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September 5, 2014 1

The American Face of Foreign Terror Recruits

marcos-alonso-zea-terrorism

Mar­cos Alonso Zea of New York attempted to join AQAP

U.S. intel­li­gence esti­mates indi­cate that sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of Amer­i­cans – as few as a dozen or as many as 300, accord­ing to some offi­cials – have trav­eled abroad to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Although most of these indi­vid­u­als have not been pub­licly iden­ti­fied, con­crete infor­ma­tion is avail­able about 20 Amer­i­cans who fought or attempted to travel abroad since the begin­ning of 2013. An analy­sis of their back­grounds pro­vides inter­est­ing sta­tis­tics that may sup­ple­ment our under­stand­ing of the peo­ple attracted to ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions and pro­vide clues about the many addi­tional, uniden­ti­fied Amer­i­cans believed to have trav­eled abroad.

For exam­ple, the infor­ma­tion tells us that:

  • They range in age from 18 to 44, but the major­ity are in their 20s.
  • Nine of them joined or attempted to join ISIS.
  • Six of them joined or attempted to join the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Syria Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Three of them joined or attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) in Yemen.
  • 13 of the 20, or 65%, are report­edly con­verts to Islam.
  • They come from across the coun­try: Six came from Cal­i­for­nia, two each from Min­nesota, Michi­gan, North Car­olina, Florida and New York. Other states rep­re­sented include Texas, Penn­syl­va­nia, Illi­nois, Mass­a­chu­setts and Arizona.
  • Only two of the 20 were women. (ADL has doc­u­mented 13 female cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the U.S. arrested on ter­ror­ism charges since 2002.)

The num­ber of Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied as attempt­ing to join ISIS spiked sharply in 2014. Seven of the nine Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied above attempted to join the ter­ror group just this year.  Whereas in 2013, half of the Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied attempted to join the con­flict in Syria, but only one to ISIS.

This influx of Amer­i­cans attempt­ing to join ISIS is tak­ing place as ISIS steps ups its threats against the U.S., includ­ing behead­ing Amer­i­cans and expand­ing its sophis­ti­cated online media cam­paign designed to moti­vate and recruit westerners.

Indeed, con­fir­ma­tion by U.S. offi­cials that two Amer­i­can men with links to Min­nesota were killed last month in Syria is the lat­est indi­ca­tion that ISIS has replaced Al Shabaab in Soma­lia as the ter­ror­ist des­ti­na­tion of choice for Amer­i­can mil­i­tants. 

A full list of names follows:

  • Ahmad Abousamra of Mass­a­chu­setts: Believed to be work­ing with ISIS in Iraq or Syria (iden­ti­fied in 2014).
  • Abdi­rah­maan Muhumed of Min­nesota: Killed in Syria in August 2014 appar­ently fight­ing with ISIS.
  • Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain of Cal­i­for­nia: Killed in Syria in August 2014, appar­ently fight­ing with ISIS.
  • Don­ald Ray Mor­gan of North Car­olina: Arrested in August 2014 on firearm charges; believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Adam Dan­dach of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in July 2014 on pass­port fraud charges; believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas: Arrested in June 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Moner Abu-Salha of Florida: Killed in a sui­cide attack he car­ried out in May 2014 on behalf of Jab­hat al Nusra.

    moner-abu-salha-nusra

    Moner Abu-Salha of Florida joined Jab­hat al Nusra

  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley of Col­orado: Arrested in April 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Mohammed Has­san Ham­dan of Michi­gan: Arrested in March 2014 for attempt­ing to join Hezbol­lah in Syria.
  • Nicholas Teau­sant of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in March 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh of North Car­olina: Arrested Novem­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Mar­cos Alonso Zea of New York: Arrested in Octo­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.
  • Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Octo­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join Al Qaeda. Nguyen had pre­vi­ously fought in Syria.
  • Amir Farouq Ibrahim, of Penn­syl­va­nia: Assumed dead in July 2013 and believed to have fought with ISIS.
  • Justin Kaliebe of New York: Arrested in June 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.
  • Nicole Mans­field of Michi­gan: Killed in May 2013, report­edly fight­ing with Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinios: Arrested in April 2013 for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Eric Har­roun of Ari­zona: Arrested in March 2013 for trav­el­ing to Syria to fight with Jab­hat al Nusra. He pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in Sep­tem­ber, 2013, and was sen­tenced to time served. That Har­roun fought in Syria is uncon­tested; how­ever, reports dif­fer as to whether he fought with Jab­hat al Nusra or with the Syr­ian Free Army, which is not con­sid­ered a ter­ror­ist organization.
  • Matthew Aaron Llaneza of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Feb­ru­ary 2013 for attempted domes­tic ter­ror­ism and plans to travel to join the Tal­iban in Afghanistan.
  • Shel­ton Thomas Bell of Florida: Arrested in Jan­u­ary 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.

In addi­tion to those indi­vid­u­als above, two appar­ent Amer­i­cans have been fea­tured in pro­pa­ganda videos from Syria, although their iden­ti­ties have not been fully verified:

  • A man called Abu Abdu­rah­man al-Trinidadi, allegedly Amer­i­can of Trinida­dian ori­gin, fea­tured sup­port­ing ISIS in a video released in August 2014.
  • A man called Abu Dujana al-Amriki, allegedly Amer­i­can, fea­tured sup­port­ing ISIS in a video released Novem­ber 2013.

Yet another Amer­i­can has been iden­ti­fied as fight­ing with ISIS because of his death in a Syr­ian airstrike in Sep­tem­ber 2014. Fur­ther infor­ma­tion about that indi­vid­ual has not yet been released.

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September 23, 2013 0

Al Shabaab Claims Americans Took Part In Mall Attack In Kenya

Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-linked ter­ror­ist group that has claimed respon­si­bil­ity for attack­ing Nairobi’s West­gate mall on Sat­ur­day, has indi­cated via its Twit­ter account that three Amer­i­cans took part in the assault that has killed over 60 peo­ple and injured over 150 oth­ers thus far.al-shabaab-recruits

Al Shabaab pro­vided the names of the Amer­i­cans on its Twit­ter account; Ahmed Mohamed Isse of St. Paul, Min­nesota, Abd­i­fa­tah Osman Keenadiid of Min­neapo­lis, and Gen Mustafe Noorudiin of Kansas City, Missouri.

Since 2007, dozens of Amer­i­cans have trav­elled to Soma­lia to fight with Al Shabaab. Many of these Amer­i­cans have received weapons train­ing along­side recruits from other coun­tries, and have used the train­ing to fight against the Tran­si­tional Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment of Soma­lia and the inter­na­tional forces that have backed it. At least three of these Amer­i­can recruits have engaged in sui­cide bomb­ings in Somalia.

One such recruit from Min­neapo­lis, 22-year-old Abid­salan Hus­sein Ali, was one of two sui­cide bombers who attacked African Union troops in Octo­ber 2011. The first Amer­i­can Al Shabaab sui­cide bomber, Shirwa Ahmed, car­ried out a sui­cide bomb­ing at the Ethiopian Con­sulate and the pres­i­den­tial palace in Hargeisa in Octo­ber 2009. The sec­ond, Farah Mohamad Beledi, car­ried out a sui­cide bomb­ing in May 2011, tar­get­ing a mil­i­tary base out­side Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Most of the Amer­i­can men that have trained with Al Shabaab are believed to have been rad­i­cal­ized in the U.S., and have been recruited by Al Shabaab both on the Inter­net and in per­son. Omar Ham­mami, an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen from Alabama, is per­haps the most well-known Amer­i­can recruiter for Al Shabaab. The group dis­sem­i­nated online pro­pa­ganda videos fea­tur­ing Ham­mami to recruit young Amer­i­can men to join its insurgency.omar-hammami-twitter

Ham­mami was report­edly exe­cuted in Soma­lia last week by his for­mer asso­ciates. Ham­mami appar­ently split with Al Shabaab 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].”

Although most of Al Shabaab’s vio­lent acts have occurred within Somalia’s bor­ders, it has expressed a will­ing­ness to attack out­side tar­gets. In July 2010 it com­mit­ted twin bomb­ings against tar­gets in Uganda that killed more than 70 peo­ple, includ­ing an Amer­i­can aid worker. Dan­ish intel­li­gence offi­cials have alleged that an attempt to kill a Dan­ish car­toon­ist who printed con­tro­ver­sial car­toons depict­ing the Prophet Muham­mad in 2005 by a Somali national six months before the Uganda is linked to Al Shabaab as well.

The group has also declared an “open bat­tle” against Israel, which it deems the “oppress­ing Zion­ist entity,” and Jew­ish inter­ests in Africa. Israelis owned stores in the West­gate mall and the attack under­scores Al Shabaab’s bat­tle with Jews and Israel.

See ADL’s Report: Al Shabaab’s Amer­i­can Recruits

 

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