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November 19, 2014 0

Recent Arrest Highlights ISIS Recruitment of Women

The recent arrest of a Vir­ginia woman on charges related to her sup­port for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) high­lights the grow­ing phe­nom­e­non of female mem­bers and sup­port­ers of ISIS – a trend linked to ISIS pro­pa­ganda and recruit­ment efforts aimed directly at women.

ADL doc­u­mented eight female U.S. cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents who have been sus­pected of involve­ment with ter­ror­ist groups in 2014 (only four were arrested; the oth­ers were minors).  This is a sharp uptick: ADL doc­u­mented only 12 female U.S. cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents arrested on ter­ror charges between 2002 and 2013.

Six of the women believed to have engaged in ter­ror­ist activ­ity 2014 are accused of involve­ment with ISIS. Esti­mates indi­cate that about 10% of the group’s West­ern recruits are female.

Heather Eliz­a­beth Coff­man, the most recent woman arrested in con­nec­tion with her sup­port for ISIS, had allegedly main­tained sev­eral Face­book accounts on which she posted pro-ISIS mes­sages and pro­pa­ganda. Coff­man claimed that she could facil­i­tate travel to join ISIS for poten­tial recruits, offer­ing to con­nect them with ter­ror­ists abroad. She denied these activ­i­ties in an inter­view with law enforce­ment and is charged with lying to fed­eral agents about her involve­ment with ISIS.

ISIS mes­sag­ing to women empha­sizes their poten­tial roles as the wives of fight­ers and moth­ers to the next gen­er­a­tion of extrem­ists. The ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion has even estab­lished media wings aimed at women.

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Poster announc­ing the cre­ation of Al Zora Foundation

One such media out­let, Al Zora Foun­da­tion, pub­lishes recipes and first aid sug­ges­tions together with posters of women in burkas declar­ing alle­giance to ISIS. A recipe for dates with mil­let, for exam­ple, is pro­vided as a “fast mild appe­tizer eaten with cof­fee that pro­vides food for the muha­jideen (fighters)…they are high in calo­ries and pro­vide the Mujahideen energy and strength.”

Al Zora has also pro­vided advice to women seek­ing to travel to join ISIS. “How many female Mus­lims are dis­tin­guished from all female Mus­lims where her concern…and her life aspi­ra­tion is the explo­sive belt?” asks one memo, fol­lowed by advice for these women to learn first aid, sewing, and cook­ing, and to par­tic­i­pate in exer­cise and weapons train­ing, as well as extra prayers and sup­pli­ca­tions that they can use to aid the fight­ers and teach other women upon their arrival in Syria. “Imag­ine with me, oh sis­ter,” it states in the sec­tion on sewing, “if a muja­heed, a brother to you in Allah, is mar­tyred and his jihadi clothes that he wore and in which he walked, trained, waged jihad, and afflicted the enemy of Allah, were made by your hands.”

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A Khansa media poster announc­ing a new series of posters for female ISIS supporters

Another media out­let, Khansa Media, releases posters and ban­ners with ISIS pro­pa­ganda state­ments set along­side flow­ers and pink back­grounds. It has recently intro­duced a series of posters pro­claim­ing the “virtues of women.” A video announc­ing the relaunch of Khansa media this Sep­tem­ber stated, “We send our mes­sage to [Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter] al-Maliki and his army that we are ready for him, and we will remain as assets and sup­port for our hus­bands and our chil­dren,” fol­lowed by clips depict­ing women train­ing with weapons.

Both Khansa media and Al Zora also reg­u­larly repost and retweet pro­pa­ganda from ISIS’s pri­mary media out­lets. Some­times they also add their logos to the cor­ners of posters prais­ing dead fight­ers and the glo­ries of battle.

Mul­ti­ple female sup­port­ers of ISIS also engage with the group’s con­tent on social media, includ­ing Face­book, Twit­ter, and Ask.FM. These sup­port­ers post typ­i­cal ISIS pro­pa­ganda about fight­ing and behead­ings along­side state­ments about mod­esty and extrem­ist Islam. They empha­size their chil­dren (often their Twit­ter han­dles begin with the word “umm” which means ‘mother of’ fol­lowed by a child’s name) and every­day life, while pro­vid­ing tips to poten­tial recruits and actively encour­ag­ing oth­ers to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the ter­ror­ist group.

Women engag­ing with ter­ror­ist groups is not a new phe­nom­e­non, nor is it ISIS spe­cific. Two of the women arrested in 2014 who were not involved with ISIS are accused of sup­port­ing Al Shabaab, the Somali Al Qaeda affil­i­ate. In pre­vi­ous years, women have been arrested for causes as diverse as attempt­ing to estab­lish a ter­ror cell abroad to send­ing funds and aid to var­i­ous ter­ror groups to attempt­ing to kill U.S. per­son­nel abroad.

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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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August 20, 2014 0

Americans Respond To ISIS Recruitment

Update– 8/27/14: Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain of San Diego, died while fight­ing with ISIS in Syria in August 2014.

Even as it fights on a num­ber of fronts in the Mid­dle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al Qaeda-inspired ter­ror­ist group that claims sov­er­eignty in sec­tions of Syria and Iraq, con­tin­ues to recruit west­ern­ers through its sophis­ti­cated online pro­pa­ganda cam­paign.al-hayat-ad-propaganda

Some Amer­i­cans are heed­ing the call.

In 2014, five of the six Amer­i­cans arrested in the U.S. for attempt­ing to join the con­flict in Syria and Iraq were accused of attempt­ing to join ISIS: Don­ald Ray Mor­gan of North Car­olina in August (arrested on weapons charges but believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS); Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley of Col­orado in July; Adam Dandich of Cal­i­for­nia in July (charged with pass­port fraud but believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS); Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas in June; and Nicholas Teau­sant of Cal­i­for­nia in March. The sixth, Mohammed Has­san Ham­dan of Michi­gan, allegedly attempted to fight in Syria with Hezbol­lah.

Fur­ther­more, In June the FBI said it launched an inves­ti­ga­tion into 15 Somali Amer­i­cans from Min­nesota believed to have joined ISIS.

At least two other Amer­i­cans have appeared in videos released by ISIS and Jab­hat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Syria.A video released in August 2014 fea­tured an alleged Amer­i­can national called Abu Abdu­rah­man al-Trinidadi encour­ag­ing oth­ers to join ISIS. And in May, Moner Abu Salha of Florida was iden­ti­fied in a Jab­hat al-Nusra video as hav­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in a sui­cide attack.

U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials esti­mate that over 100 Amer­i­can nation­als have trav­elled to join the con­flict in Syria, a con­flict that has since spread to Iraq.

The effect of ISIS’ increased strength and noto­ri­ety, as well as its advanced online recruit­ment strate­gies, appear to be hav­ing an effect. Of the seven known Amer­i­cans who either trav­eled to or attempted to travel to Syria to fight with mil­i­tants last year, only one was believed to have fought with ISIS; a video released online in Novem­ber 2013 fea­tured an appar­ent Amer­i­can called Abu Dujana al-Amriki, prais­ing ISIS.

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