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September 21, 2015

New AQAP Inspire Magazine Encourages Lone Wolf Attacks

Issue 14 of AQAP's Inspire Magazine

Issue 14 of AQAP’s Inspire Magazine

The 14th issue of InspireAl Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, released on September 9 to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, incites Americans and others living in the West to perpetrate lone-wolf attacks.“We at Inspire, and in the cause of the events of 9/11 encourage the Muslims in the West to join the Lone Jihad caravan,” reads the Editor’s Letter at the start of the magazine, “the caravan that has and always will continue to trouble and bring nightmares to the west (sic).”

As in previous issues of Inspire, the magazine uses anti-Semitism to mobilize the anger and support needed to encourage individuals to sustain AQAP and perpetrate attacks. ADL recently published a new report on anti-Semitism in Islamic extremist propaganda.

One article in the new issue states that the 9/11 attack “in context [was] a general defense on our Ummah [Muslim community], that has been assaulted by the Jews and supported by America.” Similarly, another article stated that terrorism “give[s] joy and happiness to…all those hurt by America, bearer of evil, oppression and the protector of the Jews.”

A third article, titled “The Corner,” focused on anti-Israel sentiments as a means to rile anger against the U.S. The article began by stating that, “Tracking AIPAC annual events, one gets a sense of a spiritual bond between America and Israel.” It went on to claim that “In all AIPAC meetings, America’s tone towards Israel has been of blind support. Reassuring the Jews that whatever it takes or whatever crime they commit, America will always back them.”

Rehashing claims made in an August AQAP video that called for attacks on the U.S., one article says that “There is no stronger evidence than the issue of the Holocaust in which there is no room for freedom of expression or ideas,” implying that if Western free speech allows for criticism of Islam, the West must also encourage delegitimization of the Holocaust to avoid hypocrisy.

This issue of Inspire also attempted to harness popular anger about injustices against African Americans in the U.S., equating “American oppression towards the Blacks today” to “oppression…exercised against the Muslims today.” The article calls on African Americans to “review your actions and to take a stand against these crimes” by condemning the actions of the U.S. and the State of Israel and then suggests that they, too, commit acts of terrorism as described in the magazine: “we at Inspire bring to you military consultation, one may refer back to the previous issues to find appropriate military ideas.”

During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, terror supporters (and particularly supporters of ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) regularly shared statements online attempting to capitalize on the unrest and promote their version of Islam as better than and more equality than American democracy. There is no reason to believe that members of the African American community or others sympathetic to the injustices in the U.S. criminal system took those messages seriously, as there is no reason to believe they will take these messages from AQAP seriously.

Other articles and graphics in the magazine praise the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Inspire has been particularly notorious for its provision of bomb-making instructions. The 14th   issue provides directions for building homemade pipe-bombs to be used in assassination attempts. Specifically, the magazine advises targeting economically influential Americans including Ben Shalom Barnanek (sic), Robert James Shiller, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Joseph, Charlie and David Koch, Sam Walton, Sheldon Adelson, and Michael Bloomberg. As if issuing a ransom note, the article suggests that “whosoever wants to secure himself and wealth” should remove their money from U.S. banks, invest their wealth outside U.S. soil and “declare via media that they are far from American policies towards Muslim (sic) and America’s support for Israel.

Inspire is perhaps the most notorious Al Qaeda propaganda vehicle. It has played a role in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of mul­ti­ple domes­tic extrem­ists, includ­ing the Tsar­naev broth­ers of the Boston Marathon bombing), Jose Pimentel, who attempted a bombing in New York, and Abdel Daoud, who attempted a bombing in Chicago.

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August 12, 2015

From Charleston to Chattanooga: The Face of Terror in America

By Oren Segal and Mark Pitcavage
Directors of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism

Terrorism is sometimes referred to as the “faceless enemy,” but it has hardly been faceless in the United States this summer.  Too many people have emerged from the shadows to inflict death and suffering.

The parade of violence has seemed unending, from Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who attacked police officers providing security for the so-called “Muhammad Art Exhibit” in Texas in May, to John Houser, the Hitler-admiring man obsessed with the moral decay of America who recently opened fire at a Louisiana movie theater showing the movie Trainwreck.

Of the various killers and would-be killers this summer, two stand out.  The first is Dylann Storm Roof, the white supremacist who allegedly confessed to the June massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine African-Americans dead.dylann-storm-roof-gun-confederate-flag-600

The second is Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who in July engaged in a shooting spree targeting a Chattanooga military recruiting center and a nearby naval reserve center.  Abdulazeez, who may have been inspired by radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed five people—all military personnel—before being killed by police.

In many ways, Roof and Abdulazeez personify America’s terrorist threat; they are the faces of the “faceless enemy.”  Most obviously, each represents a major source of terrorism.  Roof was a white supremacist who allegedly hoped to start a “race war” in which whites would prevail.  White supremacists have for decades been the most prolific source of domestic extremist-related lethal violence.  Along with the other main segment of the extreme right, anti-government militia groups and sovereign citizens, they are responsible for the great majority of extremist-related deaths in the U.S.

Abdulazeez, on whom there is less information regarding motivation, may well have latched onto the ideas of al-Awlaki—including his encouragement of attacks on military targets—as a way to atone for some of his personal demons, including drugs and alcohol.  Domestic Islamic extremists have in recent years attempted or conducted a large number of terrorist plots, conspiracies and acts, despite being fewer in number than right-wing extremists.

Both men also chose targets typical of their movements.  For Abdulazeez, it was the military; here he followed in the footsteps of Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who killed a soldier at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2009, and Nidal Malik Hassan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, that same year.  Other Islamic extremists have also recently plotted attacks against military targets in the U.S., though without success.mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez

Roof went on a shooting rampage against African-Americans.  Sprees of violence against racial, ethnic, or religious minorities are a common type of white supremacist terrorism.  In recent years, there have been a number of such episodes, including Frazier Glenn Miller’s attacks on Jewish institutions in Overland Park, Kansas, in 2014; Wade Michael Page’s rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012, and Keith Luke’s attacks on African immigrants in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 2009.

Both Roof and Abdulazeez used firearms for their attacks, which is also typical of American terrorism.  Although the public usually thinks of terrorism in terms of bombs, terrorists like Ted Kaczynski and the Boston Marathon bombers are rare in America.  The vast majority of extremist-related murders involve guns—easy to acquire, simple to use, and deadly.  This is why Charleston and Chattanooga number among the 10 deadliest extremist-related attacks of the past 50 years.  Indeed, with the exception of the Oklahoma City bombing, the “top 10” attacks all involved firearms.

Abdulazeez and Roof were both young men, disaffected, facing personal stresses of different kinds (Abdulazeez also suffered from mental illness).  Although terrorism knows no age limits—Nidal Hasan was 39 at the time of his Fort Hood rampage, while white supremacist James Von Brunn, who attacked the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009, was in his late 80s—many of the attacks and plots in recent years by both Islamic and right-wing extremists have been committed by men in their mid-20s or younger.

Like Abdulazeez and Roof, a number of these extremists committed their attacks as lone wolves, unattached to any particular group.  Overall, the number of lethal lone wolf attacks in the past two decades has been fairly low, numbering only a few dozen, but in recent years, lone wolves seem to have been emerging at a faster rate.  One reason may be the increasing role played by the Internet in facilitating self-radicalization.  It was through the Internet that Roof educated himself in white supremacy; it was via the Internet that Abdulazeez downloaded recordings of al-Awlaki.

Here one can see a significant difference between right-wing extremists and domestic Islamic radicals.  While they can both easily immerse themselves in a sea of on-line propaganda designed to instill and reinforce extreme views, right-wing extremist Internet sources are primarily based in the United States and, therefore, must watch what they say.  White supremacists who openly use the Internet to encourage violence and terrorism open themselves up to criminal investigation and, if violence occurs, possible civil liability; as a result, their encouragement of violence is often more implicit than explicit.

Domestic Islamic extremists, in contrast, receive most of their radicalizing messages from abroad, from terrorist groups and like-minded supporters who are freer to use the Internet to call for violence and terrorism within the U.S.  Propaganda from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, for example, was an inspiration for the Boston Marathon bombing.  In the past two years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken such tactics to a new level altogether, employing a virtual army of on-line recruiters who use social media platforms to reach and radicalize susceptible individuals across the globe.  Seeking to instill a deep sense of community and purpose, ISIS supporters encourage Americans to come to the Middle East to help it fight its wars—many of the 80+ U.S. residents linked to Islamic extremist activity since 2014 have made such attempts. But ISIS also urges people to launch attacks in the U.S.

Roof and Abdulazeez were both cold-blooded killers.  Their attacks deeply affected the citizens of Charleston and Chattanooga and, indeed, the whole country, though not always in the same ways.  In particular, the Chattanooga shootings, like some similar attacks before them, stirred anti-Muslim sentiments directed at America’s entire Muslim community, a disturbing phenomenon for which there is no parallel with regard to white supremacist attacks.

But their attacks were similar in that they were both essentially futile, able to achieve little but death and misery.  Indeed, the reactions to the attacks illustrate just how ineffective they actually were.  The Chattanooga attack, for example, inspired an outpouring of support for the U.S. military. The Charleston response was even more powerful.  Far from starting a “race war,” Roof’s slaughter not only brought Charlestonians of all races together but also resulted in a bipartisan effort to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol.

American extremists, of whatever stripe, can hurt and even kill, but the one thing they can’t do is win.

Mr. Segal is an authority on Islamic extremism and terrorism in the United States; Dr. Pitcavage is an expert on right-wing extremism and terrorism in the United States.

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April 14, 2015

New ISIS Videos Threaten U.S. Amid Increase In Domestic Plots

Image promoting new ISIS video

Image promoting new ISIS video

Two new videos released this week by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demonstrate a ramping up of threats against the U.S. as terror groups increasingly call for homegrown attacks against Western countries – and as individuals increasingly appear to be heeding those calls.

Recent arrests of U.S. residents planning domestic attacks in ISIS’s name indicates that such calls for violence can have an impact on Americans motivated by Islamic extremism and the propaganda they find online distributed by ISIS and other terror groups.

There have been five alleged instances of domestic plots in the U.S. in 2015, ranging from conversations about the possibility of attack to actual attempted attacks. All were reportedly planned by individuals claiming allegiance to ISIS.

  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell of Ohio, arrested in January for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad.
  • Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov of New York, arrested in February and charged with material support for terror. Court documents state they were attempt­ing to join ISIS and dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack.
  • Hasan and Jonas Edmonds of Illinois, arrested in March and charged with attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.
  • Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui of New York, arrested in April for allegedly purchasing bomb-making equipment with plans for an attack.
  • John T. Booker and Alexander Blair of Kansas, arrested in April for allegedly attempting to undertake a suicide attack at the Ft. Riley military base.

These are among the 23 U.S. residents arrested on terror charges thus far in 2015, all but two of whom claimed allegiance to ISIS.

Both of the videos released this week feature references to previous terror attacks in Western countries and footage of brutal executions of ISIS victims in Iraq and Syria, as well as encouragement of individually-directed domestic plots.

One of the videos, released on April 10, was titled “We Will Burn America.” It featured footage and praise of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center along with narration in Arabic with English subtitles stating, “September 11 will be repeated.”

The video also features images from the attack on the Paris kosher supermarket and shootings in Canada, both of which were undertaken by individuals acting in ISIS’s name, as well as images of beheadings by ISIS. Its style was reminiscent of ISIS’s feature-film-length propaganda video “Flames of War,” which was shot to resemble an action movie and highlights the group’s ideological claims of a battle between good and evil, Islam and the West.

“We Will Burn America” was released on Twitter with the hashtag #we_will_burn_america. ISIS regularly encourages its supporters to participate in hashtag campaigns designed to artificially create trending items and spread the group’s propaganda. Last summer, the group undertook two hashtag campaigns similarly threatening the U.S., with the hashtags #CalamityWillBefallUS and #AMessageFromISISToUS.

The second video, released April 14, takes the form of a music video encouraging lone-wolf attacks and threatening Western countries. The language is German, with English subtitles. ISIS has released multiple music videos to appeal to young audiences while conveying the group’s messages.

A screenshot from the new ISIS music video

A screenshot from the new ISIS music video

Addressed “to the enemies of Allah,” the video’s narration states that “this is a message and more are going to follow.” The video portrays a man reading the Qu’ran and watching ISIS propaganda on his computer, including graphic videos of beheadings, the burning of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, mass killings, and wounded soldiers. “We want your blood,” it states, “it tastes so wonderful.”

It then shows individuals preparing for different types of domestic attacks, including a stabbing, car bomb, and a suicide bombing in Times Square, as well as learning about gun use and bomb-making online – seemingly examples for would-be domestic attackers and an acknowledgment of the importance of online terrorist propaganda. Images of previous attacks against the West, including the attack against the Paris kosher supermarket, are shown as well. “In France it has been proven by deeds. German sleeper cell are waiting,” it states. “Allah has called you! … Your neighbor is a kaffir (apostate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”

The release of the videos comes as ISIS is losing territory and recruits in the Middle East. Losses by terrorist groups have often corresponded with increased calls for attacks abroad, which do not require resource expenditure by the terror group itself and can then be claimed as victories for the group. Al Shabaab, for example, has similarly released calls for domestic attacks abroad in the past year as it undergoes losses of recruits, leadership, and territory in Somalia and its surrounding countries.

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