Min­nesota, and Great Britain, Ger­many, and many parts of the kuf­far [apos­tate] world” to travel abroad to join the fight in ter­ror­ist con­flict zones includ­ing Soma­lia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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