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July 17, 2015

Military Sites And Personnel: A Common Target for Islamic Extremists

The Chattanooga recruiting center attacked by Abdulazeez on July 16, 2015

The recruiting center attacked by Abdulazeez on July 16, 2015

The motive behind Mohammad Yousef Abdulazeez’s attack on two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed four Marines yesterday remains unclear. His actions, however, are consistent with other domestic attacks and plots carried out by U.S. residents motivated by Islamic extremist ideologies.

Military sites and personnel are a common target for Islamic extremists in the U.S. and terrorist propaganda has encouraged violence against military targets. An Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS) propaganda video released April 14, 2015, for example, featured images of dead and wounded soldiers with the captions, “mutilated soldiers are coming back to your homeland close to desperation. Eyes are being lost, bodies without legs, we want your blood….”

Two of the three deadly Islamic extremist attacks in the U.S. since 2009, (the Ft. Hood shooting and the shooting at the Little Rock, Arkansas army recruiting center) were specifically directed at military targets.

  • Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad was 23 years old when he killed one soldier and injured another during a drive by shooting at a military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas. Muhammad, a convert to Islam, admitted shooting the uniformed soldiers “because of what they had done to Muslims in the past” and said that he “would have killed more soldiers had they been in the parking lot.” He also reportedly admitted that he was angry about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to the Little Rock shooting, he had thrown a firebomb at a rabbi’s house  in Nashville, Tennessee, and fired shots at a rabbi’s home in Little Rock. Locations and individuals that are, or are perceived as, Jewish or related to Israel are also regular targets for Islamic extremist plots. Mohammad had also attempted to carry out an additional attack on a military recruiting center in Kentucky.
  • Nidal Malik Hassan, was 39 years old when he killed 13 people at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas, where he had been working as an army psychiatrist. Prior to the attack, Hassan had been in contact with Anwar Al-Awlaki, the U.S. born English-language propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who was killed in a drone strike in 2011. In an interview with a Yemeni journalist, al-Awlaki claimed that Hasan viewed him as a confidant and he said that he “blessed the act because it was against a military target. And the soldiers who were killed were not normal soldiers, but those who were trained and prepared to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

There have been numerous other plots against military institutions and personnel in the years since the Fort Hood and Little Rock attacks in 2009. The following is a sampling of those plots that targeted specific military facilities in the U.S. since 2009:

  • April 10, 2015: John T. Booker, Jr., a 20-year-old U.S. citizen from Kansas was arrested and charged with attempting to undertake a suicide attack at Ft. Riley military base.
  • March 26, 2015: Hasan Edmonds, a 22-year-old U.S. citizen from Illinois and Jonas Edmonds, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen from Illinois, were arrested and charged with attempting to join ISIS. Court documents indicate the two were also formulating a plot against the National Guard armory in Juliet where Hasan, a member of the National Guard, had trained, using Hasan’s uniform and his knowledge of the site.
  • February 2015: An Unnamed 16-year-old minor from South Carolina was arrested for a plot to undertake a shooting at a North Carolina military institution and then travel to join ISIS. He was charged as a minor in possession of a pistol and sentenced in March 2015 to five years in juvenile detention, followed by counseling.
  • February 2, 2015: Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamud, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen from Ohio, was arrested and charged with joining Jabhat al Nusra. Court documents indicate that Muhamud returned to the U.S. with the intention of committing an attack against a Texas military base.
  • February 7, 2014: Erwin Antonio Rios, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested in 2013 and charged with possession of a stolen firearm. He is believed to have been planning to murder U.S. military personnel at Ft. Bragg.
  • September 29, 2011: Rezwan Matin Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested for planning to fly explosives-packed model airplanes into the Pentagon in order to “disable their (the American) military center.”
  • July 27, 2011:Naser Jason Abdo, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen, was charged in July 2011 with planning to bomb a restaurant frequented by Ft. Hood personnel and then to target the survivors with firearms. Abdo yelled “Nidal Hasan Fort Hood 2009” while leaving his first court appearance.
  • June 23, 2011: Yonathan Melaku, a 23-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Ethiopia, was arrested after he fired shots at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Iwo Jima memorial and the Pentagon.
  • June 23, 2011: Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, a 33-year-old U.S. citizen and Walli Majahidh, a 32-year-old U.S. citizen were arrested for a plot to attack a Military Entrance Processing Site in Seattle, Washington.
  • December 8, 2010: Antonio Martinez, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen and a recent convert to Islam, was charged with attempting to detonate what he believed was a car bomb at an army recruiting center in Catonsville, Maryland.
  • November 5, 2009: As described above, Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old U.S. citizen and army psychiatrist, killed 12 soldiers and one civilian in a shooting at the Fort Hood army base.
  • July 27, 2009: Daniel Patrick Boyd, a 39-year-old U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was arrested together with his sons, Dylan Boyd (22) and Zakariya Boyd (20), and four other North Carolina residents – Ziyad Yaghi (21), Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan (22), Anes Subasic (33), Hysen Sherifi (24) and Jude Kenan Muhammad (20) – with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel in connection with Boyd’s alleged surveillance of a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Boyd had obtained maps of the military base to plan the attack and possessed armor piercing ammunition to “attack the Americans,” according to the Department of Justice.
  • June 1, 2009: As described above, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen and a convert to Islam, was arrested following his attack at the Little Rock, Arkansas military recruiting center that killed one soldier.
  • May 20, 2009: U.S. citizens James Cromitie (44), David Williams (28) and Onta Williams (32) and Haitian native Laguerre Payen (23) were arrested for a plot that involved planting what they believed were bombs in cars outside of the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center. They also plotted to destroy military aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base located at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York.

There have also been instances of individuals who discussed attacking the military or military personnel more broadly, but did not have specific targets. They include Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas, who were arrested in 2015 and allegedly discussed bombing a military or government target;  Mufid Elfgeeh, who was arrested in 2014 and allegedly intended to shoot military personnel; and Jose Pimentel, who was arrested in 2011 and plotted to attack military personnel and other targets.

Others reportedly considered attacking military institutions but then chose other targets instead. For example, Alexander Ciccolo was arrested in 2015 and allegedly discussed targeting the military before deciding to attack a university, and Amine El Khalifi, who was arrested in 2012 and allegedly discussed targeting the military before deciding to attack the Capital building.

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December 24, 2014

13th Issue of AQAP Inspire Calls for Attacks Against U.S. Airliners


Inspire 13 cover image

Update: 12/24/2013 – Following notification by the ADL, YouTube has removed the video promoting Inspire 13 from its site.

The 13th issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s English language magazine, released on December 24, lays out a strategy for defeating the U.S. by attacking American military technology, manpower, media and economy, and encourages lone wolf attacks against commercial airplanes and financial figures.

The central feature of the magazine, entitled “The Hidden Bomb” presents step-by-step, illustrated instructions for constructing a home-made easily portable bomb inside 17cm of a plastic water bottle case.  These instructions follow previous issues of Inspire that included instructions for pressure cooker bombs and car bombs, as well as suggestions for other types of attacks such as running civilians over with cars.

This issue of Inspire suggests that the bombs be used against U.S. commercial airliners – specifically American Airlines, Delta, United or Continental, and ideally over U.S. soil. It also provides advice as to the best location on the plane and altitude at which to detonate the device.

If an attack on a U.S. airliner is not feasible, the magazine suggests attacking British companies British Airways or Easy Jet, or French companies AirFrance or AirFrance KL. A different article further clarifies the priorities of attack, stating that, “the first priority and the main focus should be on America, then the United Kingdom, then France…. This goes on with the NATO countries as per the known order.”

The guide claims that this bomb can be hidden in a part of the body not included in airport pat-downs and is undetectable by dogs, odor-detecting machines, or metal detectors. The article states that the bomb is detectable by millimeter wave scanners, but the magazine advises that “in most cases they are not used in local airports.”

Inspire 13 also encourages assassinations of American financial leaders listed as “economic personalities” such as Ben Bernanke or “wealthy entrepreneurs” such as Bill Gates. It advises that if those personalities remove their money from U.S. banks, stop investing in the U.S., and declare that they disagree with American policies, they will not be targeted.

The magazine also includes several sections highlighting the actions of Al Qaeda members and individuals that it claims undertook violent actions on behalf of the extremist cause. These include Alton Nolan of Oklahoma, Michael Zehaf Bebeau of Quebec, Martin Rouleau-Couture of Ottowa, Zale Thompson of New York and Man Haron Monis of Australia – the majority of whom seem to have undertaken attacks through some combination of personal violent tendencies and encouragement from terrorist propaganda  but have not been associated with terrorist movements.

Image from the magazine advocating lone wolf attacks

Image from the magazine advocating lone wolf attacks

“The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst nightmare,” states one article.

In some sections, it attempts to exploit controversial issues in the U.S. as rationales for joining terrorist movements. For example, a short quote states, “If I am an Afro-American living in Ferguson – I’d rather be labeled a terrorist.” One article presented as an interview with an AQAP member states U.S. torture of Muslim prisoners as a reason to attack the U.S.

The majority of justifications presented for attacking the U.S., however, have been utilized by Al Qaeda and its affiliates since the group’s founding: Attacks should be undertaken because of alleged American support for current regimes in Muslim countries;; support for the Russian and Indian governments in their fights against terrorism; and having “surrendered to the Jews” in supporting the State of Israel.

Like other issues of Inspire, it also attempts to draw readers in by asking provocative questions and making the attack sound simple. “It’s not necessary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did,” notes a poem in the magazine, “it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (of the Fort Hood shooting) did.”

Other sections of the magazine include an essay commemorating Tamerlan Tsarnaev of the Boston Marathon Bombing, quotes about Inspire by American academics and government officials, and a “Message for the American People Regarding the Killing of Luke Somers,” the American journalist taken hostage by AQAP and killed during a rescue mission earlier this month.

This edition of Inspire was released together with a promotional video that featured images from the magazine to the backdrop of a song in English that included the lyrics, “The battle for the hearts and minds will continue till the kuffar (apostates or disbelievers) in vice,” “Inspiring the believers to jihad has become the newest fad,” and, “America you are being watched…the mujahideen (religious fighters) are coming for you.”

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 (attempted bombing in NYC) and Abdel Daoud (attempted bombing in Chicago).

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March 18, 2014

New Terror Magazines Highlight Al Qaeda Commitment To Recruitment In U.S.

Inspire 12 back imageAl Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s March 15 release of a new issue of its English-language propaganda magazine, Inspire, coupled with Al Qaeda’s March 9 announcement of its new English-language magazine, Resurgence, demonstrates terrorist groups’ persistent commitment to radicalizing a new generation of homegrown Islamic extremists through its online initiatives.

The Spring 2014 issue of Inspire provides detailed instructions on how to build a car bomb, with suggestions of locations to plant them in New York City, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as in the UK and France. “Many Feisal Shahzads are residing inside America,” explains the editor referring to the man who attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square in 2010, “and all they need is the knowledge of how to make car bombs….The American government was unable to protect its citizens from pressure cooker bombs in backpacks [a reference to the Boston marathon bombing], I wonder if they are ready to stop car bombs!”

As in the past, the new issue is replete with anti-Semitic statements and highlights the supposed existence of a “Jewish enemy” to recruit terrorists.

The latest issue of Inspire also refers to several homegrown Islamic extremists that the publication claims to have influenced, including the Tsarnaev brothers who were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing; Nidal Hasan of the Fort Hood shooting, and Feisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber.

Shortly before the release of this newest issue of Inspire, As-Sahab, the media arm of Al Qaeda’s central organization, released a slick video promoting a new terrorist magazine called Resurgence on March 9, 2014. The new magazine is likely modeled after Inspire, which has influenced numerous homegrown Islamic extremists since 2010, including the Boston bombers.

The promotional video for Resurgence, created in “kinetic typography” designed for English speaking audiences, includes a voiceover from a Malcolm X speech on violence. Over video footage of the Boston Marathon bombing, the voiceover says: “They only know one language,” alluding to violence. “You can’t ever reach a man,” the voiceover continues, “if you don’t speak his language.”

A new ADL report, Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2013:The Perils of Online Recruitment & Self-Radicalization analyzes the rise of such online propaganda and its effects and impact on domestic security. In addition, the report looks back at 2013, when 14 American citizens or permanent residents were implicated in the U.S. on terror-related charges, ranging from domestic plots and conspiracies to providing material support to terrorists abroad. Many were directly influenced by propaganda easily accessible online, including the Boston bombers.

As Internet proficiency and the use of social media grow ever more universal, so too do the efforts of terrorist groups to exploit new technology in order to make materials that justify and sanction violence more accessible.

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