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November 17, 2015 3

The Terror Threat to the US in the Wake of the Paris Attacks

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have been the mastermind of the Paris attacks

Abdel­hamid Abaaoud, a Bel­gian man believed to have been the ring­leader in the Paris attacks

Fol­low­ing the Novem­ber 13 ter­ror attacks in Paris, cities around the world have ramped up secu­rity. While the type of coor­di­nated attacks that have been car­ried out in France can occur in the U.S., an analy­sis of domes­tic Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity and plots in 2015 indi­cates that the U.S. faces a dif­fer­ent threat land­scape than many Euro­pean countries.

Inves­ti­ga­tors still do not have pro­files of all of the indi­vid­u­als alleged to have taken part in the attacks on Paris. How­ever, cer­tain fea­tures of the attack are already apparent.

1. Exter­nal coor­di­na­tion by for­eign ter­ror­ist organizations

The Paris attack is the sec­ond attack in France this year that appears to have been planned, at least in part, by for­eign ter­ror­ist organizations.

By con­trast, only one of the 15 domes­tic attack plots in the U.S. moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy this year appeared to have had pos­si­ble exter­nal coor­di­na­tion: Abdi­rah­man Sheikh Mohamud, arrested in Feb­ru­ary, had allegedly been plot­ting an attack with some direc­tion from ter­ror­ists in Syria, although the extent of that direc­tion was unclear.

A sec­ond plot, the shoot­ing of a Draw Mohammed con­test at a Gar­land, Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter, was influ­enced by con­ver­sa­tion with ISIS sup­port­ers online, includ­ing some who are believed to be fight­ing abroad. How­ever, it seems that those online sup­port­ers incited activ­ity against the con­test but did not coor­di­nate the plot with the alleged shooters.

2.  For­eign fighter threat

The attack in Paris was allegedly planned in large part by a Bel­gian cit­i­zen who had spent time fight­ing with ISIS in Syria before return­ing to Europe.

Only one indi­vid­ual in the U.S., Abdi­rah­man Sheikh Mohamud, attempted to plot an attack after allegedly fight­ing with extrem­ists in Syria this year. Inter­est­ingly, Mohamud had allegedly fought with Jab­hat al Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria, and not with ISIS; how­ever, court doc­u­ments indi­cate that he was also sym­pa­thetic to ISIS.

The U.S. also has far fewer indi­vid­u­als who have trav­eled abroad to join ISIS than France or Bel­gium. At least 100 Amer­i­cans are believed to have joined ISIS – approx­i­mately 1 per­son per mil­lion in the U.S. – com­pared with between 1,000 and 1,200, or 18 peo­ple per mil­lion in France and approx­i­mately 440 indi­vid­u­als, or 40 peo­ple per mil­lion, in Bel­gium. As such, the risk of return­ing for­eign fight­ers attempt­ing to per­pe­trate attacks in the U.S. is sta­tis­ti­cally lower than in France or Belgium.

At least 4 indi­vid­u­als believed to have been plan­ning domes­tic plots in 2015 allegedly con­ceived of their plots after find­ing them­selves unable to travel to join ISIS. At least 3 indi­vid­u­als allegedly planned to travel to join ISIS after per­pe­trat­ing an attack.

In total, 29 U.S. res­i­dents arrested in 2015 allegedly attempted to join ISIS.

3. Plot size

At least ten indi­vid­u­als are believed to have taken part in the attacks in Paris.

By con­trast, the major­ity of attack plots in the U.S. this year have been in small groups. Eight plots were allegedly planned by indi­vid­u­als (but not lone wolves, as they were often coor­di­nat­ing with infor­mants or con­tacts on the inter­net); five were planned by two peo­ple work­ing together; two were planned by groups of three. One plot involved a ring of five ISIS sup­port­ers, but only two of the five appear to have been actively engaged in the plot, while the oth­ers were pri­mar­ily plan­ning to travel abroad to join the ter­ror­ist organization.

Again, none of this data should be inter­preted to mean that a large-scale, exter­nally directed plot in the U.S. can­not occur; the 9/11 attacks proved that the U.S. is vul­ner­a­ble to such attacks. How­ever, it does indi­cate that the threat fac­ing the U.S. remains dif­fer­ent than the threat fac­ing Euro­pean countries.

The fol­low­ing is a list of domes­tic attack plots against the U.S. in 2015:

  • Joshua Ryne Gold­berg of Florida was arrested in Sep­tem­ber for allegedly send­ing bomb-making instruc­tions to and devel­op­ing a plot with an under­cover source. The plot involved build­ing a pres­sure cooker bomb and det­o­nat­ing it at a 9/11 memo­r­ial in Kansas City, MO. Fol­low­ing his arrest, Gold­berg claimed he had planned to alert law enforce­ment prior to the bomb’s detonation.
  • Harlem Suarez of Florida was arrested in July for allegedly plot­ting to det­o­nate a bomb at a Florida beach. He also dis­cussed attack­ing law enforce­ment officers.
  • Moham­mad Yousef Abdu­lazeez of Ten­nessee was killed after he opened fire at two mil­i­tary facil­i­ties in Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee in July. The attack resulted in five deaths, in addi­tion to Abdulazeez’s death. Abdu­lazeez was report­edly inspired by Al Qaeda propaganda.
  • Alexan­der Cic­colo of Mass­a­chu­setts was arrested in July as a felon in pos­ses­sion of a weapon. Cic­colo allegedly planned to attack a state university.
  • Justin Nojan Sul­li­van of North Car­olina was arrested in June for allegedly plot­ting an attack that included shoot­ings in pub­lic venues and a bomb plot that involved bio­log­i­cal weapons.
  • Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni of New York were arrested in June after each attempted to attack law enforce­ment offi­cials in sep­a­rate instances. The two had allegedly planned to under­take an attack on a New York City land­mark. Saleh and Mumuni were part of a con­spir­acy that also involved at least three other peo­ple, Samuel Rahamin Topaz, Alaa Saadeh and Saadeh’s brother, but these three were appar­ently more focused on trav­el­ing to join ISIS and the degree of their involve­ment in the plot is unclear.
  • Usaama Rahim of Mass­a­chu­setts was killed when he drew a knife after being approached for ques­tion­ing by law enforce­ment offi­cers. He had allegedly plot­ted with David Wright of Mass­a­chu­setts and Nicholas Rovin­ski of Rhode Island to behead Pamela Geller (head of the anti-Muslim orga­ni­za­tion Stop Islam­i­ciza­tion of Amer­ica) on behalf of ISIS; the plot later shifted to attempt­ing to behead a police officer.
  • Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi of Ari­zona were shot and killed when they attempted to under­take a shoot­ing at a Gar­land, Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter. They were allegedly assisted by co-conspirator Decarus Thomas of Ari­zona, who was arrested in June.
  • Miguel Moran Diaz of Florida was arrested in April on charges that he was a felon in pos­ses­sion of a firearm. Reports indi­cated that he planned to tar­get Miami residents.
  • John T. Booker and Alexan­der Blair of Kansas were arrested in April for allegedly attempt­ing to under­take a sui­cide attack at the Ft. Riley mil­i­tary base.
  • Noelle Velentzas and Asia Sid­diqui of New York were arrested in April for allegedly pur­chas­ing bomb-making equip­ment with plans for an attack.
  • Hasan and Jonas Edmonds of Illi­nois were arrested in March and charged with attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.
  • An unnamed minor from South Car­olina was arrested in Feb­ru­ary and accused of for­mu­lat­ing a plot to attack a North Car­olina mil­i­tary base and then travel abroad to join ISIS.
  • Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov of New York were arrested in Feb­ru­ary and charged with mate­r­ial sup­port for ter­ror. Court doc­u­ments state they were attempt­ing to join ISIS and dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack.
  • Abdi­rah­man Sheikh Mohamud of Ohio was arrested in Feb­ru­ary and charged in April with join­ing Jab­hat al Nusra. He allegedly returned to the U.S. with the inten­tion of per­pe­trat­ing an attack against a mil­i­tary base in Texas. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Mohamud sup­ported both ISIS and Jab­hat al Nusra, although he had fought with Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell of Ohio was arrested in Jan­u­ary for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad.

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November 5, 2015 0

Continued Publication of Anti-Semitic Themed Cartoons in the Arab and Muslim World

As Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism across Israel per­sists, Arab and Mus­lim news­pa­pers and social media accounts con­tinue to pro­mote themes in sup­port of the vio­lence, which is often referred to as a “mass out­burst” or the “Knives Intifada.”

In addi­tion to the image of the knives, other themes are also being fea­tured. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry’s recent efforts to end the vio­lence are depicted as Israel and Jews con­trol­ling the US and its lead­er­ship.  Exam­ples of car­toons pub­lished include a fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing the US trapped inside the Star of David, Uncle Sam being in the pocket of Israel and Sec­re­tary Kerry wip­ing the blood from the teeth of a wolf – which rep­re­sents Israel.

Another ever-present alle­ga­tion is the charge that Israel is attempt­ing to alter the status-quo on the Tem­ple Mount/Noble Sanc­tu­ary in Jerusalem.  These images show Israel as a sin­is­ter snake attack­ing the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Below are exam­ples of the car­toons published:


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November 3, 2015 1

“Telegram” is Latest Platform for Terror Propaganda

ISIS propaganda on the Telegram app

ISIS pro­pa­ganda on the Telegram app

Update — 11/19/2015: Telegram updated its terms of ser­vice to include a means for remov­ing ille­gal pub­lic con­tent on Novem­ber 18, 2015 and has since removed mul­ti­ple ISIS chan­nels from its platform.

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other ter­ror groups con­tinue to seek out new plat­forms to broad­cast their pro­pa­ganda and con­nect with sup­port­ers, they have migrated to using Telegram, a chat and group appli­ca­tion avail­able for smart­phones and desk­top, as their pri­mary medium for offi­cial propaganda.

Ter­ror sup­port­ers con­tinue to share and dis­sem­i­nate pro­pa­ganda on Twit­ter, Face­book and other tra­di­tional social media plat­forms. How­ever, the terms of ser­vice on those plat­forms reject users who actively encour­age vio­lent extrem­ism and the plat­forms have been very active in remov­ing con­tent and users flagged for vio­la­tions of those terms of ser­vice. Offi­cial ter­ror­ist accounts have there­fore found them fully inhos­pitable, and even the accounts of ter­ror­ist sup­port­ers are reg­u­larly removed.

Accord­ing to Telegram’s terms of ser­vice, how­ever, “All Telegram chats and group chats are pri­vate ter­ri­tory of their respec­tive par­tic­i­pants and we do not process any requests related to them.” As such, the plat­form does not have effec­tive poli­cies pro­hibit­ing extrem­ist speech.  That envi­ron­ment has enabled offi­cial ter­ror­ist chan­nels to use Telegram as the first point of dis­sem­i­na­tion for offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda and for Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), an Al Qaeda affil­i­ated media organization.

Users can join groups on Telegram that func­tion sim­i­larly to Twit­ter feeds, releas­ing a steady stream of con­tent orig­i­nated by the group’s owner. Among the groups cur­rently oper­at­ing on Telegram are more than 13 offi­cial ISIS accounts in mul­ti­ple lan­guages includ­ing Ara­bic, Eng­lish, French and Ger­man, an offi­cial English-language account for the GIMF, and sev­eral unof­fi­cial pro-ISIS pro­pa­ganda groups.

The English-language accounts cre­ated on Telegram include Khi­lafah News, a pro-ISIS account that boasts 2023 mem­bers; Nashir Eng­lish, an offi­cial ISIS account, with 1352 mem­bers; and an offi­cial GIMF account with 1129 members.

Among the mate­ri­als that have been released on Telegram are the sec­ond issue of a new English-language Al Qaeda mag­a­zine, Al Risalah, which calls on West­ern­ers to join and fight on behalf of Al Qaeda.

The ISIS English-language Telegram account Nashir Eng­lish also directs read­ers to find and down­load pro­pa­ganda on a site on Word­Press. Like Telegram, WordPress’s terms of ser­vice do not explic­itly pro­hibit extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and so ISIS and other ter­ror­ist  groups can exploit the web­site with­out fear of being taken down. The new Word­Press site linked from the Telegram account fea­tures all of ISIS’s most recent pro­pa­ganda releases as well as ‘major releases,’ ‘Top 10 Videos,’ and past issues of ISIS’s English-language mag­a­zine, Dabiq. The Eng­lish site also links to equiv­a­lent Word­Press sites in Ger­man, Bosn­ian and Ara­bic. Addi­tional links from the Eng­lish site to equiv­a­lent sites in other lan­guages on Blogspot, which is hosted by Google, were removed after ADL noti­fied Google of their presence.

The Word­Press site empha­sizes ISIS’s ongo­ing pres­ence on Twit­ter and lists Twit­ter hash­tags that cor­re­spond with offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda material.

In addi­tion to main­tain­ing groups on Telegram, ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions are also able to engage in chats with sup­port­ers and poten­tial recruits. The encour­age­ment of active par­tic­i­pa­tion by sup­port­ers engages the sup­port­ers in dia­logue with hard­ened extrem­ists, fur­ther­ing the sup­port­ers’ rad­i­cal­iza­tion processes.

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