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August 29, 2014

ISIS Succeeds Al Shaabab as Foremost Recruiter of American Militants

Confirmation by U.S. officials that two American men with links to Minnesota were killed this past weekend in Syria while fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) serves as the latest indication that ISIS has replaced Al Shabaab in Somalia as the terrorist destination of choice for American militants. 

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Abdirahmaan Muhumed

As the number of Americans joining Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, has steadily decreased over the past few years (more than 60 U.S. cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dentshave traveled to or attempted to aid or joinAl Shabaab since 2007, Americans traveling to or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS or fight with other terrorist organizations in the region has increased.

Over 100 Americans are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the fighting overall. In 2013 and 2014, 13 Americans have been arrested for travelling or attempting to travel to the region to join ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) or other terrorist groups.

Six others have reportedly been killed, including Abdirahmaan Muhumed, the 29-year-old Somali-American from Minnesota killed this past weekend with Douglas McAuthur McCain from San Diego/Minnesota, Moner Abu Salha from Florida, Nicole Mansfield from Michigan, Amir Farouk Ibrahim of Pennsylvania, and a man using the pseudonym Abu Dujana Al-Amriki, whose background is unclear.

Abdirahmaan Muhumed was apparently one of 15 Somali Americans from Minnesota under investigation by the FBI for travelling to Syria. ISIS has reportedly sent representatives to recruit from the Twin Cities, alarming community leaders.

Muhumed and McCain reportedly interacted on social media before their deaths; McCain allegedly wrote on Muhamed’s Facebook wall, telling him to “continue protecting our brothers and sisters.” McCain was also friends with at least one other individual who apparently traveled abroad to joina terrorist organization.

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Troy Kastigar

McCain’s apparent high school friend, Troy Kastigar, became a member of Al Shabaab and was featured in an English-language propaganda video called “The Path to Paradise,” in which he encouraged Americans to join the terror group. “This is the best place to be,” said Kastigar in the video, “This is the real Disneyland and you should come here and join us, take pleasure in this fun…. Come here and join us so that we can die for the sake of Allah.”

Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, who was indicted on terrorism charges in 2008 for joining Al Shabaab, was also an apparent friend of McCain’s. Hassan’s statements on Twitter after McCain’s death included, “The Hardest thing in Jihad is when a brother u (sic) love is granted Shahadah [martyrdom]. Today im (sic) experiencing those feelings. May Allah accept @iamthetooth [McCain].”

Hassan, who is believed to still be a member of Al Shabaab in Somalia, has encouraged other extremists to consider joining ISIS. In one response on Ask.FM, he wrote, “Fighting Jihad in other Jihadi fronts is good. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I recommend Sham [Syria] because our prophet pbuh [peace be upon him] recommended sham so i’ll (sic) go with that.”

Al Shabaab itself appears to have taken a similar strategy of encouraging travel to any terror front. In the sixth installment of its English-language video series Mujahideen Moments, released August 27, an apparent Al Shabaab militant called on “Muslims, those that are living the U.S., especially in Minnesota, and Great Britain, Germany, and many parts of the kuffar [apostate] world” to travel abroad to join the fight in terrorist conflict zones including Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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October 15, 2013

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

Pittsburgh Man Drawn To Syrian Front Underscores Emerging Trend

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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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