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April 24, 2015 14

Adam Gadahn, American Al Qaeda Spokesman, Reported Dead

Adam GadahnOn Thurs­day, the White House announced that Adam Gadahn, an Amer­i­can spokesman for Al Qaeda, was killed in a Jan­u­ary drone strike. Although less vis­i­ble in recent years, Gadahn was at the fore­front of cre­at­ing English-language ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda – an ini­tia­tive that has evolved into a sophis­ti­cated recruit­ment and rad­i­cal­iza­tion mechanism.

Gadahn’s death comes as English-language pro­pa­ganda released by ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions is influ­enc­ing an ever increas­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans to join extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions. As of this date, thirty-one peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. have been impli­cated in ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2015 alone, a sig­nif­i­cant increase from the total num­ber of arrests in 2014 and in 2013.

Later Amer­i­can pro­pa­gan­dists for Al Qaeda affil­i­ates, such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, founders of Inspire mag­a­zine who were killed in a drone strike in 2011, have become more influ­en­tial than Gadahn in extrem­ist cir­cles. And as online tech­nol­ogy has advanced, groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have dra­mat­i­cally increased the reach and influ­ence of English-language calls to violence.

Gadahn, how­ever, was not only the first Amer­i­can to incite extrem­ism on behalf of Al Qaeda, but pre­sum­ably until his death remained the pri­mary English-language spokesman for Al Qaeda’s Cen­tral organization.

Gadahn’s first pro­pa­ganda piece for Al Qaeda was an audio trans­la­tion of an Osama bin Laden speech. In 2004, he began to appear in videos using the nom de guerre Azzam Al-Amriki and to pro­mote attacks against the U.S.

In the ensu­ing years, he released mul­ti­ple videos that reflected his anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views and were marked by threats against Amer­ica and its allies.

Gadahn also called for lone-wolf attacks. In a 2011 video, he stated, “Amer­ica is absolutely awash with eas­ily obtain­able firearms” and that lis­ten­ers can “go down to a gun show at the local con­ven­tion cen­ter and come away with a fully auto­matic assault rifle with­out a back­ground check and most likely with­out hav­ing to show an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card.”  He con­cluded, “So what are you wait­ing for?”

Gadahn’s most recent video was released in May 2014. Like his pre­vi­ous state­ments, it fea­tured calls for attacks against the U.S. as well as anti-Semitic rhetoric and con­cluded with clips of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, fight­ing in Syria, and ter­ror­ism in Israel, includ­ing a brief video clip of Jews pray­ing at the West­ern Wall, Judaism’s holi­est site, fol­lowed by footage of an explosion.

Gadahn was also fea­tured in an inter­view in the March 2013 issue of Inspire mag­a­zine, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s English-language pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zine. In it, he called on his fel­low pro­pa­gan­dists to “make every effort to reach out to Mus­lims both through new media like Face­book and Twit­ter as well as the tra­di­tional broad­cast and print media.” Gadahn also used the inter­view to call for attacks against “Amer­ica and its NATO part­ners, par­tic­u­larly France and Britain.”

Gadahn was born in Ore­gon in 1978 and grew up in Cal­i­for­nia. He con­verted to Islam as a teenager and allegedly grew rad­i­cal­ized shortly there­after. In the late 1990s, Gadahn trav­eled to Pak­istan and joined Al Qaeda.

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April 2, 2015 0

NY Arrests Put Spotlight on Female Islamic Extremists

Update — 4/6/15: Another woman, Keonna Thomas of Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia, was charged on April 3, 2015 with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion by allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS.

Two Brook­lyn women arrested today on charges of con­spir­ing to use a weapon of mass destruc­tion are the 11th and 12th U.S. women linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism since 2014. Women engag­ing with ter­ror­ist groups is not a new phe­nom­e­non, but their num­bers have dra­mat­i­cally increased since 2014: ADL has doc­u­mented 12 female U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism in the last 15 months – the same as the total num­ber of women in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013.

A poem by Asia Siddiqui published in the extremist magazine Jihad Recollections

A poem by Asia Sid­diqui in the extrem­ist mag­a­zine Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions

Noelle Velentzas, a 28-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Brook­lyn, New York and Asia Sid­diqui, a 31-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Brook­lyn, New York and Velentzas’s for­mer room­mate, allegedly researched how to make explo­sive devices and pur­chased the mate­ri­als nec­es­sary to do so. Although court doc­u­ments do not indi­cate that they had cho­sen a tar­get, they expressed a pref­er­ence for attack­ing law enforce­ment and U.S. gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary facilities.

The two made clear that they were moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Velentzas praised the 9/11 attacks and repeat­edly stated that her heroes are Osama bin Laden and his men­tor, Abdul­lah Azzam.

More­over, Velentzas and Sid­diqui have an exten­sive his­tory of engag­ing with rad­i­cal extrem­ism online. In 2006, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Sid­diqui “became close with Samir Khan,” who went on to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) and, together with AQAP pro­pa­gan­dist Anwar al-Awlaki, founded Inspire mag­a­zine, the group’s pri­mary English-language mag­a­zine. In 2009, Sid­diqui wrote a poem that was pub­lished in Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions, an ear­lier mag­a­zine that Khan produced.

Extrem­ist mag­a­zines includ­ing Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions and Inspire have actively encour­aged sub­mis­sions from read­ers in the hope that hav­ing their work pub­lished will lead the read­ers to become fur­ther entrenched in the extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion. Sid­diqui her­self allegedly expressed sup­port for Mohamed Osman Mohamud, another Amer­i­can who was pub­lished in Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions and who went on to attempt a domes­tic attack – in his case, the attempted bomb­ing of the Port­land, OR Christ­mas tree light­ing cer­e­mony in 2010.

Other Amer­i­cans that have writ­ten for Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions include Younes Abdul­lah Muham­mad (aka Jesse Cur­tis Mor­ton), a co-founder of now-defunct extrem­ist group Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim. Muham­mad is cur­rently in prison, hav­ing pleaded guilty to threat­en­ing the cre­ators of South Park.

Sid­diqui and Velentzas also appeared to have been inspired by other domes­tic attacks, includ­ing the Boston Marathon bomb­ing.

Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Sid­diqui told an under­cover infor­mant “Velentzas has been obsessed with pres­sure cook­ers since the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 and often makes com­ments about pres­sure cook­ers,” and Velentzas told the infor­mant that “she had recently received a pres­sure cooker as a present, and joked about cook­ing some­thing in the pres­sure cooker, then laughed and added, ‘food,’ – a ref­er­ence to explo­sive materials.”

Image from an article on making car bombs in the  Spring 2014 issue of Inspire

Image from an arti­cle on mak­ing car bombs in the Spring 2014 issue of Inspire

Like the Tsar­naev broth­ers, who are accused of hav­ing per­pe­trated the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, Sid­diqui and Velentzas attempted to learn how to make bombs from Inspire mag­a­zine. Refer­ring to the Spring 2014 issue of Inspire that pro­vided instruc­tions for the con­struc­tion and place­ment of car bombs, Velentzas allegedly stated that “Inspire mag­a­zine was useful…to learn how to ‘valet’ his/her car and how to cook ‘food.’” She reg­u­larly used the word “food” as a euphemism for explosives.

The two also allegedly watched ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos online, includ­ing behead­ing and recruit­ment videos, and expressed affin­ity for ISIS. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Velentzas stated that she wanted them to be referred to as “cit­i­zens of the Islamic State,” and “that attacks on ISIS were tan­ta­mount to attacks on her own state.”

Velentzas was also report­edly friends on Face­book with Tairod Pugh, a New Jer­sey man arrested in March for attempt­ing to join ISIS.

Sev­en­teen U.S. res­i­dents in total have been arrested on Islamic extrem­ism moti­vated ter­ror charges in 2015, 6 of whom were from New York State. If arrests con­tinue at the cur­rent rate, it will reflect a marked increase of arrests over the last three years, cor­re­spond­ing to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its aggres­sive recruit­ment and pro­pa­ganda campaigns.

Twenty-five U.S. res­i­dents in total were linked to Islamic extrem­ism in 2014, and 14 in 2013, although sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of indi­vid­u­als not iden­ti­fied are believed to have trav­eled abroad to join ter­ror­ist groups.

This morning’s arrest also marked the fourth instance of a domes­tic attack plot in 2015. In Jan­u­ary, Ohio res­i­dent Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell was arrested for his plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad and in Feb­ru­ary, New York City res­i­dents Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov were arrested for attempt­ing to join ISIS and dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack if they were unable to do so, and in March, Hasan and Jonas Edmonds were arrested for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.

Notably, there were no known domes­tic plots in 2014; the cur­rent increase may be related to an increase in ISIS pro­pa­ganda encour­ag­ing such attacks.

Thirty-five U.S. res­i­dents have been pub­licly linked to or cited inspi­ra­tion from ISIS since 2014.

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January 13, 2015 0

New ISIS Threat Campaign Capitalizes on Paris Attacks

Image from Twitter campaign

Image from Twit­ter campaign

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has launched a new cam­paign on Twit­ter call­ing for addi­tional home­grown attacks in West­ern coun­tries in the after­math of the attacks in Paris last week that killed 17.

The cam­paign, adver­tised with the hash­tag #Fight­forHim was espe­cially promi­nent on Twit­ter on Sun­day, when both offi­cial ISIS accounts and mul­ti­ple sup­porter accounts Tweeted images fea­tur­ing mes­sages to Mus­lims “liv­ing in the West” and quotes by Anwar al-Awlaki advo­cat­ing “the duty of killing those who insult our Prophet Muhammad.”

Awlaki was an Amer­i­can pro­pa­gan­dist for Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula. He was killed in a drone strike in 2011 but his writ­ings and say­ings con­tinue to be a moti­va­tional force for extrem­ists, includ­ing the Kouachi broth­ers, who are believed to have been two of the three indi­vid­u­als who attacked the Char­lie Hebdo offices last week, and Amedy Coulibaly, believed to be one of the two indi­vid­u­als behind last week’s hostage inci­dent in a kosher gro­cery store in Paris.

At the same time, ISIS sup­port­ers are also con­tin­u­ing a cam­paign of hack­ing Jew­ish insti­tu­tional web­sites and, increas­ingly, sites that are affil­i­ated with gov­ern­ments, mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions, and other orga­ni­za­tions, replac­ing the orig­i­nal text on the site with anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist mes­sages. Mon­day after­noon, ISIS sup­port­ers claimed respon­si­bil­ity for hack­ing the social media accounts affil­i­ated with U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand.

One of the Tweets from the #Fight­forHim cam­paign fea­tures a red ban­ner image with the quote, “You are a Mus­lim? Liv­ing in the West? Being a city wolf is your task! For you are the only ones to do so! You are already ’cit­i­zens’, and no doubt you are the suit­able ones to be cho­sen for such a task. You are shar­ing the same land with them! The same busses and trains, the same neighborhoods!”

Sev­eral Tweets also fea­tured what appeared to be pages ready for inser­tion into an English-language pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zine that quoted Anwar al-Awlaki nar­rat­ing a story about a “Jew­ish leader and…very elo­quent poet” who wrote poems that spoke out against Muham­mad, after which he was killed. In the story, Muham­mad stated, “I am the Prophet of mercy and I am the prophet of war” and “he has harmed us and he has defamed us with his poetry, and none of you (Jews) would do this except we would deal with him with the sword!”

Image from Twitter campaign showing Anwar al-Awlaki

Image from Twit­ter cam­paign show­ing Anwar al-Awlaki

The three pages that make up this story are titled Char­lie, ref­er­enc­ing the mag­a­zine. In its sub­ject mat­ter, the story also can be read as sup­port­ing attacks on Jews more broadly.

These images and oth­ers were Tweeted directly from mul­ti­ple indi­vid­ual Twit­ter accounts. This may indi­cate that they were part of a coor­di­nated cam­paign run through the Dawn of Glad Tid­ings app, a Twit­ter appli­ca­tion that allows ISIS to Tweet directly onto users’ pages, thus rapidly and widely dis­sem­i­nat­ing pro­pa­ganda and enabling effec­tive hash­tag cam­paigns. Some of the images were Tweeted from between 80 and 100 accounts in minutes.

The cam­paign was sup­ple­mented by an essay writ­ten by an ISIS sup­porter that urged attacks in West­ern coun­tries and pro­vided sug­ges­tions for car­ry­ing them out.

The essay cites Inspire mag­a­zine, Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden and ISIS as sources for inspi­ra­tion and lists mul­ti­ple cities, states, and coun­tries that can be attacked, includ­ing mul­ti­ple loca­tions in the U.S.

“Until life in Nor­way, Florida, Mon­treal, Fin­land, Lis­bon, Lux­em­bourg and Can­berra becomes…a land that burns, a sky that rains rock­ets, and cities through which wolves walk, the lions of jihad, and where breaths are con­ceal (sic) until they taste our sever­ity” it states. The essay later threat­ens addi­tional attacks includ­ing San Fran­cisco, Bel­gium, Lon­don, Madrid, Syd­ney, Rus­sia, Boston, Dal­las, Vir­ginia and Ams­ter­dam with explo­sive devices, booby traps and poison.

This essay was picked up and cir­cu­lated by offi­cial ISIS media out­lets fol­low­ing its post­ing on Justpate.it, an online pub­lish­ing site reg­u­larly used by ter­ror­ist sup­port­ers to quickly and anony­mously post text and images online.

Although the #fight­forHim hash­tag is new, calls by ter­ror­ist groups for home­grown attacks have a lengthy his­tory. In the past year, ISIS, Al Qaeda, AQAP and Al Shabaab have all called for such attacks. In the wake of the attacks in France, addi­tional groups includ­ing the Pak­istani Tal­iban, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Moura­bitoun have also called for copy­cat attacks.

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