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July 13, 2015 0

Online Activity Provides Insight Into MA Man Arrested For ISIS Plot

Alexander Ciccolo's Facebook profile picture

Alexan­der Ciccolo’s Face­book pro­file picture

Alexan­der Cic­colo, a 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Boston, Mass­a­chu­setts, is the 55th U.S. res­i­dent linked to ter­ror­ist plots and other activ­ity in 2015. A closer look at one of Ciccolo’s Face­book pro­files, which ADL began mon­i­tor­ing in 2014, sheds light on his views in sup­port of ter­ror­ism, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) specifically.

Cic­colo was arrested on July 4, 2015, and charged as a felon in pos­ses­sion of a weapon. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, he had allegedly planned an attack against a pop­u­lar bar fre­quented by uni­ver­sity stu­dents and a col­lege cafe­te­ria, pos­si­bly with the use of pres­sure cooker bombs mod­eled after those used in the Boston Marathon bomb­ing. He allegedly planned to broad­cast the attack live on the Inter­net, a tes­ta­ment to the cen­tral­ity of the Inter­net in ter­ror­ist activity.

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Cic­colo had ini­tially con­sid­ered an attack on civil­ians, mil­i­tary and law enforce­ment, for which he also allegedly con­sid­ered using pres­sure cooker bombs. As many as 5 other domes­tic plots in 2015 tar­geted the mil­i­tary, and as many as 3 other plots tar­geted law enforce­ment. At least 2 other domes­tic plots in 2015 involved attempts at repli­cat­ing the pres­sure cooker bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombing.

A series of Face­book posts ana­lyzed by ADL in Decem­ber 2014 in which Cic­colo posted using the name Ali NoSis­ters Al Amriki (pre­vi­ously Ali Al Amriki, with the mid­dle name added to indi­cate that he did not want women to add him as a friend, a fur­ther demon­stra­tion of his reli­gious extrem­ism) reveal Ciccolo’s appar­ent embrace of ter­ror­ist ideology.

Ciccolo Facebook post ISIS Syria father dream

One of Ciccolo’s Face­book posts

In a post dated Decem­ber 1, 2014, he described a dream in which he was “run­ning to Sham (Syria), climb­ing over walls, over fences, through train sta­tions and across the coun­try. It seemed like every­one was try­ing to stop me from get­ting to Sham. I even­tu­ally stopped run­ning and turned around. There was a man point­ing a pis­tol at me and my father was with him. I kept telling them to let me go, I was try­ing to rea­son with them. They wouldn’t lis­ten and con­tin­ued try­ing to harm me. I then had to kill this man and my father.” In the same post, he also described a sec­ond dream in which he “needed weapons des­per­ately, so I came up with a plan and stole the rifles an (AR15, and a shot­gun) out of the trunk of a police car.”

Two days later, Cic­colo posted a para­graph about ISIS cap­tur­ing weapons sup­plied by the U.S. and Israel (which he calls the “kuf­far alliance,” or apos­tate alliance) result­ing in both countries

Cicollo posted support for ISIS on Facebook

Cicollo posted sup­port for ISIS on Facebook

“work­ing against [them­selves]” and “rot[ting] them­selves from the inside out. They will suf­fer severe Hell­fire and they will find them­selves tor­tured souls.” One of Ciccolo’s Face­book friends com­mented on this post say­ing, “may almighty Allah help isis and in shaa allah rab (God will­ing) we shall become vic­to­ri­ous above the shay­atin (devils).”

Other state­ments fur­ther indi­cated his extrem­ist and con­spir­a­to­r­ial beliefs.

  •  “I only hope that I can serve Him the best I can and die a good death” (pos­si­bly refer­ring to dying as a ter­ror­ist; posted Decem­ber 1, 2014)
  • “If one does not learn to sub­ju­gate the other, one quickly finds the boot of the lat­ter on his throat,” (Decem­ber 16, 2014)
  •  “It is totally impos­si­ble to free asso­ciate with kuf­far (apos­tates) if you are a prac­tic­ing Mus­lim.” (Decem­ber 23, 2014)
  • “The kuf­far (apos­tates) con­t­a­m­i­nated all the food. Can some­one please send me a com­plete halal food list for the United States?” (Decem­ber 26, 2014)

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Cic­colo also praised the June 2015 attack on a beach and hotel in Tunisia, call­ing it “awe­some” and “a huge accom­plish­ment.” Court doc­u­ments also indi­cate that, ear­lier in the year, he posted a state­ment on Face­book that read, “Thank you Islamic State! Now we won’t have to deal with these kafir back in Amer­ica” (with an image of a dead U.S. sol­dier; posted Octo­ber 17, 2014)

Cicollo posted on Facebook about seeing Adolf Hitler

Cicollo posted on Face­book about see­ing Adolf Hitler

Some of Ciccolo’s ideas may have also been fueled by anti-Semitic sen­ti­ments.On Decem­ber 22, Cic­colo described a dream he claimed to have had in which he was “dressed in an SS uni­form” inspect­ing chil­dren in a school and then he “saw Hitler and his face was so bright and beautiful.”

Cic­colo is one of at least 15 con­verts to Islam linked to ter­ror­ism in the U.S. this year. And he is far from hav­ing grown up with extrem­ist ide­olo­gies: His father is a cap­tain in the Boston police and report­edly informed counter-terrorism inves­ti­ga­tors of his son’s increas­ing radicalization.

He is the fourth man linked to ter­ror plots in New Eng­land in 2015. Ciccolo’s alleged plot makes the 13th known domes­tic plot appar­ently inspired by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy this year.

News reports indi­cate that Cic­colo may suf­fer from men­tal illness.

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June 10, 2015 0

ADL Submits Testimony to House Committee on Homeland Security

The House Com­mit­tee on Home­land Secu­rity held a hear­ing on June 3, 2015, on the increas­ing efforts by extrem­ists, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to use sophis­ti­cated social media and other Inter­net plat­forms to recruit mem­bers, share pro­pa­ganda and inspire attacks.Terrorism Gone Viral The Attack in Garland, Texas and Beyond

ADL, which tracks how ter­ror­ist groups exploit new tech­nol­ogy, works closely with the Inter­net indus­try and trains law enforce­ment around the coun­try, sub­mit­ted com­pre­hen­sive tes­ti­mony for the hear­ing record high­light­ing the exten­sive efforts of ter­ror­ists to har­ness new tech­nol­ogy for recruit­ment and radicalization.

The League’s state­ment included details on the unprece­dented num­ber of indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in the United States linked to plots, con­spir­a­cies, and other activ­ity on behalf of for­eign ter­ror­ist groups thus far in 2015.

The hear­ing, titled “Ter­ror­ism Gone Viral The Attack in Gar­land, Texas and Beyond,” focused on the attempted vio­lent attack at a Gar­land, Texas, com­mu­nity cen­ter last month. One of the appar­ent shoot­ers, Elton Simp­son, main­tained an active pres­ence on Twit­ter, with at least eight accounts that he used to net­work with ISIS sup­port­ers prior to the attack. Simp­son is believed to have inter­acted with Mohamed Abdul­lahi Has­san, a per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dent that may have inspired as many as 11 peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. to take action in the last two years.

Led by Com­mit­tee Chair­man Michael McCaul (R-TX), Mem­bers heard from three sub­ject mat­ter experts: John Mul­li­gan, Deputy Direc­tor of the National Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, Fran­cis X. Tay­lor, Under Sec­re­tary in the DHS Office of Intel­li­gence and Analy­sis and Michael B. Stein­bach,  Assis­tant Direc­tor of the FBI, on these issues.

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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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