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February 2, 2016

Law Enforcement: A New Target for Domestic Islamic Extremists

Update: 3/17/2016 – In March 2016, the Cyber Caliphate Army, a pro-ISIS hacking group, released so-called “kill lists” with the names, addresses and contact information of law enforcement officers in New Jersey and Minnesota. The information was uploaded to a file sharing site and to Telegram.

The original version of this post was also updated on 2/19/2016.

2015 saw an unprecedented number of attacks on law enforcement officials by U.S. residents motivated by Islamic extremist ideologies and professing allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A shooting of a Philadelphia police officer in January 2016 indicates that the threat against law enforcement will continue into the coming year.

There have been eight documented instances of violence attempted or plotted against law enforcement by individuals motivated at least in part by Islamic extremist ideology since 2014:

Edward Archer of Pennsylvania shot a police officer

Edward Archer

  • January 2016: Edward Archer of Pennsylvania allegedly fired 13 bullets at a Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett. Hartnett suffered wounds to his arm. Archer claimed that he had acted on behalf of ISIS.
  • July 2015: Harlem Suarez of Florida was arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb a Florida beach. According to court documents, Suarez had also discussed placing bombs outside the houses and vehicles of law enforcement officers. Suarez had claimed allegiance to ISIS and had maintained a Facebook account on which he posted extremist content.
  • June 2015: Usaama Rahim and David Wright of Massachusetts and Nicholas Rovinski of Rhode Island allegedly plotted to behead Boston-area police officers. Rahim also allegedly drew a knife when approached by a law enforcement officer for questioning. The three allegedly claimed to be acting on behalf of ISIS and expressed some interest in traveling to join ISIS in Syria.
  • June 2015: Munther Omar Saleh of New York drew a knife and attacked a law enforcement officer who had been surveilling him. Saleh acted together with an unnamed  minor who had been with him at the time. He is separately charged with plotting a domestic attack. According to court documents, Saleh had expressed support for ISIS and posted ISIS propaganda on his Twitter account.

    Fareed Mumuni of New York

    Fareed Mumuni

  • June 2015: Fareed Mumuni of New York attacked law enforcement officers who had come to his residence with a knife. Mumuni is also charged with plotting a domestic attack together with Saleh and other co-conspirators. Mumuni had allegedly expressed support for ISIS.
  • April 2015: Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui of New York were arrested for allegedly plotting a domestic attack. Although the target had not been disclosed, court documents indicate that the two had indicated they wanted to attack a government, military or law enforcement target. Siddiqui and Velentzas had a long history of engaging with terrorist propaganda and extremist content and, according to court documents, had intended to commit their attack on behalf of ISIS.
  • February 2015: Abdurasul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhmetov of New York were charged with material support for terror for allegedly attempting to travel to join ISIS. Court documents indicated that the two had also discussed the possibility of a domestic attack that involved killing law enforcement officers, taking their weapons, and then mounting an attack on the FBI headquarters. The two had expressed support for ISIS online, where they also allegedly indicated their intent to act on the group’s behalf.
  • October 2014: Zale Thompson of New York attacked law enforcement officers with a hatchet. Thompson’s motive remains unclear and he demonstrated interest in a variety of extremist ideologies; however, his online record indicated he had most recently engaged with Islamic extremist propaganda and ideology, including ISIS-specific propaganda, prior to the attack.

In addition, court documents indicate that Alexander Ciccolo, a Massachusetts resident arrested in July, had planned to attack law enforcement, military and civilians on behalf of ISIS before allegedly deciding to attack a university instead.

The upsurge in attacks against law enforcement may be motivated in part by propaganda by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has called directly for such attacks. A September 2014 speech by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad Al Adnani, for example, stated, “Strike their police, security and intelligence members….” ISIS propaganda has also called for smaller scale terrorist attacks than those Al Qaeda adherents had been known to plot. A January 2015 speech by Al Adnani, for example, called for attacks, “whether with an explosive device, a bullet, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist.” The attacks against law enforcement have primarily been attempted with small arms.

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March 26, 2015

ISIS Cyber Unit Announces More Hacks

Hacker(s) identifying as “ISIS cyber army” claimed responsibility for hacking fifty-one American websites on March 24.

Screenshot of the defaced websites

Screenshot of the defaced websites

Each of the hacked websites was defaced with the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a statement that the website was “Hacked by Islamic State [sic],” and an e-mail address for the ISIS cyber army, the unit believed to be behind the cyber activities of ISIS. In the past, the ISIS cyber unit  claimed responsibility for involvement in a series of attacks against a number of Israeli websites.

The recent ISIS cyber-attack targeted a variety of websites, ranging from simple online retail stores to forums to help pregnant women—all websites perceived to be technically vulnerable.While the attack does not show a high level of technical capabilities by ISIS, it demonstrates their commitment to engaging directly in cyber warfare.

Tweet from ISIS Cyber Army: "...message to the dog of the Jews, #Obama"

Tweet from ISIS Cyber Army: “…message to the dog of the Jews, #Obama”

According to a tweet by the ISIS_cyberarmy Twitter account , the recent cyber-attackwas a message to “the dog of the Jews, Obama.” ISIS and its supporters have regularly referred to President Obama as a “mule of the Jews,” and the phrase “dog of the Jews” may be a variant of this.

The ISIS_cyberarmy Twitter account, which appears to have been suspended as of March 25, was previously followed by more than a thousand ISIS supporters.The account published the urls of the hacked websites and linked to a statement on justpaste.it, a file-sharing website regularly used by ISIS and its supporters to post information, which also included the list of hacked websites and the seal of what appears to be the ISIS cyber army. The statement on justpaste.it started with an Islamic prayer in Arabic and included the seal of the ISIS cyber army.

Recordings showing the defaced websites were also posted on Aljyyosh (“the armies” in Ara­bic), an online forum for Arab hackers, which in the past has been a hub for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hackers. The videos show the hacked websites defaced with ISIS flags and an e-mail address of the ISIS cyber army.

In the past, several prominent hacker groups launched cyber-attacks in support of ISIS, but recently ISIS escalated its cyber activity by claiming direct responsibility for hacking personal information of 100 American military personnel and publishing the information on a “hit list.” These hackings are the latest example of what appears to be direct activity by ISIS’s cyber unit.Earlier this year, social media accounts of the U.S. military’s Central Command were hacked by a group that claimed to be acting in support of ISIS.

This capability to engage in cyber-attacks may be a reflection of ISIS’s calls for support from individuals with various skills, from media experts to doctors, to join and contribute to the group and its territory however they can.

The tactic of hacking U.S. websites may also be related to ISIS’s calls for small-scale and lone-wolf attacks against the U.S. and its interests. In the past, ISIS has recruited outside hackers and hacking groups to undertake such cyber-attacks on its behalf.

Promoting the hackings of American websites with anti-Semitic language demonstrates how ISIS’s anti-Semitic sentiment extends into its subdivisions, including its cyber arm. Like other Islamic extremist terror groups, ISIS has been known to use anti-Semitism to appeal to followers.

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January 29, 2015

ISIS Establishes A Cyber-Alliance With Anti-Israel Hackers


“Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad” claim of responsibility.

Several pro-ISIS Twitter accounts that promote the terrorist group’s propaganda are collaborating with established anti-Israel hackers in an effort to increase cyber-attacks on behalf of ISIS.

On January 13, the Alazm Center Twitter account, which has over 5,000 followers, called on hackers to contact them. Since then, a group of anti-Israel hackers calling themselves “Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad” has claimed responsibility for several attacks against Israeli websites on behalf of ISIS.

The group claims to have hacked the website of a security contractor in Israel, a tour organizer and few other Israeli businesses by redirecting visitors to websites featuring the name and flag of ISIS along with the signature of “Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad.”

“Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad” claimed responsibility for these attacks in a statement on JustPaste.it, a file sharing site ISIS has been using to publish its statements anonymously. The statement said, “Thanks to God, below is today’s summary of hacking websites which is part of a campaign against Zionist websites” and included a list of individual hackers affiliated with “Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad.”

Videos of the hacks were also made available on Aljyyosh (“the armies” in Ara­bic), an online forum for Arab hackers that have claimed responsibility for stealing per­sonal infor­ma­tion belong­ing to Amer­i­can Jews and Israelis. The videos show the hacked websites defaced with ISIS flags and the logo of the “Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad” along with a song that begins with, “Report our greetings to Abu Bakir [ISIS’ leader].”

Several of the names listed in that statement have previously taken part in other cyber-attacks against Israeli websites on behalf of groups in North Africa such as Al Falaga, a Tunisian hacker group that participated in a large-scale cyber-attack on Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2013.

Another ISIS Twitter account, Mo7_AbuAzzamNM, which has over 1,000 followers and identifies itself as the “Hacker of the Caliphate State,” posted other statements praising the hacking of “Zionist websites” and sharing links to the statement by “Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad.” On January 16, Mo7_AbuAzzamNM Tweeted “America has drones, but we have cyber experience. Oh mule of the Jews [Obama], the coming days will show you.”

Prior to their apparent collaboration with ISIS, “Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad” posted a video on YouTube on November 29, 2014, declaring its allegiance to the Islamic State. The video showed a masked man reading a message in Arabic saying, “We the Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad declare our support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Levantine with all our force and capabilities.” It is possible that the video attracted the attention of ISIS, and led to the more recent collective efforts.

Alazm Center's Twitter Logo

Alazm Center’s Twitter Logo

“Terrorists Team for Electronic Jihad” also operates a Facebook page and a Twitter account that have included messages in support of ISIS. “May allah bless the #ISIS,” read one post on October 8.

Another prominent hacker group that has targeted Jewish, Israeli and American websites called AnonGhost is also showing increasing interest in ISIS. A Twitter account of Mauritania Attacker, the presumed leader of AnonGhost posted several comments in the past few days related to cyber-attacks in the name of ISIS and shared a video claiming to show ISIS how to avoid being monitored by the CIA.

Cyber-attacks on behalf of ISIS have increased over the past several months. In addition to the hacking of Twitter and YouTube accounts affiliated with U.S. Central Command, Jewish institutions, universities and other websites and been targeted as well.

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