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March 6, 2015

VA Arrest Raises Total Of Americans Linked To ISIS Since 2014 To 30

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ISIS militants

The arrest of a 17-year-old Virginia teenager on charges that he had supported the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) brings the number of American citizens and residents publicly identified as linked with ISIS since January 2014 to 30.

The teenager, who has not been named, allegedly helped another man travel to Syria to join ISIS, at least in part, by using online resources and the help of online contacts.

He is one of eight American teenagers alleged to have attempted to provide support for ISISin the past two years. The others included 19-year-old Mohamed Hamzah Khan and his two unnamed siblings, aged 16 and 17, from Chicago who attempted to join ISIS, three unnamed girls aged 15, 16 and 17, from Denver, who attempted to join ISIS and Shannon Maureen Conley, a 19-year-old Denver woman who, in a separate incident, also attempted to join ISIS.

In total, 11 U.S. citizens and residents have been linked with ISIS in 2015, with arrests made in Virginia, New York, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

Nineteen were believed to have attempted to join or aid ISIS – or died while fighting with the group – in 2014.

Earlier this month, ISIS claimed via social media accounts and radio broadcasts that another American, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Daud al Amriki, died as part of a suicide attack.  His death and identity are still unconfirmed.

These individuals comprise only a fraction of the total number of Americans believed to have joined or attempted to join or aid ISIS. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said current estimates indicate that about 180 Americans have attempted to join the fight in Syria. It is unclear how many of those Americans attempted to join ISIS, as opposed to other militant groups.

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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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September 5, 2014

The American Face of Foreign Terror Recruits

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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.

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    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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