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October 22, 2014

Pro-Hezbollah Hackers Target Media Group For Its Position On Israel

On October 20, pro-Hezbollah hackers took control of the Twitter account of a prominent Lebanese Christian TV station, Murr Television, known as MTV Lebanon, because the station allegedly failed to describe Hamas combatants killed in the fighting with Israel as “martyrs.”mtv-lebanon-hacking-hezbollah

The hackers changed the Twitter account’s cover image to a photo of a Hezbollah fighter under a Hezbollah flag and tweeted a message from the account stating:

“[Only] when you learn the difference between a martyr and a killed [person], between an agent [of Israel] and a resistance fighter…. [Only] When you learn that Israel is the enemy, then your account will return to you. So we don’t forget Palestine.@MTVLebanonNews.”

While no group has claimed responsibility for the hacking, Hezbollah’s media arm,Al Manar, praised the attack in a report published yesterday that read in part, “For several hours today, the flag of Hezbollah kept waving over the public page of MTV twitter account.”

The hacking of MTV Lebanon and subsequent praising of it by Hezbollah’s media arm could represent a new tactic in the way terrorist groups in the Middle East attack their opponents online and spread their ideology to a wider audience. It does not appear that Hezbollah has previously endorsed cyber-attacks against its opponents.

ADL has tracked several hacking operations against Jewish and Israeli institutions by anti-Israel groups.

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September 12, 2014

Hezbollah Android App Re-Launched For The Third Time

Update – 9/19/14: In response to the removal of the app from the Google Play store, Al Manar posted a statement attributing the removal to a “campaign by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League” and promised to find “alternative ways to provide the application for Android phones.”

Update – 9/13/14: ADL alerted Google to the re-launched app on September 12. The app was removed from Google play later that day. ADL applauds Google’s response to Al-Manar’s repeated attempts to re-introduce this app. 

Last week, al-Manar, Hezbollah’s media arm which is listed as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity” by the U.S. government, launched an Android phone app through the Google Play online store providing mobile access to its satellite television station, also known as al-Manar.

Hezbollah's al-Manar app for android

Hezbollah’s al-Manar app for android

Al-Manar advertised the launch of the app on the landing page of its website. The announcement asked media network followers to install the app on their phones to receive al-Manar content and news, including high priority alerts.

This is the third time Hezbollah has launched an app with that function; the two prior apps were removed from Google Play. In July 2012, Al Manar first advertised its newly-launched application providing mobile access to its satellite TV. Available originally through Apple’s iTunes service, Apple soon removed the app for violating its terms of service. After the app was removed from iTunes, Hezbollah tried to re-launch it again for Android phones only, but the app was soon removed from Google Play as well. In March 2014 free mobile applications appeared on iTunes and Google Play to provide access to Al Manar programs via iPhone and Android smartphones once more.

Hezbollah has attempted to use mobile apps in other contexts as well.  In June 2014, Al Manar TVlaunched an online competition in time for the World Cup called “Expect and Win” that used the California-based instant messaging service WhatsApp.The competition called on users to submit predictions for which teams would win and offered prizes for selecting the winning teams. In January 2014, Al Manar started using WhatsAppto deliver “breaking news” via text messages to subscribers and to allow its supporters to interact with the station.  In February 2013, the military branch of Hezbollah, The Islamic Resistance (“Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya”) provided a collection of free Farsi and Arabic language podcasts on iTunes. The podcasts promoted both the terrorist group’s and the Iranian regime’s militant propaganda.

Continuous attempts by the terrorist group to re-launch their smart phone app demonstrate their determination to exploit modern technology to broadcast messages of hate and terrorism to their supporters worldwide.

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September 5, 2014

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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