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November 13, 2013

North Carolina Arrest Marks 6th American In 2013 Associated With Al Qaeda In Syria

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Basit Javed Sheikh

A North Carolina man was arrested November 2 on charges of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusra. His arrest underscores a continued trend of American citizens and permanent residents attempting to join terrorist groups in the Syrian conflict; it marks the fourth such arrest and sixth publicly disclosed case of Americans fighting or attempting to fight in Syria this year.  It also demonstrates the increasing power of Facebook and other social media platforms in terrorist recruitment and propaganda.

Basit Javed Sheikh is a 29 year-old permanent resident originally from Pakistan, residing in Cary, North Carolina. His arrest marked his third failed attempt to travel to Syria – attempts that were made and advertised over social media.

Since January 2013, Sheikh allegedly created at least seven Facebook accounts with the pseudonym Abdul Basit or Abdul Basit II. During that time, a number of those accounts were shut down by Facebook for being in violation of its terms of use, but he persisted in creating more. At this time, there appear to be two active accounts likely belonging to Sheikh. The first, Abdul Basit II, was created October 21 and is already heavily populated with posts extolling terrorism worldwide – ranging from praising the Pakistani Taliban to showing an Islamist fighter pointing at Jerusalem to an image of Islamist militants with an quote from Islamic sources saying, “A section of my community will continue to fight for the right and overcome their opponents till the last of them fights with the Antichrist.” The second currently active profile, Abdul Basit, was created October 29, 2013, and has a gun as its profile picture.

Sheikh allegedly was even more active on his older Facebook profiles. According to an affidavit in support of his arrest warrant, he regularly used the site to post jihadist videos and propaganda and to interact with other extremists. In addition to being a member of a now-defunct Jabhat al-Nusrah Facebook group, Sheikh allegedly posted multiple times about the war in Syria and about the need to join the fighting there, and quoted a number of sources praising martyrdom.  He also allegedly posted videos and comments calling for the death and punishment of American leaders and soldiers, including one video that said, “Let the mujahideen kill them and destroy them…Allah give victory to Sheikh Usama [bin Laden].”

Sheikh also appears to have been included in conversations of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. In one thread of an online forum, he was included in a note blaming Jews for “intentionally spread[ing]” moderate – or, as the thread called it, “wrong” – interpretations of Islam that, among other things, “states that jihad is HARAM [forbidden].”

Sheikh had initially travelled to Syria in the fall of 2012, when he reportedly joined the Free Syrian army but left because he disagreed with the group’s motivations. He then booked a flight in September 2013, but did not follow through because he “could not muster the strength to leave his parents.” His continued Facebook posts, however, suggested that he was determined to try again.

Ultimately, it was Sheikh’s alleged online activity that led to his arrest on his third attempt. After joining a Facebook page created by the FBI that purported to promote extremist Islam, Sheikh allegedly began to regularly converse with an FBI agent over Facebook, Skype, and email. According to the affidavit, he made a new set of travel plans to Syria in consultation with the agent, insisting that he was eager to fight in jihad even when told he could back out, and was arrested at the airport.

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.

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July 27, 2012

Conference the Latest Sign of Increased Anti-Immigrant Activity in North Carolina

On August 10-11, 2012, an anti-immigrant conference will take place in Wilmington, North Carolina titled, “IIImpact – illegal immigration and the cost to YOU!” The list of conference speakers was announced on July 23 and brings together many of the main anti-immigrant voices in the state as well as some speakers known for their anti-Muslim statements and associations.

The conference is the latest example of an increase in activity by the anti-immigrant players in North Carolina. In 2011, the NC House created the House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy. The Committee has had numerous hearings throughout 2012 and has provided a platform for anti-immigrant and immigrant rights activists to voice their opinions. On June 13, 2012, for example, anti-immigrant leaders including William Gheen, James Johnson and Ron Woodard met with Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-District 98) to discuss immigration issues. It is unclear at this time what the attendance of the conference will be but anti-immigrant groups in North Carolina have been encouraging people to go to the event for a number of weeks.

Scheduled speakers at the August event include:

William Gheen – Founder/head of the anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC). Gheen has a long history of hateful rhetoric towards immigrants.  ADL has a lengthy profile on Gheen which can be read here.

James Johnson – Founder/head of the anti-immigrant group North Carolinians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (NCIFRE). On his Facebook page, Johnson has circulated material from the racist Web site, VDARE.com and the white supremacist group, American Renaissance. Johnson has also attended FAIR’s “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event in the past. 

Ron Woodard – president of the anti-immigrant group, NC Listen. NC Listen is listed on the Web site of the extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) as a local affiliate for North Carolina. NC Listen’s mission statement says that it “partners” with FAIR. Woodard has also attended FAIR’s annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event in the past. 

Sheriff Sam Page (R-Rockingham) will also be speaking. Page spoke to Congressional Leaders at an event put together by FAIR in May 2012.  In October 2011, Page participated in a panel titled, “Crime Challenges from Illegal Immigration” which was sponsored and moderated by the anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). 

Ilario Pantano – A former candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and 2012, Pantano has promoted anti-Muslim sentiment. Pantano spoke at both the 2010 and 2011 9/11 rallies in New York City put on by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller. He has also written the following about the Islamic center close to ground zero: “It is about marking religious, ideological and territorial conquest.” He continued by stating, “This mosque is a martyr-marker honoring the terrorists who less than a decade ago killed thousands of us just two blocks away, and it must be stopped.”

Sue Myrick – retiring NC Congresswoman (R-District 9) who also has a history of anti-Muslim sentiment – she has spoken at the national conference of ACT! for America, one of the largest anti-Muslim groups in the country. She also wrote a forward for the book, Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize America.

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