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December 24, 2014

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

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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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November 19, 2014

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

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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