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October 15, 2013 1

California Arrest Underscores Ongoing Concern Over Americans Joining Al Qaeda Abroad

Update — Octo­ber 18, 2013: Arrest in Long Island high­lights con­tin­u­ing lure of ter­ror groups abroad.

An Orange County man was arrested on Fri­day for allegedly pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to Al Qaeda. The arrest under­scores ongo­ing con­cerns over Amer­i­can cit­i­zens join­ing ter­ror­ist groups abroad and Syria in particular.sinh-vinh-ngo-nguyen-hasan-abu-omar-ghannoum

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghan­noum, report­edly trav­eled to Syria in Decem­ber, 2012, and fought against the Assad regime. While the indict­ment against Nguyen does not spe­cially men­tion his travel to Syria, he report­edly left com­ments on what appears to be his Face­book page indi­cat­ing his pres­ence in the coun­try between Decem­ber 2012 and April or May 2013.

I’m doing well in Syria…having a blast here, and I mean lit­er­ally” read one com­ment. In another, Nguyen appar­ently “con­firmed his first kill” and expressed eager­ness for more. In April, he posted an image of a dead fighter whom he called “A Dear Brother of mine.”

Nguyen, who report­edly returned to the U.S around May 2013, was arrested while attempt­ing to board a bus to Mex­ico. He is charged with attempt­ing “to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port and resources, that is, ser­vices and per­son­nel, namely him­self,” to al Qaeda, as well as mak­ing false state­ments on a pass­port appli­ca­tion. It is not clear why he planned to travel to Mexico.

Since 2007, over 50 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged in con­nec­tion with attempts to join ter­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula. An increas­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans have been attracted to the con­flict in Syria and have attempted to join Jab­hat al-Nusrah, an alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Nguyen, a Mus­lim con­vert, is licensed as a secu­rity guard and was train­ing to be a truck dri­ver. His pur­ported Face­book page indi­cates strong inter­est in weapons, includ­ing posts about his favorite weapons and an image of a “com­mando style” rifle that served as his Face­book pro­file pic­ture last winter.

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July 31, 2013 0

Pittsburgh Man Drawn To Syrian Front Underscores Emerging Trend

amiir-farouk ibrahim-passport-syria

Amiir Farouk Ibrahim’s passport

An Egyptian-American man born in Pitts­burgh is report­edly the lat­est Amer­i­can to join the con­flict in Syria on the side of rebels fight­ing against the Assad regime.

Amiir Farouk Ibrahim may also be the lat­est Amer­i­can casualty.

Ibrahim’s Amer­i­can and Egypt­ian pass­ports were dis­cov­ered ear­lier this month after Kur­dish fight­ers over­ran a com­pound once held by the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella orga­ni­za­tion com­posed of sev­eral Sunni insur­gency groups affil­i­ated with Al Qaeda.

If dead, Ibrahim would be the sec­ond Amer­i­can known to have been killed in Syria’s civil war. Nicole Mans­field, a con­vert to Islam from Michi­gan, was killed in Syria in May 2013.

Ibrahim’s fam­ily report­edly indi­cated that he trav­eled to Turkey before cross­ing into Syria ear­lier this year. He received a bachelor’s degree in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion from Florida Inter­na­tional Uni­ver­sity in 2008.

Ibrahim’s Face­book page con­tained numer­ous posts sug­gest­ing that he sub­scribed to a rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of Islam con­sis­tent with Al Qaeda’s ide­ol­ogy. For example:

  • Feb­ru­ary 1: Ibrahim posted an image call­ing for a boy­cott of French prod­ucts because of the French mil­i­tary cam­paign against Al Qaeda in Mali.
  • Jan­u­ary 30: Ibrahim posted sev­eral pho­tos of a house on an island with the cap­tion, “So you can imag­ine how par­adise would look like.” He posted a com­ment on one of the pho­tos ask­ing God to make him “one of the peo­ple of Paradise.”
  • Jan­u­ary 30: Ibrahim posted a photo for Mohammed Bouy­eri, the Dutch–Moroccan con­victed of killing Dutch film­maker Theo Van Gogh. The com­ment on the post reads in part, “The lion Mohammed Bouy­eri (May God release him from his prison) did an oper­a­tion that will be recorded with gold in the his­tory of Islam.”
  • Decem­ber 2, 2012:  Ibrahim posted a YouTube video that fea­tures the pop­u­lar jihadi song “Madin Kas-Sayf” [Sharp like the Sword].
  • Octo­ber 18, 2012: Ibrahim posted a com­ment call­ing upon Mus­lims to embrace Jihad and sup­port the Sunni Mus­lims in Syria against the Shia’a.

As ADL reported in June, there have been three other pub­licly dis­closed cases of Amer­i­cans involved in fight­ing with rebels. Each has been linked to Jab­hat al-Nusrah (JN), a State Department-designated alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq. It is unknown how many Amer­i­cans have entered the con­flict on the side of rebel fac­tions unaf­fil­i­ated with Al Qaeda.

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July 22, 2013 0

Florida Teen, Shelton Thomas Bell, Latest American To Attempt To Join Al Qaeda

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Shel­ton Thomas bell

The lat­est Amer­i­can cit­i­zen to appar­ently respond to Al Qaeda’s call by attempt­ing to join the ter­ror­ist group is 19-year-old Florid­ian Shel­ton Thomas Bell.

Bell, who accord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) in Yemen, has been charged with con­spir­ing and attempt­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to terrorists.

Since 2007, at least 52 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged for suc­cess­fully trav­el­ing or attempt­ing to travel abroad to reach Al Qaeda affil­i­ate groups. Many joined or attempted to join Al Shabaab in Soma­lia, while oth­ers have received train­ing in Pak­istan. More recently, some Amer­i­cans have been attracted to Jab­hat al-Nusrah in Syria.

Bell, report­edly a Mus­lim con­vert, “devised a plan to travel to the Ara­bian Penin­sula to join Ansar al Sharia (AAS),” an alias for (AQAP), “and par­tic­i­pate in vio­lent armed con­flict that he termed ‘jihad,’” accord­ing to the fed­eral indictment.

Bell and a juve­nile trav­eled to Jor­dan Sep­tem­ber 2012 and made con­tact with some­one who could facil­i­tate their travel to Yemen and intro­duce them to ter­ror­ists, accord­ing to the indictment.

The indict­ment also alleges that between May 2012 and Sep­tem­ber 2012, Bell and oth­ers engaged in phys­i­cal, firearms, and other train­ing in prepa­ra­tion for what Bell described as “the actions of jihad,” includ­ing “a night-time mis­sion” in which they van­dal­ized reli­gious stat­ues at a Jack­sonville cemetery.

Bell allegedly also made video and audio record­ings for the pur­pose of solic­it­ing and recruit­ing oth­ers to par­tic­i­pate in vio­lent jihad.

Lead­ers of the Islamic Cen­ter of North­east Florida in Jack­sonville report­edly noti­fied law enforce­ment about Bell because they were con­cerned about con­ver­sa­tion he was hav­ing about weapons and jihad at their mosque.

AQAP has been described by the U.S. gov­ern­ment as “the most active and dan­ger­ous” branch of Al Qaeda. The growth of AQAP has led Amer­i­can offi­cials to indi­cate that Yemen could become Al Qaeda’s next oper­a­tional and train­ing hub for the group’s mil­i­tants from around the world.

A key com­po­nent of AQAP’s oper­a­tional strat­egy entails reach­ing out to English-speaking audi­ences with its mes­sages and pro­pa­ganda in order to recruit new mem­bers. This mate­r­ial encour­ages West­ern audi­ences to adopt its ide­ol­ogy and carry out attacks against West­ern inter­ests in the Ara­bian Penin­sula and abroad.

The dri­ving forces behind AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda machine were Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric, and Samir Khan, an Amer­i­can blog­ger and pro­pa­gan­dist, both of whom were killed in a Sep­tem­ber 30, 2011 drone strike.

Bell, who worked as a com­puter repair ven­dor at a flea mar­ket in Jack­sonville, is in jail await­ing trial on unre­lated grand theft charges.

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