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May 24, 2016 0

List of Americans who Joined ISIS Reinforces Statistical Trends

Douglas McAuthur McCain, among the Americans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain, among the Amer­i­cans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

NBC recently released the names of 15 U.S. res­i­dents who allegedly trav­eled to join ISIS since 2013. The names had been pro­vided to the net­work by an indi­vid­ual who claimed to be a defec­tor from ISIS and were report­edly ver­i­fied by West Point’s Com­bat­ing Ter­ror­ism Cen­ter and other coun­tert­er­ror­ism specialists.

While three of the indi­vid­u­als on the list – Abdi Nur, Yusuf Jama, and Dou­glas McCain – had already been pub­licly known, the other 12 had not. The list serves as a reminder that, while a con­sid­er­able num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents who have attempted to travel to join ISIS have been iden­ti­fied, there are still more whose iden­ti­ties remain unclear – as many as 250 accord­ing to law enforce­ment sources. The names and back­grounds of indi­vid­u­als on the NBC list also serve as vital reminders of the diver­sity of the indi­vid­u­als attracted to Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, and rein­forces what we do know about who these indi­vid­u­als are.

Indi­vid­u­als on the list came from across the U.S. Among the states rep­re­sented were Cal­i­for­nia, Mass­a­chu­setts, Min­nesota, New York , Ohio, Texas, Vir­ginia, and Wash­ing­ton. This geo­graphic diver­sity is no sur­prise. ADL’s analy­sis of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism between 2009 and 2015 indi­cated that the indi­vid­u­als had been arrested in 32 states, as well as inter­na­tion­ally. States with the high­est num­bers of arrests included New York, Min­nesota, Cal­i­for­nia and Illinois.

One of the indi­vid­u­als on the list was female, and the rest were male. While fewer women have engaged in activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism than men, the pro­por­tion of women has increased in recent years. ADL doc­u­mented only 12 U.S. women in total linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013, but there were 10 in 2014 and seven in 2015 (exclud­ing the woman on the NBC list); there has already been one woman out of the 11 U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy thus far in 2016.

Inter­est­ingly, the woman on the list, Zakia Nas­rin, was joined in her extrem­ist pur­suits by her hus­band and her younger brother. Of the 109 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2014 and 2015, at least 28 indi­vid­u­als were accused or impli­cated together with fam­ily members.

The aver­age age of the indi­vid­u­als on the list when they trav­eled to join ISIS was 22 years old. The old­est was 33 and the youngest 18. This is a lit­tle younger than aver­age. ADL data indi­cates that the aver­age age of U.S. res­i­dents who trav­eled or attempted to travel to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions abroad between 2009 and 2015 was 25 years old, while the aver­age over­all age of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy was 28. How­ever, the num­ber of young peo­ple has been increas­ing as well; in 2015, there were a total of 25 out of 81 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy who were 21 years old or younger.

At least one of the indi­vid­u­als on the list claimed to have con­verted to Islam. A lit­tle over one quar­ter of U.S. res­i­dents who have been linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in recent years sim­i­larly were not raised iden­ti­fy­ing as Mus­lims, but rather con­verted or claimed to have con­verted to Islam, at least nom­i­nally. Impor­tantly, these con­ver­sions do not nec­es­sar­ily mean they are accepted as Mus­lims by the main­stream Amer­i­can Mus­lim com­mu­nity, nor does it mean they have been par­tic­u­larly obser­vant. As with other indi­vid­u­als linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, these con­verts embraced rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam.

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May 13, 2016 0

New ISIS App One of Many Efforts to Indoctrinate Children

A screenshot from the ISIS app with the letter Ba for Bunduqiya, meaning rifle

A screen­shot from the ISIS app with the let­ter Ba for Bun­duqiya, mean­ing rifle

ISIS has released a mobile app designed to teach young chil­dren the Ara­bic alpha­bet while simul­ta­ne­ously indoc­tri­nat­ing them with mil­i­tant ide­ol­ogy. The app was shared via ISIS chan­nels on the chat appli­ca­tion Telegram and made avail­able on file shar­ing sites, many of which have since deleted the link.

Fea­tur­ing brightly col­ored, cheer­ful graph­ics, the appof­fers edu­ca­tional con­tent for learn­ing let­ters, such as songs designed for enabling mem­o­riza­tion. How­ever, the songs are filled with extrem­ist rhetoric, and words that begin with the let­ters shown include gun, tank, rocket and bullet.

This is not the first instance of ISIS pro­pa­ganda fea­tur­ing or tar­get­ing chil­dren. The group has released mul­ti­ple videos con­tain­ing acts of vio­lence com­mit­ted or incited by chil­dren as young as tod­dlers, as well as videos fea­tur­ing chil­dren engaged in com­bat train­ing. Many of the group’s more pos­i­tively themed videos, designed to sug­gest that ISIS is cre­at­ing a utopian com­mu­nity, have shown chil­dren play­ing, singing, and enjoy­ing ice cream and other treats. ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos are not only exported to extrem­ists out­side ISIS ter­ri­tory but also are reg­u­larly broad­cast inside areas the group con­trols. Reports have indi­cated that chil­dren within ISIS ter­ri­tory are reg­u­larly forced to watch the vio­lent pro­pa­ganda videos.

A young child in an ISIS propaganda video

A young child in an ISIS pro­pa­ganda video

But ISIS is not the only ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion to directly tar­get chil­dren. ADL has doc­u­mented sev­eral mil­i­tant online video games cre­ated for chil­dren by Hezbol­lah, which Hezbol­lah claimed were designed “to strengthen the cul­ture of resis­tance” – mean­ing, to indoc­tri­nate children.

ISIS, Hezbol­lah and other ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions have also cre­ated other mobile apps aimed at adult audi­ences, with the goal of spread­ing their pro­pa­ganda on as many plat­forms as

Children eating ice cream in an ISIS propaganda video

Chil­dren eat­ing ice cream in an ISIS pro­pa­ganda video

pos­si­ble. ADL has just exposed a new app cre­ated to broad­cast Hezbollah’s al-Manar news out­let, which was made avail­able for down­load on iTunes.ISIS has also cre­ated sev­eral iter­a­tions of news apps. Cur­rently active chan­nels are fea­tured on the mobile chat app Telegram and con­tain backup mech­a­nisms so that if the ini­tial chan­nel is shut down, users are auto­mat­i­cally added to a newly cre­ated chan­nel and can con­tinue receiv­ing ISIS news and pro­pa­ganda directly onto their mobile phones.

Children in military training in an ISIS propaganda video

Chil­dren in mil­i­tary train­ing in an ISIS pro­pa­ganda video

Fur­ther­more, ISIS’s sleek and sophis­ti­cated pro­pa­ganda is reg­u­larly aimed at audi­ences not con­sid­ered tra­di­tional demo­graph­ics for extrem­ist recruit­ment. For exam­ple, the group also has a pro­pa­ganda wing that specif­i­cally tar­gets women and has put sig­nif­i­cant efforts into recruit­ing female members.

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May 3, 2016 3

Medina Arrest Highlights Threats of Anti-Semitism in Islamic Extremism

James Medina

James Med­ina

James Gon­zalo Med­ina, a 40-year-old res­i­dent of Hol­ly­wood, Florida, was arrested on May 2, 2016, for allegedly plot­ting to use an explo­sive device in a Florida syn­a­gogue on Passover. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that he wanted to leave a notice with the bomb attribut­ing the attack to ISIS.

Vio­lent expres­sions of anti-Semitism, includ­ing encour­age­ment of attacks against Jews and Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions, have been at the core of pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extrem­ist ter­ror­ist groups for decades. Last year, the ADL released a report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pil­lar of Islamic Extrem­ist Ide­ol­ogy,” which describes the way in which ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions rely on depic­tions of a Jew­ish enemy to recruit fol­low­ers, moti­vate adher­ents and draw atten­tion to their cause.

Medina’s plot was never oper­a­tional because he had been work­ing closely with an under­cover infor­mant. ADL joined with the South Florida Mus­lim com­mu­nity in issu­ing a press state­ment con­demn­ing the plot, which is avail­able on the ADL web­site.

How­ever, Med­ina is not the first U.S. res­i­dent appar­ently moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­olo­gies to plot attacks against a syn­a­gogue. Oth­ers included New York res­i­dents Ahmed Fer­hani and Moham­mad Mam­douh, arrested in May 2011 for plot­ting to attack a syn­a­gogue in New York City and four New York res­i­dents who plot­ted to attack syn­a­gogues in the Bronx and to shoot down air­planes at a mil­i­tary base in New­burgh, New York in 2009.

More recently, there have been a num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents inspired by Islamic extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions who con­sid­ered attack­ing Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions or oth­er­wise indi­cated that anti-Semitism was an impor­tant ele­ment of their ide­ol­ogy. They included:

  • Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempt­ing to bomb a masonic tem­ple in Wis­con­sin, had ini­tially expressed inter­est in trav­el­ing to Israel to kill sol­diers and civil­ians in the West Bank, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments. He allegedly changed his plan for logis­ti­cal reasons.
  • Tairod Pugh, arrested for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS in 2015, wrote a Face­book post that stated, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within them­selves. On the day of Judg­ment full respon­si­bil­ity of the starv­ing, tor­ture, jail­ing and killing of inno­cent Mus­lims will rest upon there (sic) shoul­ders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang them­selves,” and posted an image with text stat­ing, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our Gd is Lucifer.” He also shared an image on Face­book that ref­er­enced blood libel accu­sa­tions, depict­ing Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu slit­ting the throats of sleep­ing children.
  • Nader Elhuza­yel, arrested in 2015 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, report­edly expressed excite­ment at the pos­si­bil­ity of ISIS attack­ing Israel. Court doc­u­ments claim that he wrote, “Look­ing for­ward to see some yahoodi (Jew­ish) heads rolling, or dead bod­ies car­ry­ing their own yahoodi heads, and jihadi john (iden­ti­fied as the beheader in sev­eral Screen­shot from Al Shabaab video call­ing for attacks on “Jewish-owned West­field shop­ping cen­ters” 9 ISIS videos) doing this stance on them…” as part of an Inter­net exchange in Decem­ber 2014.
  • Nadir Soofi, one of men who allegedly fired shots at a Gar­land, Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter in 2015, advanced con­spir­acy the­o­ries sug­gest­ing Jew­ish involve­ment in the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attacks in online forums.
  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, arrested in 2015 for allegedly plot­ting to bomb the U.S. capi­tol and shoot gov­ern­ment offi­cials, report­edly expressed a desire to attack the Israeli Embassy in an inter­view con­ducted in prison fol­low­ing his arrest.
  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley, arrested in 2014 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, threat­ened a church in her home town repot­edly in part because of the church’s sup­port for Israel.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh, arrested for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) in 2014, advanced a con­spir­acy the­ory on online forums that there was a Jew­ish con­spir­acy to pro­mote mod­er­ate Islam, which he viewed as inau­then­tic, over fun­da­men­tal­ist or extrem­ist views of Islam

The ADL pro­vides secu­rity resources for Jew­ish insti­tu­tions, includ­ing best prac­tices for Jew­ish Insti­tu­tional Secu­rity and a Guide to Detect­ing Sur­veil­lance of Jew­ish Insti­tu­tions. Indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions can con­tact their local ADL offices for more infor­ma­tion and resources, includ­ing requests for secu­rity train­ing or to sign up to receive ADL’s Secu­rity Bul­letins and Alerts.

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