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November 21, 2013

Continued Concerns Over Wave Of Americans Fighting In Syria

eric-harroun-jabhat-al-nusrah-syria

Eric Harroun was indicted on charges of con­spir­acy to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion.

Update – 11/22/13: An Eng­lish lan­guage video glo­ri­fy­ing Islamist rebel groups in Syria and appar­ently fea­tur­ing an Amer­i­can was released ear­lier this month by The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate fight­ing in Syria.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday said that “dozens” of Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to fight against the Assad regime.

ADL released a report in June highlighting the increasing numbers of American cit­i­zens drawn to the conflict in Syria and joining terrorist groups. As noted in the report, since 2007, over 50 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been charged in con­nec­tion with attempts to join ter­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula in Yemen, as well as Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.

Details of six cases in which Americans joined or attempted to join the conflict in Syria have been made public in 2013. Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of California, Amir Farouk Ibrahim of Pennsylvania, and Nicole Mansfield of Michigan all successfully joined the conflict. Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinois and Basit Javed Sheikh of North Carolina attempted to join but were arrested en route. In addition, Eric Har­roun of Arizona 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.

The  number of Americans attempting to travel abroad to train and fight with terrorist groups continues to raise serious concerns about extremists using their American passports to return to the U.S. in order to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.

Syr­ian rebel groups, includ­ing the Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have cre­ated social media space and propa­ganda to raise aware­ness, sup­port and poten­tial recruits for their cause in the Englishspeaking world. These include the exploita­tion of Face­book, blogs, Twit­ter and other platforms.

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October 15, 2013

California Arrest Underscores Ongoing Concern Over Americans Joining Al Qaeda Abroad

Update – October 18, 2013: Arrest in Long Island highlights continuing lure of terror groups abroad.

An Orange County man was arrested on Friday for allegedly providing material support to Al Qaeda. The arrest underscores ongoing concerns over American citizens joining terrorist groups abroad and Syria in particular.sinh-vinh-ngo-nguyen-hasan-abu-omar-ghannoum

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, reportedly traveled to Syria in December, 2012, and fought against the Assad regime. While the indictment against Nguyen does not specially mention his travel to Syria, he reportedly left comments on what appears to be his Facebook page indicating his presence in the country between December 2012 and April or May 2013.

“I’m doing well in Syria…having a blast here, and I mean literally” read one comment. In another, Nguyen apparently “confirmed his first kill” and expressed eagerness for more. In April, he posted an image of a dead fighter whom he called “A Dear Brother of mine.”

Nguyen, who reportedly returned to the U.S around May 2013, was arrested while attempting to board a bus to Mexico. He is charged with attempting “to provide material support and resources, that is, services and personnel, namely himself,” to al Qaeda, as well as making false statements on a passport application. It is not clear why he planned to travel to Mexico.

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. An increasing number of Amer­i­cans have been attracted to the con­flict in Syria and have attempted to join Jab­hat al-Nusrah, an alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Nguyen, a Muslim convert, is licensed as a security guard and was training to be a truck driver. His purported Facebook page indicates strong interest in weapons, including posts about his favorite weapons and an image of a “commando style” rifle that served as his Facebook profile picture last winter.

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