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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, 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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January 7, 2015 0

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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