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November 17, 2015

The Terror Threat to the US in the Wake of the Paris Attacks

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have been the mastermind of the Paris attacks

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian man believed to have been the ringleader in the Paris attacks

Following the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, cities around the world have ramped up security. While the type of coordinated attacks that have been carried out in France can occur in the U.S., an analysis of domestic Islamic extremist activity and plots in 2015 indicates that the U.S. faces a different threat landscape than many European countries.

Investigators still do not have profiles of all of the individuals alleged to have taken part in the attacks on Paris. However, certain features of the attack are already apparent.

1. External coordination by foreign terrorist organizations

The Paris attack is the second attack in France this year that appears to have been planned, at least in part, by foreign terrorist organizations.

By contrast, only one of the 15 domestic attack plots in the U.S. motivated by Islamic extremist ideology this year appeared to have had possible external coordination: Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamud, arrested in February, had allegedly been plotting an attack with some direction from terrorists in Syria, although the extent of that direction was unclear.

A second plot, the shooting of a Draw Mohammed contest at a Garland, Texas community center, was influenced by conversation with ISIS supporters online, including some who are believed to be fighting abroad. However, it seems that those online supporters incited activity against the contest but did not coordinate the plot with the alleged shooters.

2.  Foreign fighter threat

The attack in Paris was allegedly planned in large part by a Belgian citizen who had spent time fighting with ISIS in Syria before returning to Europe.

Only one individual in the U.S., Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamud, attempted to plot an attack after allegedly fighting with extremists in Syria this year. Interestingly, Mohamud had allegedly fought with Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria, and not with ISIS; however, court documents indicate that he was also sympathetic to ISIS.

The U.S. also has far fewer individuals who have traveled abroad to join ISIS than France or Belgium. At least 100 Americans are believed to have joined ISIS – approximately 1 person per million in the U.S. – compared with between 1,000 and 1,200, or 18 people per million in France and approximately 440 individuals, or 40 people per million, in Belgium. As such, the risk of returning foreign fighters attempting to perpetrate attacks in the U.S. is statistically lower than in France or Belgium.

At least 4 individuals believed to have been planning domestic plots in 2015 allegedly conceived of their plots after finding themselves unable to travel to join ISIS. At least 3 individuals allegedly planned to travel to join ISIS after perpetrating an attack.

In total, 29 U.S. residents arrested in 2015 allegedly attempted to join ISIS.

3. Plot size

At least ten individuals are believed to have taken part in the attacks in Paris.

By contrast, the majority of attack plots in the U.S. this year have been in small groups. Eight plots were allegedly planned by individuals (but not lone wolves, as they were often coordinating with informants or contacts on the internet); five were planned by two people working together; two were planned by groups of three. One plot involved a ring of five ISIS supporters, but only two of the five appear to have been actively engaged in the plot, while the others were primarily planning to travel abroad to join the terrorist organization.

Again, none of this data should be interpreted to mean that a large-scale, externally directed plot in the U.S. cannot occur; the 9/11 attacks proved that the U.S. is vulnerable to such attacks. However, it does indicate that the threat facing the U.S. remains different than the threat facing European countries.

The following is a list of domestic attack plots against the U.S. in 2015:

  • Joshua Ryne Goldberg of Florida was arrested in September for allegedly sending bomb-making instructions to and developing a plot with an undercover source. The plot involved building a pressure cooker bomb and detonating it at a 9/11 memorial in Kansas City, MO. Following his arrest, Goldberg claimed he had planned to alert law enforcement prior to the bomb’s detonation.
  • Harlem Suarez of Florida was arrested in July for allegedly plotting to detonate a bomb at a Florida beach. He also discussed attacking law enforcement officers.
  • Moham­mad Yousef Abdulazeez of Tennessee was killed after he opened fire at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July. The attack resulted in five deaths, in addition to Abdulazeez’s death. Abdulazeez was reportedly inspired by Al Qaeda propaganda.
  • Alexander Ciccolo of Massachusetts was arrested in July as a felon in possession of a weapon. Ciccolo allegedly planned to attack a state university.
  • Justin Nojan Sullivan of North Carolina was arrested in June for allegedly plotting an attack that included shootings in public venues and a bomb plot that involved biological weapons.
  • Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni of New York were arrested in June after each attempted to attack law enforcement officials in separate instances. The two had allegedly planned to undertake an attack on a New York City landmark. Saleh and Mumuni were part of a conspiracy that also involved at least three other people, Samuel Rahamin Topaz, Alaa Saadeh and Saadeh’s brother, but these three were apparently more focused on traveling to join ISIS and the degree of their involvement in the plot is unclear.
  • Usaama Rahim of Massachusetts was killed when he drew a knife after being approached for questioning by law enforcement officers. He had allegedly plotted with David Wright of Massachusetts and Nicholas Rovinski of Rhode Island to behead Pamela Geller (head of the anti-Muslim organization Stop Islamicization of America) on behalf of ISIS; the plot later shifted to attempting to behead a police officer.
  • Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi of Arizona were shot and killed when they attempted to undertake a shooting at a Garland, Texas community center. They were allegedly assisted by co-conspirator Decarus Thomas of Arizona, who was arrested in June.
  • Miguel Moran Diaz of Florida was arrested in April on charges that he was a felon in possession of a firearm. Reports indicated that he planned to target Miami residents.
  • John T. Booker and Alexan­der Blair of Kansas were arrested in April for allegedly attempt­ing to under­take a sui­cide attack at the Ft. Riley mil­i­tary base.
  • Noelle Velentzas and Asia Sid­diqui of New York were arrested in April for allegedly pur­chas­ing bomb-making equip­ment with plans for an attack.
  • Hasan and Jonas Edmonds of Illi­nois were arrested in March and charged with attempting to join ISIS and plotting an attack against a military base.
  • An unnamed minor from South Carolina was arrested in February and accused of formulating a plot to attack a North Carolina military base and then travel abroad to join ISIS.
  • Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov of New York were arrested in Feb­ru­ary and charged with mate­r­ial sup­port for ter­ror. Court doc­u­ments state they were attempt­ing to join ISIS and discussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack.
  • Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamud of Ohio was arrested in February and charged in April with joining Jabhat al Nusra. He allegedly returned to the U.S. with the intention of perpetrating an attack against a military base in Texas. Court documents indicate that Mohamud supported both ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra, although he had fought with Jabhat al Nusra.
  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell of Ohio was arrested in Jan­u­ary for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS members abroad.

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March 13, 2015

Under Attack, ISIS Threatens Jews and Israel

Screenshot from the ISIS video

Screenshot from the ISIS video

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) increasingly finds itself under attack in Iraq and Syria, it has used the murder of an individual it alleges was a Mossad spy to threaten Jews and Israel and thereby attempt to rally its supporters.

Anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments are regularly utilized as tools by terrorist groups including ISIS to build support and mobilize followers.

The murder is depicted in a video with narration promising to conquer Jerusalem, praising the killing of Jews, and referring to anti-Semitic violence in France. Like the threats ISIS issued against Israel this summer, it maintains that the group is currently occupied in Syria and Iraq but aspires to attack Israel in the future.

Some quotes from the video include:

  • “O Jews, Allah has gifted us with killing your followers in your own stronghold in France”
  • “As for the near-term, you will witness the legions of the Khilafa pounding your lands and your fortresses. They will liberate Jerusalem from your filth, by Allah’s permission”
  • “Today we say to you, the Islamic conquests have begun, and the Jews have become frightened because the promise is near.”
  • “So we fight in Iraq and our eyes are on Jerusalem”

The video’s victim, an Arab-Israeli named Mohamed Musallam, is shot on camera by a boy who appears to be between 10 and 12 years old. Both the boy and the man supervising him are apparently French citizens, according to officials and news reports. Some experts believe that the man is Sabri Essid, reportedly the half-brother of Mohammed Merah. Merah is responsible for a 2011 shooting in a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, that left four dead, including three children.

At its conclusion, the video also names 13 other individuals, all of whom have Arab names, who it claims are spies for Israel. Several appear to be Musallam’s family members, including his father and brother. The video provides their names and maps their addresses. It also provides several pictures for most of the individuals it named. This information was reposted in a document that was also shared on Twitter.

According to his family, Musallam had traveled to Syria to join ISIS but later changed his mind and wanted to leave the group.

An ISIS supporter on Twitter wrote "Here is teh good news, today we kill the agents of Jews and tomorrow-God's willing - those cubs will kill the Jews."

An ISIS supporter on Twitter wrote “Here is the good news, today we kill the agents of Jews and tomorrow – God willing – those cubs will kill the Jews.”

Some ISIS supporters attempted to ensure the video was seen by Israelis by promoting the link with a trending Hebrew-language hashtag that translates to “the end that they don’t tell you.”

ISIS supporters online also responded to the video with additional anti-Semitic sentiments. One supporter, for example, tweeted, “For those who said why don’t you fight Israel. Here is the good news, today we kill the agents of Jews and tomorrow – God willing – those cubs will kill the Jews.” The term cubs is a reference to youth being indoctrinated to support ISIS, such as the boy in the video. ISIS militants are sometimes referred to as lions.

ISIS and its supporters have used anti-Semitism and threats against Israel to appeal to followers on multiple occasions, including through  threats against Israel this summer, a video issued in June 2014 that threatened Jews, and in a prominent speech by ISIS spokesman Mohammed al-Adnani that alleged Jews control U.S. foreign policy and are responsible for American intervention in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS supporters have also recently established a cyber-alliance with anti-Israel hackers in an attempt to increase cyber-attacks on behalf of ISIS.

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January 15, 2015

Anti-Semitic Conspiracies Continue In Aftermath Of Paris Attacks

Conspiracy theories blaming Jews and Israel for the terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris continue to surface in the U.S. and abroad.

In addition to previously reported examples, recent instances of American anti-Semites exploiting the tragedy to promote hatred for Jews include:

Brandon Martinez's on Press TV

Press TV’s reporting on the attacks

  • Paul Craig Roberts, an anti-Semitic syndicated columnist, wrote an article on his personal website claiming that there are suspicions “that the French shootings are a false flag operation.” Roberts identified several reasons for this, including “to stifle the growing European sympathy for the Palestinians and to realign Europe with Israel.”
  • On Press TV, Iran’s English-language satel­lite news net­work, in a January 13 article titled “Analyst wonders whether Cahrlie [sic] Hebdo massacre was staged,” Brandon Martinez blamed “Zionists” for a number of the world’s evils. For example, Martinez wrote that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are “all outgrowths of the same poisonous American-Zionist imperial tree.”
  • On January 12, on Vet­er­ans Today, a U.S.-based web­site that presents anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries as news, Senior Editor Gordon Duff published an article titled “Did Netanyahu Give France Their 9/11?” In the article, he describes the attacks as a “comic opera of carelessly staged false flag terrorism” carried out by “the Mossad and the criminal banks, part of the pro-Israeli ISIS organization.”

Internationally, similar conspiracy theories have been published in some media outlets and been promoted by various individuals:

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek blaming Mossad for the attacks

  • Turkey: According to a report from Anadolu News Agency circulating in the Turkish media, Ankara’s Mayor, Melih Gokcek accused Israel of being behind the Paris attacks. He made his statement during a conference by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on January 13. He claimed Israel was annoyed with the lower house of the French Parliament for voting for the recognition of a Palestinian state and with France’s vote in favor of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for the same recognition. “Israel certainly doesn’t want this sentiment to expand in Europe. That is why it is certain that Mossad is behind these kinds of incidents. Mossad inflames Islamophobia by causing such incidents,” Gokcek said.
  • Egypt: A foreign affairs analyst at Al Wafd daily newspaper was cited in a report by the paper on January 12 as stating: “The Israeli Mossad is behind the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo French newspaper.” He added, “The Mossad planned the operation, and provided the attackers with weapons, and most likely the planning of the operation was done in the same Jewish [grocery] store which the attackers went to later.”
  • Egypt: Mohammed Tewfik, a journalist and former member of the militant al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, accused the Mossad of being involved in the Charlie Hebdo attacks. His accusations were included in a statement published by the Egypt-based Albawabh news website, on January 12. Tewfik stated, “The fast reaction by Israel to the attack, and Netanyahu’s trip to France, his request for France’s Jews to immigrate to Israel, and his call to  establish a new international coalition against Islamic terrorism, are likely [indications] of a Mossad involvement in this crime and an attempt to stick it to the Muslims.”

Anti-Semites have pro­moted such absurd the­o­ries to explain events in Syria, the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, the Sandy Hook Mas­sacre, and the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks. In the Mid­dle East, there are those that claim that ISIS and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood have secret alliances with the Jews or that the Jews cre­ated such ter­ror­ist groups for nefar­i­ous purposes.

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