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April 25, 2013

Parallels Between Boston Bomber And Australian Preacher

The online activity of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the dead Boston Marathon bombing suspect, reveals a fascination with militancy and Islam, including an Australian preacher named Feiz Mohammad whose life has some interesting parallels to the bomber.tamerlan-tsarnaev-feiz-mohammad-youtube-boston-bomber

While it remains unclear to what degree Tsarnaev was influenced or radicalized by any of the materials he was viewing online, he apparently added at least two videos of Feiz Mohammad, who is known for his extreme anti-West views, to his YouTube channel.

Mohammad, who blames non-Muslims in the West for Muslim victimhood and has glorified “martyrdom,” has a large collection of English-language Islamic lectures available online. In a video posted to YouTube in 2007, he claims that Muslims today are not sufficiently dedicated to martyrdom and therefore are “the most humiliated nation on the face of this earth.” He adds, “It is not as appealing as it was to those ancestors – the great warriors.”

In a lecture posted on YouTube in December 2010, he teaches his students that followers of other sects of Islam, such as Sufi Muslims and Shite Muslims, are not true Muslims and according to Islamic law deserve execution.

In addition to promoting militant themes, Mohammad seeks to appeal to a younger generation of Muslim immigrants by sharing his personal story as a lost young immigrant who found an identity by strictly adhering to Islam.

Several of his lectures focus on warning Muslims living in the West of the dangers of adopting the lifestyle of non-Muslim Westerners. In a lecture posted on YouTube in April 2012, he warns Muslims against loving non-Muslims or befriending them: “Isn’t this why we are a slave by them [non-Muslims]? Because we are loving their ways, we are mixing in their ways. We are being a Kafir [infidel] ourselves by enjoying their lifestyles.”

An interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev published while he was training for the 2009 Golden Gloves boxing competition revealed Tamerlan’s difficulty assimilating into American culture. He is quoted in the interview saying, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”

Like Tsarnaev, Mohammad’s family emigrated from a war-torn country. Mohammad’s family immigrated to Australia from Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Also like Tsarnaev, Feiz Mohammad spent his teenage years boxing, which he later denounced. The names he acquired as a boxer included “Frank the Killer” and “The Beast.”

At the age of 19, Mohammad reportedly decided to embrace a conservative form of religious teachings known as Salafism and became popular among the Salafist groups in Sydney. After pursuing an Islamic education in Medina, Saudi Arabia, he returned to Australia. He then founded the “Global Islamic Youth Centre” (GIYC) and opened a Madrassah, a traditional Islamic religious school.

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April 22, 2013

Inspire Magazine: A Staple Of Domestic Terror

Pressure Cooker Bomb From Inspire Magazine

Update – May 30: The eleventh issue of Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula’s Inspire mag­a­zine cel­e­brates the April 15 Boston Bomb­ing, praises the Tsar­naev broth­ers and encour­ages future attacks against the U.S.

Update – April 23: Federal law enforcement officials have reportedly confirmed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother got bomb-making instructions from Inspire magazine.

Shortly after authorities revealed that pressure cookers were used in the explosives detonated at the Boston Marathon last week, numerous media outlets began to report and speculate that the bombs matched designs in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language terror magazine, Inspire.

Let’s be clear, there is still no evidence that brothers Tamerlan and Dzkhokhar Tsarnaev read the terrorist magazine or used its pressure cooker instructions, which are not unique to Inspire. However, the Tsarnaev’s online activity and social media profiles indicate some fascination with militancy and Islam that are consistent with other messages of Inspire.

Numerous international and domestic extremists motivated by radical interpretations of Islam have been influenced by the magazine and, in some cases, reportedly utilized the bomb making instructions in their attempts to carry out attacks. In the United States, for example:

  • In November 2012, Raees Qazi was arrested along with his brother, Sheheryar, for allegedly plotting a bomb attack against unspecified targets in New York City.  Raees reportedly admitted having read Inspire magazine, and a search of his home turned up bomb-making components consistent with instructions that can be found in an issue of Inspire he had read.
  • In November 2011, Jose Pimentel was arrested and charged with state-level terrorism offenses in New York after he allegedly came close to completing three bombs based on an Inspire design. Pimentel’s website, “True Islam,” also reposted PDF copies of Inspire magazine. Pimentel apparently had planned to attack returning U.S. military personnel, post office and police targets. He is still awaiting trial.
  • In July 2011, Naser Jason Abdo was arrested at a motel in Killeen, Texas, where authorities claimed that he was plotting to attack a restaurant frequented by military personnel based at Fort Hood.  Bomb making components were recovered from the motel room. The article “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” from the first issue of Inspire magazine was reportedly also found in his room. Abdo has since been sentenced to life-in-prison for his attempted attack.
  • Adel Daoud, who was arrested in September 2012 and charged with plotting to bomb a Chicago-area bar, sent his friends copies of the magazine in order to “brainwash them,” and called Inspire “the best magazine I have read.”

Inspire’s solicitation for reader contributions have also played a role in the radicalization process of other would be bombers in the U.S.

  • Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was convicted of attempting to bomb the 2010 Christmas Tree Lighting in Portland, Oregon, allegedly wrote and submitted an article to Inspire, although it was not published.
  • Quazi Nafis, who pleaded guilty to attempting to bomb the New York Federal Reserve Building in October 2012, also wrote an article that he supposedly planned to submit to Inspire after his attack in which he described his desire to “destroy America.”

Most recently, in November 2012, four men from Southern California were arrested and charged with planning to travel abroad to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda. According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began in January 2012 when one of the men was searched as he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and was found to have a copy of Inspire in his possession.

Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American known for distributing terrorist propaganda material online, was the principal author of Inspire before he was killed by a U.S. drone strike on September 30, 2011.

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April 19, 2013

Profile Of Boston Bombers Emerges

Even as the manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continues, a portrait of him and his brother, Tamerlan, the alleged perpetrators of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing, has begun to emerge.

Based on social media profiles apparently belonging to them, the brothers were interested in militancy, Islam and Chechnya, a region in Russia.

The two reportedly came to the United States as refugees in the early 2000s, perhaps a couple of years apart, after fleeing the violence in the Caucasus.  Both appeared to maintain close ties to their ethnic homeland. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, included the seal of his hometown soccer team as the background of his Twitter account. The older, Tamerlan, expressed his hope for Chechen independence and included books about Chechnya about on his Amazon wish list.

The brothers were also practicing Muslims, posting messages about Islam and Ramadan on various social media profiles. There is an indication that Tamerlan may have had a more radical streak, reflected in his YouTube playlist featuring videos by a radical cleric living in Australia and videos about joining an Islamic army to help establish a Caliphate as well as a playlist on “Terrorists” (the videos of which had previously been deleted by YouTube).

A more complete profile on the brothers can be found here: Social Media Profiles Shed Light on Brothers Accused in Boston Marathon Attack.

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