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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. 


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.


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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May 13, 2014

Al Shabaab English Video Includes Calls For “Lone Wolf” Attacks


Image from the conclusion of Al-Shabaab’s new video

A new English-language video issued by Al Shabaab, the Somali Al Qaeda affiliate, calls on Muslims living abroad to either undertake “a lone wolf mission” in their home countries or to travel abroad to join foreign terrorist organizations.

Al Shabaab has long been active in recruiting Westerners, and particularly Americans, to its cause. Between 2007 and 2012, over 60 U.S. citizens and permanent residents attempted to aid or join the terrorist organization.

The video comes in the midst of an upsurge in sophisticated English-language propaganda disseminated by terrorist organizations over the internet that is aimed at encouraging Americans and other Westerners to undertake violent actions.

Other Al Qaeda groups, such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have long advised their ideological adherents to undertake lone wolf attacks and domestic radicalization rather than travel abroad.

However, Al Shabaab had previously been more focused on strengthening its organization in Somalia. By presenting Muslims abroad with a choice between material support and lone wolf action rather than only calling on them to travel to Somalia, though, this video may mark a shift in Al Shabaab’s strategy.

The video is the fifth in a series called “Mujahideen Moments” but is the first to be presented exclusively in English.

In addition to its call for violent activity, it also references Al Shabaab’s 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, as a positive example for those contemplating terrorism abroad.

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February 26, 2013

Al Shabaab Highlights Global Role in New Video

Al Shabaab, the Somalia branch of Al Qaeda, released a new English-language and English-subtitled video yesterday directed at Western audiences. 

The video, “Mujahideen Moments,” highlights the role of foreign fighters in the terrorist organization, featuring statements and speeches by two Kenyans and an American, identified only as “Abu Ahmed al-Amriki.”

Abu Ahmed’s face is obscured in the video and it is impossible at this point to verify his true identity.  Abu Ahmed urges listeners to join the battlefronts “whether it’s here in Somalia, whether it’s in Mali, whether it’s in Afghanistan, whether it’s in Iraq, or whether it’s in Al-Maghrib Al-Islami [North Africa],” saying that they should fight because there are no excuses from the obligation of jihad.  He also promises victory and that “America is going down, and the Khilafah [Caliphate] is rising.”

The video encourages foreigners to join jihad, or if they cannot travel, to “fight the enemies of Allah where you find them.”

While Al Shabaab has long used foreign fighters in its propaganda to attract Western recruits, the video seems to be, in part, a response to its former American spokesperson, Omar Hammami. Hammami apparently split with the group over his belief that it was interested only in local politics and the fight in Somalia, rather than the cause of a global ”jiahd of the entire Ummah [Muslim nation].” In messages released late last year, Hammami highlighted the tensions between “the muhajireen [Arabs and foreign fighters] and the Ansar [local supporters of Al Shabaab].”

By featuring foreign fighters in the video, especially Abu Ahmed, Al Shabaab may be trying to counter Hammami’s allegations and show that it maintains a significant international support base.

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