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August 29, 2014 0

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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July 31, 2013 0

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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June 20, 2013 0

Syrian Front Attracts American And Foreign Fighters

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Eric Har­roun

Update — Octo­ber 15: Arrest of Orange County man and fate of Pitts­burgh man drawn to Syr­ian front under­scores emerg­ing trend.

Increas­ing num­bers of for­eign fight­ers, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, have been attracted to the con­flict in Syria and are attempt­ing to join the rebels fight­ing against the Assad regime.

Accord­ing to some observers, there are some­where between 5,000 and 6,000 for­eign fight­ers already in Syria, com­pris­ing about 10% of the rebel forces. Esti­mates of fight­ers arriv­ing from Europe vary widely, from fewer than 200 to over 600. Var­i­ous rebel groups have claimed “mar­tyrs” from Britain, Den­mark, France and Ireland.

To date, there have been three 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).

  • Eric Har­roun, a for­mer Amer­i­can sol­dier, was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly con­spir­ing to use a weapon of mass destruc­tion while fight­ing with Jab­hat Al-Nusrah in Syria. While Har­roun was not nec­es­sar­ily recruited, after arriv­ing in Syria he appeared in a pro­pa­ganda video put out by Jab­hat Al-Nusrah. On June 20, Har­roun was indicted on charges of con­spir­acy to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion and con­spir­acy to use a destruc­tive device over­seas. Eric Har­roun 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.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, who was arrested in Chicago in April 2013, allegedly researched ways to join Jab­hat al-Nusrah on the inter­net. He allegedly found a web­site adver­tis­ing itself as pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion to those inter­ested in join­ing “your lion broth­ers of Jab­hat Al-Nusrah who are fight­ing under the true ban­ner of Islam.” The web­site, how­ever, was cre­ated by the FBI to attract poten­tial extremists.
  • Nicole Mans­field, a con­vert to Islam from Michi­gan, was killed in Syria in May 2013. Accord­ing to Syr­ian state-controlled media, she was killed in a car along with two oth­ers, includ­ing a Briton, while fight­ing with the rebels. Syr­ian media claimed that JN’s flag was found in the car.  It should be noted that the Syr­ian regime con­sid­ers all rebel fight­ers and their allies to be ter­ror­ists. Mansfield’s fam­ily did not know she was in Syria, but say that she had been inter­ested in the Arab Spring.

Syr­ian rebel groups, includ­ing JN, have cre­ated social media space and var­i­ous pro­pa­ganda to raise aware­ness, sup­port and poten­tial recruits for their cause in the English-speaking world. These include the exploita­tion of Face­book, blogs, Twit­ter and other platforms.

In the past, Amer­i­cans have proven will­ing to join mil­i­tant groups abroad. For exam­ple, since 2007, at least 52 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged in con­nec­tion with mak­ing trips abroad in attempts to reach ter­ror­ist groups, receive train­ing, or to par­tic­i­pate in ter­ror­ist attacks. Many of these indi­vid­u­als joined Al Shabaab, but other indi­vid­u­als trav­eled abroad to receive train­ing in Pak­istan or to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

The con­flict in Syria has attracted for­eign sup­port not just for the rebel cause, but for the Assad regime as well. Iran’s Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps is report­edly assist­ing the regime, and Hezbol­lah fight­ers have joined with the Syr­ian army in com­bat­ing the rebels.

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