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August 12, 2015 0

From Charleston to Chattanooga: The Face of Terror in America

By Oren Segal and Mark Pit­cav­age
Direc­tors of the Anti-Defamation League’s Cen­ter on Extremism

Ter­ror­ism is some­times referred to as the “face­less enemy,” but it has hardly been face­less in the United States this sum­mer.  Too many peo­ple have emerged from the shad­ows to inflict death and suffering.

The parade of vio­lence has seemed unend­ing, from Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi, who attacked police offi­cers pro­vid­ing secu­rity for the so-called “Muham­mad Art Exhibit” in Texas in May, to John Houser, the Hitler-admiring man obsessed with the moral decay of Amer­ica who recently opened fire at a Louisiana movie the­ater show­ing the movie Train­wreck.

Of the var­i­ous killers and would-be killers this sum­mer, two stand out.  The first is Dylann Storm Roof, the white suprema­cist who allegedly con­fessed to the June mas­sacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Car­olina, that left nine African-Americans dead.dylann-storm-roof-gun-confederate-flag-600

The sec­ond is Muham­mad Youssef Abdu­lazeez, who in July engaged in a shoot­ing spree tar­get­ing a Chat­tanooga mil­i­tary recruit­ing cen­ter and a nearby naval reserve cen­ter.  Abdu­lazeez, who may have been inspired by rad­i­cal Mus­lim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed five people—all mil­i­tary personnel—before being killed by police.

In many ways, Roof and Abdu­lazeez per­son­ify America’s ter­ror­ist threat; they are the faces of the “face­less enemy.”  Most obvi­ously, each rep­re­sents a major source of ter­ror­ism.  Roof was a white suprema­cist who allegedly hoped to start a “race war” in which whites would pre­vail.  White suprema­cists have for decades been the most pro­lific source of domes­tic extremist-related lethal vio­lence.  Along with the other main seg­ment of the extreme right, anti-government mili­tia groups and sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, they are respon­si­ble for the great major­ity of extremist-related deaths in the U.S.

Abdu­lazeez, on whom there is less infor­ma­tion regard­ing moti­va­tion, may well have latched onto the ideas of al-Awlaki—including his encour­age­ment of attacks on mil­i­tary targets—as a way to atone for some of his per­sonal demons, includ­ing drugs and alco­hol.  Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists have in recent years attempted or con­ducted a large num­ber of ter­ror­ist plots, con­spir­a­cies and acts, despite being fewer in num­ber than right-wing extremists.

Both men also chose tar­gets typ­i­cal of their move­ments.  For Abdu­lazeez, it was the mil­i­tary; here he fol­lowed in the foot­steps of Abdul­hakim Mujahid Muham­mad, who killed a sol­dier at a recruit­ing cen­ter in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, in 2009, and Nidal Malik Has­san, who killed 13 peo­ple at Fort Hood, Texas, that same year.  Other Islamic extrem­ists have also recently plot­ted attacks against mil­i­tary tar­gets in the U.S., though with­out success.mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez

Roof went on a shoot­ing ram­page against African-Americans.  Sprees of vio­lence against racial, eth­nic, or reli­gious minori­ties are a com­mon type of white suprema­cist ter­ror­ism.  In recent years, there have been a num­ber of such episodes, includ­ing Fra­zier Glenn Miller’s attacks on Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in Over­land Park, Kansas, in 2014; Wade Michael Page’s ram­page at a Sikh tem­ple in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin, in 2012, and Keith Luke’s attacks on African immi­grants in Brock­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts, in 2009.

Both Roof and Abdu­lazeez used firearms for their attacks, which is also typ­i­cal of Amer­i­can ter­ror­ism.  Although the pub­lic usu­ally thinks of ter­ror­ism in terms of bombs, ter­ror­ists like Ted Kaczyn­ski and the Boston Marathon bombers are rare in Amer­ica.  The vast major­ity of extremist-related mur­ders involve guns—easy to acquire, sim­ple to use, and deadly.  This is why Charleston and Chat­tanooga num­ber among the 10 dead­liest extremist-related attacks of the past 50 years.  Indeed, with the excep­tion of the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, the “top 10” attacks all involved firearms.

Abdu­lazeez and Roof were both young men, dis­af­fected, fac­ing per­sonal stresses of dif­fer­ent kinds (Abdu­lazeez also suf­fered from men­tal ill­ness).  Although ter­ror­ism knows no age limits—Nidal Hasan was 39 at the time of his Fort Hood ram­page, while white suprema­cist James Von Brunn, who attacked the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­ial Museum in 2009, was in his late 80s—many of the attacks and plots in recent years by both Islamic and right-wing extrem­ists have been com­mit­ted by men in their mid-20s or younger.

Like Abdu­lazeez and Roof, a num­ber of these extrem­ists com­mit­ted their attacks as lone wolves, unat­tached to any par­tic­u­lar group.  Over­all, the num­ber of lethal lone wolf attacks in the past two decades has been fairly low, num­ber­ing only a few dozen, but in recent years, lone wolves seem to have been emerg­ing at a faster rate.  One rea­son may be the increas­ing role played by the Inter­net in facil­i­tat­ing self-radicalization.  It was through the Inter­net that Roof edu­cated him­self in white supremacy; it was via the Inter­net that Abdu­lazeez down­loaded record­ings of al-Awlaki.

Here one can see a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between right-wing extrem­ists and domes­tic Islamic rad­i­cals.  While they can both eas­ily immerse them­selves in a sea of on-line pro­pa­ganda designed to instill and rein­force extreme views, right-wing extrem­ist Inter­net sources are pri­mar­ily based in the United States and, there­fore, must watch what they say.  White suprema­cists who openly use the Inter­net to encour­age vio­lence and ter­ror­ism open them­selves up to crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion and, if vio­lence occurs, pos­si­ble civil lia­bil­ity; as a result, their encour­age­ment of vio­lence is often more implicit than explicit.

Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists, in con­trast, receive most of their rad­i­cal­iz­ing mes­sages from abroad, from ter­ror­ist groups and like-minded sup­port­ers who are freer to use the Inter­net to call for vio­lence and ter­ror­ism within the U.S.  Pro­pa­ganda from Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, for exam­ple, was an inspi­ra­tion for the Boston Marathon bomb­ing.  In the past two years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken such tac­tics to a new level alto­gether, employ­ing a vir­tual army of on-line recruiters who use social media plat­forms to reach and rad­i­cal­ize sus­cep­ti­ble indi­vid­u­als across the globe.  Seek­ing to instill a deep sense of com­mu­nity and pur­pose, ISIS sup­port­ers encour­age Amer­i­cans to come to the Mid­dle East to help it fight its wars—many of the 80+ U.S. res­i­dents linked to Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity since 2014 have made such attempts. But ISIS also urges peo­ple to launch attacks in the U.S.

Roof and Abdu­lazeez were both cold-blooded killers.  Their attacks deeply affected the cit­i­zens of Charleston and Chat­tanooga and, indeed, the whole coun­try, though not always in the same ways.  In par­tic­u­lar, the Chat­tanooga shoot­ings, like some sim­i­lar attacks before them, stirred anti-Muslim sen­ti­ments directed at America’s entire Mus­lim com­mu­nity, a dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non for which there is no par­al­lel with regard to white suprema­cist attacks.

But their attacks were sim­i­lar in that they were both essen­tially futile, able to achieve lit­tle but death and mis­ery.  Indeed, the reac­tions to the attacks illus­trate just how inef­fec­tive they actu­ally were.  The Chat­tanooga attack, for exam­ple, inspired an out­pour­ing of sup­port for the U.S. mil­i­tary. The Charleston response was even more pow­er­ful.  Far from start­ing a “race war,” Roof’s slaugh­ter not only brought Charlesto­ni­ans of all races together but also resulted in a bipar­ti­san effort to remove the Con­fed­er­ate flag from the South Car­olina capitol.

Amer­i­can extrem­ists, of what­ever stripe, can hurt and even kill, but the one thing they can’t do is win.

Mr. Segal is an author­ity on Islamic extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States; Dr. Pit­cav­age is an expert on right-wing extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States.

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July 23, 2015 5

Help Take ISIS Videos Off WordPress

Ansar Khilafah promotes terrorist propaganda on WordPress

Screen­shot from the site

The Anti-Defamation League con­tacted Word­Press about a web­site it hosts that fea­tures hun­dreds of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) pro­pa­ganda videos, state­ments and publications.

This par­tic­u­lar web­site includes pro­pa­ganda released by ISIS and other ter­ror groups in Eng­lish, French, Turk­ish, Dutch, Ara­bic and other lan­guages. Among the hun­dreds of items on the site are behead­ing and exe­cu­tion videos, as well as videos and arti­cles encour­ag­ing West­ern­ers to travel to join ISIS or to com­mit attacks on its behalf in their home countries.

Help us urge Word­Press to remove this web­site from its plat­form. Copy this URL https://ansarkhilafah.wordpress.com and paste it into the Word­Press com­plaint form. Mark it as “abu­sive” and tell Word­Press that it’s NOT OK to sup­port ter­ror­ist content.

The pro­pa­ganda made avail­able by this web­site comes from var­i­ous ISIS media out­lets, includ­ing Al Hayat Media, Al Furqan Media, Al-I’tisam Media and Ajnad Media. The site also has a sec­tion for ISIS’ English-language mag­a­zine Dabiq.

Ansar Khilafah blog on WordPress features ISIS propaganda

Screen­shot from the site

Online repos­i­to­ries of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda are not new. In Feb­ru­ary 2015, an ISIS sup­porter cre­ated a web­site called IS-Tube. Sim­i­lar to the Word­Press site, IS-Tube pro­vided access to an archive of search­able ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos. IS-Tube was hosted on a Google-owned IP bloc, and Google quickly removed the site after ADL noti­fied the com­pany of its pres­ence. Both IS-Tube and the Word­Press site appear to have orig­i­nated in the Netherlands.

In July 2014, ISIS attempted to move its online pres­ence away from Twit­ter – where its accounts were reg­u­larly shut down – to alter­nate social media plat­forms Frien­dica and Quit­ter. ADL pub­li­cized the move and Frien­dica and Quit­ter quickly removed all ISIS pres­ence from their platforms.

If you come across such con­tent on other plat­forms, the ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide pro­vides resources on flag­ging con­tent directly with host companies.

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May 7, 2015 2

Minnesotan In Somalia Encourages Americans To Engage In Terror

Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan

Mohamed Abdul­lahi Hassan

Update — 6/17/2015: Two addi­tional U.S. res­i­dents have been linked with Has­san since this blog was first posted: Nicholas Rovin­ski of Rhode Island, arrested 6/12/2015 for pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ter­ror and his role in a Boston-area attack plot and Munther Omar Saleh of New York, arrested 6/16/2015 for pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port for ter­ror and a New York attack plot, both report­edly directed mes­sages to Has­san on Twitter.

Mohamed Abdul­lahi Has­san, who author­i­ties believe may have inter­acted with the Gar­land shoot­ers, may have inspired as many as 11 peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. to take action in the last two years.

Has­san is a per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dent who was indicted in 2009 for trav­el­ling to Soma­lia to join Al Shabaab. He is believed to have com­mu­ni­cated with Amer­i­cans through his exten­sive social media net­works, on which he is known as Mujahid Miski or Muham­mad Miski. He has actively sup­ported and pro­moted ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda on Face­book, on the social media ques­tion and answer site Ask.FM, and on over 30 Twit­ter accounts.

Prior to the May 3 shoot­ing in Gar­land, Texas, Has­san report­edly inter­acted on Twit­ter with one of the alleged shoot­ers, Elton Simp­son. In April, Simp­son asked Has­san to fol­low his Twit­ter account so the two could pri­vately exchange mes­sages. Then, on April 23, Has­san wrote a tweet urg­ing attacks against the event at the com­mu­nity cen­ter that stated, “The broth­ers from the Char­lie Hebdo attack did their part. It’s time for broth­ers in the #US to do their part.” Later that day, Simp­son tweeted at Has­san, “When will they ever learn. They are plan­ning on select­ing the best pic­ture drawn of Rasu­l­ul­lah (Muham­mad)… in Texas.” Has­san retweeted the tweet.

Notably, Simp­son allegedly sought to travel to Soma­lia to join Al Shabaab in 2009 – one year after Has­san did. It is unknown if the two knew each other in the U.S. Has­san has also inter­acted online with sev­eral other Amer­i­cans fac­ing ter­ror­ism charges, includ­ing Abdi Nur, who allegedly trav­eled to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Has­san com­mu­ni­cated with Nur on Face­book, ask­ing Nur, “us broth­ers from mpls (Min­neapo­lis) wanted to know how many you guys are back there in Sham (Syria),” to which Nur responded, “only three of us. The oth­ers there are still workin mak­ing hijrah (mov­ing abroad).”

The Face­book con­ver­sa­tions between Nur and Has­san also indi­cated that the two may have known each other when they lived in the U.S. Nur asked Has­san to “send [a mutual friend] my salams (greet­ings) akhi (brother)…please remind him that the salams came from abdi­yare [Nur] that you went to south­west [high school] with.” Nur was indicted together with Min­nesota res­i­dent Abdul­lah Yusuf in 2014. In 2015, six addi­tional Min­nesota res­i­dents were charged as part of the same con­spir­acy to travel to join ISIS.

Elton Simpson promoted Hassan's most recent Twitter account, @LoveHooooooooor

Elton Simp­son pro­moted Hassan’s recent Twit­ter account, @Love_H0000riyah

A third Amer­i­can, Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain, is alleged to have had con­tact with Has­san as well. McCain died fight­ing with ISIS in August 2014. Fol­low­ing McCain’s death, Has­san retweeted mul­ti­ple state­ments from McCain’s Twit­ter pro­file, @iamthetooth, and wrote, ““The Hard­est thing in Jihad is when a brother u  love is granted Sha­hadah [mar­tyr­dom]. Today im expe­ri­enc­ing those feel­ings. May Allah accept @iamthetooth.”

Has­san reg­u­larly inter­acts with many other uniden­ti­fied indi­vid­u­als online and is well known in extrem­ist social media cir­cles. Despite his reported mem­ber­ship in Al Shabaab, he advo­cates for his con­tacts to join ISIS if pos­si­ble, although he has tweeted both Al Shabaab and ISIS pro­pa­ganda too. On Jan­u­ary 29, 2014, he wrote, “My Heart is in Sham [Syria], my eyes are in Aqsa [Jerusalem] and My Soul is in Somalia.”

Hassan’s account on Ask.FM, an anony­mous ques­tion and answer ser­vice, is illus­tra­tive of the sup­port he pro­vided for English-speakers to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. For exam­ple, one indi­vid­ual on the site asked, “My brother wants to be a mujahid (fighter) but he’s got glasses. Will that stop him from becom­ing one?” Has­san responded, “He can be a Mujahid and still wear glasses…And don’t worry about loos­ing (sic) them or brak­ing (sic) them because if you do insha Allah (God will­ing) you’ll have a new one made for you.” Another indi­vid­ual asked, “What does your last answer mean? Where you said ‘Don’t waste time and try to be one of the builders of the Islamic khi­laafah (Caliphate).’” Has­san responded, “It basi­cally means every minute and ever sec­ond is wasted if you’re not out there build­ing the Islamic Caliphate. Go out and make hijrah (travel) from the east and west and join the Jihad. Let your blood be the water for the tree of Khilaafah.”

Has­san grew up in Min­nesota and attended Roo­sevelt High School in Min­neapo­lis. He is believed to have trav­eled to Soma­lia in 2008 and is report­edly still a mem­ber of Al Shabaab.

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