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January 7, 2015

Paris Shooting Amid Increased Calls For Homegrown Attacks

Screenshot of an ISIS video encouraging attacks in France

Screenshot of an ISIS video encouraging attacks in France

The attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left twelve people dead comes at a time when terrorist groups are increasingly encouraging their supporters in the West to carry out attacks in their home countries.

While no one has taken responsibility for the attack thus far and the perpetrators are still at large, online terror supporters have already claimed the attack as a victory for their cause.  Charlie Hebdo has been the focus of terror threats since 2006 for their satirical depictions of Muhammad and of Muslim countries.

While it is still not clear whether this attack was inspired by outside forces, it is notable that some terrorist groups have consistently encouraged followers to orchestrate attacks in their home countries rather than traveling abroad since at least 2010, perhaps most notably with the release of the first issue of Inspire, an English language magazine produced by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Similarly, a 2011 video released by Al Qaeda’s Central organization featured American Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn urging supporters in the U.S. to purchase guns and undertake shooting sprees.

In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al Shabaab (the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia), which had previously encouraged their adherents in the West to join them abroad, began advocating individual attacks in the West as equally valuable.

In addition, terrorist groups have been claiming credit for such “freelance terrorism,”  including lone wolf-style attacks. Both ISIS and AQAP, for example, wrote about and to some extent claimed credit for attacks in New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Canada and Australia.

The following is sampling of calls for homegrown attacks in 2014, including those in the U.S. and France:

December 2014: An ISIS video calling for French Muslims to either travel to Iraq and Syria or undertake attacks at home stated, “Operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.” This video has been recirculated by terror supporters on social media in the aftermath of the January 7 attack.

Image from Inspire 13

Image from Inspire 13

December 2014: The 6th issue of ISIS’s English-language magazine Dabiq praised individual attacks on various Western countries including the U.S., Canada, Australia and France, stating, “There will be others who follow the examples set by Man Haron Monis and Numan Haider in Australia, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in Canada, Zale Thompson in America, and Bertrand Nzohabonayo in France, and all that the West will be able to do is to anxiously await the next round of slaughter.”

December 2014: The 13th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine called for attacks on American, French and British airlines and assassinations of prominent Western financial leaders.  Quotes included, “The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst night­mare,” and, “It’s not nec­es­sary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did, it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood shooter) did.”

December 2014: An ISIS video featured a Canadian recruit addressing people in Canada who threatened the Canadian people and called upon Canadian Muslims to carry out attacks, stating, “You either pack your bags or you prepare your explosive devices. You either purchase your airline ticket or you sharpen your knife.”

November 2014: An ISIS video titled “What are you waiting for,” released in French with English and Arabic subtitles, called for attacks on France and featured various French members of ISIS calling on their compatriots to attack France or travel to Syria. One specifically stated, “I send a message to my brothers and sisters that live in the land of Kufr (apostasy) – France. If you are unable to come to Sham (Syria) or Iraq… operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available….”

October 2014: The 4th issue of ISIS’s Dabiq magazine included the text of a speech released in September (see below) that called for attacks on the West. It also included an image of individuals in business suits walking on a sidewalk with the caption “Crusader ‘Civilians.’”

Image from Dabiq 4

Image from Dabiq 4

September 2014: ISIS released a text version of a speech by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s primary spokesman calling for attacks in theWest. Initially released in English, French and Hebrew, this was the first significant instance where ISIS incited home-grown attacks rather than encouraging travel to Iraq and Syria. Excerpts from the speech include: “If you can kill a dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can or Euro­pean – espe­cially the…French – or an Aus­tralian, or a Canadian…kill him in any man­ner or way how­ever it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s ver­dict. Kill the dis­be­liever whether he is civil­ian or military….”

August 2014: A special edition AQAP English-language magazine titled “Pales­tine: Betrayal of the Guilty Con­science” attempted to harness anti-Israel sentiment to call for attacks against the U.S. and the U.K. The magazine reprinted instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs and car bombs from previous issues of Inspire. Quotes included, “We tell the Muslims in America and Europe: There is a better choice and easier one to give support to your ummah (the Muslim community). That is individual work inside the West such as the operations of Nidal Hassan (the Ft. Hood shooter) and Faisal Shazad (attempted Times Square bomber).”

May 2014: Al Shabaab released a video that called on Muslims living abroad to either join the group in Somalia or undertake “a lone wolf mission” in their home country.

March 2014: The 12th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine provided instructions for making car bombs along with a list of potential targets in the U.S., U.K. and France. Statements encouraging attacks on the West include, “Whether the brother has a channel to join the brothers [abroad] or not it is better for him to perform his duty of Jihad in the West. On the battlefield, you are just another soldier, but in the West you are an army on your own.”

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April 25, 2014

Revolution Muslim Leader Sentenced To 2.5 Years For Threatening Jews

Yousef al-Khattab, the co-founder and for­mer leader of Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim (RM) was sentenced today to 2.5 years in prison on charges of threatening Jews and Jewish institutions.yousef-al-khattab-revolution-muslim-sentenced-prison

RM, a fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence for many years, was mostly active in New York until the end of 2010, after which it was shut down and began oper­at­ing as Islam Pol­icy.

Al-Khattab’s sentencing makes him the last of RM’s leaders to be imprisoned.

Al-Khattab, a.k.a. Joseph Leonard Cohen, cofounded RM in 2007 with Younes Abdul­lah Muham­mad, and served as the group’s amir (leader) and “chief exec­u­tive offi­cer” until Decem­ber 2009, when he announced that he was mov­ing to Tetouan, Morocco.

Al-Khattab’s threats against the Jew­ish com­mu­nity on the RM site were both extensive and shocking. They included a video encour­ag­ing view­ers to seek out the lead­ers of Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tion chap­ters in the U.S. and “deal with them directly at their homes;” direc­tions to spe­cific Jew­ish facil­i­ties along­side a link to a man­ual for con­struct­ing and using explo­sive devices and a mes­sage encour­ag­ing read­ers to “make EVERY attempt to reach these peo­ple and teach them the mes­sage of Islam;” and a poem list­ing ways that Jews can be hurt includ­ing throw­ing “liq­uid drain cleaner in their faces” and burn­ing “their flam­ma­ble sukkos while they sleep.”

Although it is no longer active, the RM site continues to influence homegrown extremists. Terry Lee Loewen, who attempted to bomb the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in Kansas in December 2013, claimed to have been influenced by the site and allegedly had been sending money to the family of Younes Abdul­lah Muham­mad.

Additional home­grown ter­ror­ists associated with the RM web­site, YouTube chan­nel and asso­ci­ated online forums have includ­ed Zachary Chesser, Samir KhanJose PimentelCar­los Eduardo Almonte, Mohamed Mah­mood Alessa, and Colleen LaRose (“Jihad Jane”).

ADL recently released a report exploring the influence of online extremism, including detailed information on RM’s impact.

Yousef Al-Khattab was born in New York where he was raised as an obser­vant Jew. He later lived in Israel.  He claims that he con­verted to Islam fol­low­ing a series of online con­ver­sa­tions focus­ing on rejec­tion of Judaism and hatred of Jews.

Al-Khattab expressed remorse in court and claims to have denounced his past views, and regularly posts rejections of them on Facebook and Twitter. This represents a change from as recently as February 2012, when al-Khattab released a 20-minute video on YouTube express­ing his belief that he will be arrested and defend­ing the state­ments he has issued online over the years.

Today’s sentencing follows al-Khattab’s October 31, 2013 guilty plea.

The other lead­ers of RM, You­nis Abdul­lah Muham­mad and Zachary Chesser, were sen­tenced to prison in 2012 and 2011 respectively.

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April 4, 2014

Online Terrorist Propaganda & The Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary

boston-marathon-bombing-anniversary-inspire-online-terrorism

Com­mem­o­ra­tive graphic of Boston bomber Tamer­lan Tsar­naev in Inspire magazine

In the year since the Boston Marathon bombing, which resulted in three deaths and over 260 injuries, terrorists groups that justify and sanction violence have intensified their efforts to reach, recruit and motivate homegrown extremists by adapting their messages to new technology.

Terrorist groups and their supporters are not only using social media and other Internet platforms to spread their messages more quickly and effectively than ever before, but also to recruit adherents who live in the communities they seek to target.

A new ADL report, Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2013: The Perils of Online Recruitment & Self-Radicalization, explores the impact sophisticated terrorist propaganda has had on a new generation of homegrown extremists. Face-to-face interaction with terrorist operatives, the report concludes, is no longer a requirement for radicalization.

Inspire magazine, for example, which is designed to engage and recruit sympathizers in the U.S., has become a staple of domestic terrorism, providing ideological justifications encouraging attacks on U.S. soil as well as various suggested methods of attack. Inspire contained the very bomb-making instructions that were used by the alleged Boston Bombers to construct their bombs in an article called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

The newest issue of Inspire, released last month, pro­vides detailed instruc­tions on how to build car bombs and includes sug­ges­ted loca­tions for where to plant them in various U.S. cities. The author notes, “The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment was unable to pro­tect its cit­i­zens from pres­sure cooker bombs in back­packs, I won­der if they are ready to stop car bombs!”

The ADL report also explores the other American citizens and permanent residents implicated in the U.S. on terror-related charges in 2013 and over the past five years, noting how many were directly influenced by terrorist propaganda easily accessible online.

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