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September 5, 2014

The American Face of Foreign Terror Recruits

marcos-alonso-zea-terrorism

Marcos Alonso Zea of New York attempted to join AQAP

U.S. intelligence estimates indicate that significant numbers of Americans – as few as a dozen or as many as 300, according to some officials – have traveled abroad to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Although most of these individuals have not been publicly identified, concrete information is available about 20 Americans who fought or attempted to travel abroad since the beginning of 2013. An analysis of their backgrounds provides interesting statistics that may supplement our understanding of the people attracted to terror organizations and provide clues about the many additional, unidentified Americans believed to have traveled abroad.

For example, the information tells us that:

  • They range in age from 18 to 44, but the majority are in their 20s.
  • Nine of them joined or attempted to join ISIS.
  • Six of them joined or attempted to join the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria Jabhat al Nusra.
  • Three of them joined or attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen.
  • 13 of the 20, or 65%, are reportedly converts to Islam.
  • They come from across the country: Six came from California, two each from Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida and New York. Other states represented include Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts and Arizona.
  • Only two of the 20 were women. (ADL has doc­u­mented 13 female cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the U.S. arrested on ter­ror­ism charges since 2002.)

The number of Americans identified as attempting to join ISIS spiked sharply in 2014. Seven of the nine Americans identified above attempted to join the terror group just this year.  Whereas in 2013, half of the Americans identified attempted to join the conflict in Syria, but only one to ISIS.

This influx of Americans attempting to join ISIS is taking place as ISIS steps ups its threats against the U.S., including beheading Americans and expanding its sophisticated online media campaign designed to motivate and recruit westerners.

Indeed, con­fir­ma­tion by U.S. offi­cials that two Amer­i­can men with links to Min­nesota were killed last month in Syria is the lat­est indi­ca­tion that ISIS has replaced Al Shabaab in Soma­lia as the ter­ror­ist des­ti­na­tion of choice for Amer­i­can mil­i­tants. 

A full list of names follows:

  • Ahmad Abousamra of Massachusetts: Believed to be working with ISIS in Iraq or Syria (identified in 2014).
  • Abdi­rah­maan Muhumed of Minnesota: Killed in Syria in August 2014 apparently fighting with ISIS.
  • Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain of California: Killed in Syria in August 2014, apparently fighting with ISIS.
  • Donald Ray Morgan of North Carolina: Arrested in August 2014 on firearm charges; believed to have been attempting to join ISIS.
  • Adam Dandach of California: Arrested in July 2014 on passport fraud charges; believed to have been attempting to join ISIS.
  • Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas: Arrested in June 2014 for attempting to join ISIS.
  • Moner Abu-Salha of Florida: Killed in a suicide attack he carried out in May 2014 on behalf of Jabhat al Nusra.

    moner-abu-salha-nusra

    Moner Abu-Salha of Florida joined Jabhat al Nusra

  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley of Colorado: Arrested in April 2014 for attempting to join ISIS.
  • Mohammed Has­san Ham­dan of Michigan: Arrested in March 2014 for attempting to join Hezbollah in Syria.
  • Nicholas Teausant of California: Arrested in March 2014 for attempting to join ISIS.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh of North Carolina: Arrested November 2013 for attempting to join Jabhat al Nusra.
  • Marcos Alonso Zea of New York: Arrested in October 2013 for attempting to join AQAP.
  • Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Octo­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join Al Qaeda. Nguyen had previously fought in Syria.
  • Amir Farouq Ibrahim, of Penn­syl­va­nia: Assumed dead in July 2013 and believed to have fought with ISIS.
  • Justin Kaliebe of New York: Arrested in June 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.
  • Nicole Mans­field of Michi­gan: Killed in May 2013, report­edly fight­ing with Jab­hat al Nus­ra.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinios: Arrested in April 2013 for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Eric Har­roun of Ari­zona: Arrested in March 2013 for trav­el­ing to Syria to fight with Jabhat al Nusra. He pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in Sep­tem­ber, 2013, and was sen­tenced to time served. That Har­roun fought in Syria is uncon­tested; how­ever, reports dif­fer as to whether he fought with Jabhat al Nusra or with the Syrian Free Army, which is not considered a terrorist organization.
  • Matthew Aaron Llaneza of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Feb­ru­ary 2013 for attempted domes­tic ter­ror­ism and plans to travel to join the Tal­iban in Afghanistan.
  • Shel­ton Thomas Bell of Florida: Arrested in Jan­u­ary 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.

In addition to those individuals above, two apparent Americans have been featured in propaganda videos from Syria, although their identities have not been fully verified:

  • A man called Abu Abdurahman al-Trinidadi, allegedly American of Trinidadian origin, featured supporting ISIS in a video released in August 2014.
  • A man called Abu Dujana al-Amriki, allegedly American, featured supporting ISIS in a video released November 2013.

Yet another American has been identified as fighting with ISIS because of his death in a Syrian airstrike in September 2014. Further information about that individual has not yet been released.

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December 13, 2013

Terry Lee Loewen Planned Airport Bombing For Al Qaeda

A 58-year-old man from Wichita, Kansas, has been arrested for allegedly trying to blow up Wichita Mid-Continent Airport with a car bomb in support of Al Qaeda.tourismairport2.jpg [tourismairport2.jpg]

Terry Lee Loewen is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property and attempting to provide support to Al Qaeda.

According to the criminal complaint, Loewen said he was trying to support Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, by committing “an act of violent jihad.”

Three Amer­i­can cit­i­zens have attempted to join AQAP in 2013, including Mar­cos Alonso Zea and Justin Kaliebe of Long Island, and Shel­ton Thomas Bell of Florida.

Loewen, an avionics technician who reportedly works at the airport, allegedly made statements online to an undercover FBI agent about downloading terrorist propaganda online and wanting to commit “violent jihad” against the U.S. According to the complaint, he also said:

“As time goes on I care less and less about what other people think of me, or my views of Islam. I have been studying subjects like jihad, martyrdom operations, and Sharia law. I don’t understand how you can read the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet and not understand that jihad and the implementation of Sharia is absolutely demanded of all the Muslim Ummah.”

“One last thing I would like to make clear if I haven’t already – I believe the Muslim who is labeled ‘a radical fundamentalist’ is closer to Allah than the ones labeled ‘moderates.’ Just my opinion; if I’m off base, please set me straight.”

He also indicated that he “considered supporting some of our brothers and sisters in prison,” and has been sending money to the family of Younnus Abdullah Muhammad. Muhammad is the co-founder of Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim, the fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion based in New York that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence. The arrest of the Revolution Muslim leaders in recent years has led to its demise.

Loewen described Revolution Muslim as “the first website that really helped me understand what obedience to Allah was.”

According to the criminal complaint, he also expressed his admiration of Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American-born Mus­lim cleric who encour­aged attacks against Amer­ica and the West to English-speaking online audi­ences for sev­eral years. Al‐Awlaki was among a growing chorus of Americans residing abroad who used their online pulpits to reach and influence audiences in the U.S. by repackaging ideologies of extreme intolerance and violence into digestible sound bites.

Al-Awlaki’s materials have inspired several American Muslim extremists to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S. and join terrorist groups overseas. He was killed in a drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

Loewen, who also goes by Terry L. Lane, reportedly left a letter for his family dated December 11 that said, “By the time you read this I will — if everything went as planned — have been martyred in the path of Allah.”

Described by the U.S. government as “the most active and dangerous” branch of Al Qaeda, AQAP has attempted to carry out multiple attacks against the United States, including at least three failed attacks involving U.S.-bound aviation.

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October 18, 2013

Long Island Arrest Highlights Continuing Lure Of Terror Groups Abroad

marcos-alonso-zea

Marcos Alonso Zea arrested for attempting to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A Long Island man was arrested Friday for attempting to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The arrest came exactly one week after an Orange County man was arrested for attempting to travel abroad to join Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Both arrests highlight the continued trend of American citizens joining terrorist groups abroad and the continued allure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. At least three American citizens or permanent residents have attempted to join AQAP in 2013 alone. And at least nine others have attempted to join foreign terrorist groups this year.

Marcos Alonso Zea, also known as Ali Zea, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to provide material support to terrorists, attempting to provide material support to AQAP, and obstruction and attempted obstruction of justice.

Zea, a 25-year-old Muslim convert from Brentwood, Long Island, allegedly flew from New York to London with plans to continue from there to the Arabian Peninsula on January 4, 2012. He was detained by customs officials and returned to the United States.

His own plans stymied, Zea allegedly encouraged a co-conspirator from his mosque, 18-year-old high school senior Justin Kaliebe, to make the trip. Zea discussed plans to fight abroad and provided him with money to fund the trip, according to the indictment. Kaliebe was arrested at JFK International Airport on January 21, 2013, and is scheduled to be sentenced December 6, 2013.

Zea’s computer reportedly contained a number of materials designed to encourage radicalization, including copies of Inspire Magazine, AQAP’s English-language periodical, and a video from Al Qaeda in Iraq depicting an attack on a military vehicle.

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.

In addition to Zea, eight others have attempted to join foreign terrorist groups this year. They are:

  • Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of California, arrested on October 11, 2013 for attempting to join Al Qaeda.
  • Amir Farouq Ibrahim, of Pennsylvania, linked with ISIS and assumed dead in Syria in July 2013.
  • Justin Kaliebe of New York, arrested June 25, 2013 for attempting to join AQAP.
  • Nicole Mans­field of Michigan, killed in Syria in May, 2013, reportedly fighting with Jabhat al Nusrah.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinios, arrested April 19, 2013 for attempting to join Jabhat al Nusrah.
  • Eric Harroun of Arizona, arrested March 27, 2013, for traveling to Syria to fight with Al Qaeda linked rebels. He pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in September, 2013, and was sentenced to time served. That Harroun fought in Syria is uncontested; however, reports differ as to whether he fought with Al Qaeda affiliates.
  • Matthew Aaron Llaneza of California, arrested February 8, 2013, for attempted domestic terrorism and plans to travel to join the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Shelton Thomas Bell of Florida, arrested January 29, 2013 for attempting to join AQAP.

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