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April 24, 2015 14

Adam Gadahn, American Al Qaeda Spokesman, Reported Dead

Adam GadahnOn Thurs­day, the White House announced that Adam Gadahn, an Amer­i­can spokesman for Al Qaeda, was killed in a Jan­u­ary drone strike. Although less vis­i­ble in recent years, Gadahn was at the fore­front of cre­at­ing English-language ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda – an ini­tia­tive that has evolved into a sophis­ti­cated recruit­ment and rad­i­cal­iza­tion mechanism.

Gadahn’s death comes as English-language pro­pa­ganda released by ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions is influ­enc­ing an ever increas­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans to join extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions. As of this date, thirty-one peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. have been impli­cated in ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2015 alone, a sig­nif­i­cant increase from the total num­ber of arrests in 2014 and in 2013.

Later Amer­i­can pro­pa­gan­dists for Al Qaeda affil­i­ates, such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, founders of Inspire mag­a­zine who were killed in a drone strike in 2011, have become more influ­en­tial than Gadahn in extrem­ist cir­cles. And as online tech­nol­ogy has advanced, groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have dra­mat­i­cally increased the reach and influ­ence of English-language calls to violence.

Gadahn, how­ever, was not only the first Amer­i­can to incite extrem­ism on behalf of Al Qaeda, but pre­sum­ably until his death remained the pri­mary English-language spokesman for Al Qaeda’s Cen­tral organization.

Gadahn’s first pro­pa­ganda piece for Al Qaeda was an audio trans­la­tion of an Osama bin Laden speech. In 2004, he began to appear in videos using the nom de guerre Azzam Al-Amriki and to pro­mote attacks against the U.S.

In the ensu­ing years, he released mul­ti­ple videos that reflected his anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views and were marked by threats against Amer­ica and its allies.

Gadahn also called for lone-wolf attacks. In a 2011 video, he stated, “Amer­ica is absolutely awash with eas­ily obtain­able firearms” and that lis­ten­ers can “go down to a gun show at the local con­ven­tion cen­ter and come away with a fully auto­matic assault rifle with­out a back­ground check and most likely with­out hav­ing to show an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card.”  He con­cluded, “So what are you wait­ing for?”

Gadahn’s most recent video was released in May 2014. Like his pre­vi­ous state­ments, it fea­tured calls for attacks against the U.S. as well as anti-Semitic rhetoric and con­cluded with clips of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, fight­ing in Syria, and ter­ror­ism in Israel, includ­ing a brief video clip of Jews pray­ing at the West­ern Wall, Judaism’s holi­est site, fol­lowed by footage of an explosion.

Gadahn was also fea­tured in an inter­view in the March 2013 issue of Inspire mag­a­zine, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s English-language pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zine. In it, he called on his fel­low pro­pa­gan­dists to “make every effort to reach out to Mus­lims both through new media like Face­book and Twit­ter as well as the tra­di­tional broad­cast and print media.” Gadahn also used the inter­view to call for attacks against “Amer­ica and its NATO part­ners, par­tic­u­larly France and Britain.”

Gadahn was born in Ore­gon in 1978 and grew up in Cal­i­for­nia. He con­verted to Islam as a teenager and allegedly grew rad­i­cal­ized shortly there­after. In the late 1990s, Gadahn trav­eled to Pak­istan and joined Al Qaeda.

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April 14, 2015 3

New ISIS Videos Threaten U.S. Amid Increase In Domestic Plots

Image promoting new ISIS video

Image pro­mot­ing new ISIS video

Two new videos released this week by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demon­strate a ramp­ing up of threats against the U.S. as ter­ror groups increas­ingly call for home­grown attacks against West­ern coun­tries – and as indi­vid­u­als increas­ingly appear to be heed­ing those calls.

Recent arrests of U.S. res­i­dents plan­ning domes­tic attacks in ISIS’s name indi­cates that such calls for vio­lence can have an impact on Amer­i­cans moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism and the pro­pa­ganda they find online dis­trib­uted by ISIS and other ter­ror groups.

There have been five alleged instances of domes­tic plots in the U.S. in 2015, rang­ing from con­ver­sa­tions about the pos­si­bil­ity of attack to actual attempted attacks. All were report­edly planned by indi­vid­u­als claim­ing alle­giance to ISIS.

  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell of Ohio, arrested in Jan­u­ary for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad.
  • Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov of New York, 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.
  • Hasan and Jonas Edmonds of Illi­nois, arrested in March and charged with attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.
  • Noelle Velentzas and Asia Sid­diqui of New York, arrested in April for allegedly pur­chas­ing bomb-making equip­ment with plans for an attack.
  • John T. Booker and Alexan­der Blair of Kansas, arrested in April for allegedly attempt­ing to under­take a sui­cide attack at the Ft. Riley mil­i­tary base.

These are among the 23 U.S. res­i­dents arrested on ter­ror charges thus far in 2015, all but two of whom claimed alle­giance to ISIS.

Both of the videos released this week fea­ture ref­er­ences to pre­vi­ous ter­ror attacks in West­ern coun­tries and footage of bru­tal exe­cu­tions of ISIS vic­tims in Iraq and Syria, as well as encour­age­ment of individually-directed domes­tic plots.

One of the videos, released on April 10, was titled “We Will Burn Amer­ica.” It fea­tured footage and praise of the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Cen­ter along with nar­ra­tion in Ara­bic with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles stat­ing, “Sep­tem­ber 11 will be repeated.”

The video also fea­tures images from the attack on the Paris kosher super­mar­ket and shoot­ings in Canada, both of which were under­taken by indi­vid­u­als act­ing in ISIS’s name, as well as images of behead­ings by ISIS. Its style was rem­i­nis­cent of ISIS’s feature-film-length pro­pa­ganda video “Flames of War,” which was shot to resem­ble an action movie and high­lights the group’s ide­o­log­i­cal claims of a bat­tle between good and evil, Islam and the West.

“We Will Burn Amer­ica” was released on Twit­ter with the hash­tag #we_will_burn_america. ISIS reg­u­larly encour­ages its sup­port­ers to par­tic­i­pate in hash­tag cam­paigns designed to arti­fi­cially cre­ate trend­ing items and spread the group’s pro­pa­ganda. Last sum­mer, the group under­took two hash­tag cam­paigns sim­i­larly threat­en­ing the U.S., with the hash­tags #Calami­ty­Will­Be­fal­lUS and #AMes­sage­FromI­SIS­ToUS.

The sec­ond video, released April 14, takes the form of a music video encour­ag­ing lone-wolf attacks and threat­en­ing West­ern coun­tries. The lan­guage is Ger­man, with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles. ISIS has released mul­ti­ple music videos to appeal to young audi­ences while con­vey­ing the group’s messages.

A screenshot from the new ISIS music video

A screen­shot from the new ISIS music video

Addressed “to the ene­mies of Allah,” the video’s nar­ra­tion states that “this is a mes­sage and more are going to fol­low.” The video por­trays a man read­ing the Qu’ran and watch­ing ISIS pro­pa­ganda on his com­puter, includ­ing graphic videos of behead­ings, the burn­ing of the Jor­dan­ian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, mass killings, and wounded sol­diers. “We want your blood,” it states, “it tastes so wonderful.”

It then shows indi­vid­u­als prepar­ing for dif­fer­ent types of domes­tic attacks, includ­ing a stab­bing, car bomb, and a sui­cide bomb­ing in Times Square, as well as learn­ing about gun use and bomb-making online – seem­ingly exam­ples for would-be domes­tic attack­ers and an acknowl­edg­ment of the impor­tance of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda. Images of pre­vi­ous attacks against the West, includ­ing the attack against the Paris kosher super­mar­ket, are shown as well. “In France it has been proven by deeds. Ger­man sleeper cell are wait­ing,” it states. “Allah has called you! … Your neigh­bor is a kaf­fir (apos­tate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”

The release of the videos comes as ISIS is los­ing ter­ri­tory and recruits in the Mid­dle East. Losses by ter­ror­ist groups have often cor­re­sponded with increased calls for attacks abroad, which do not require resource expen­di­ture by the ter­ror group itself and can then be claimed as vic­to­ries for the group. Al Shabaab, for exam­ple, has sim­i­larly released calls for domes­tic attacks abroad in the past year as it under­goes losses of recruits, lead­er­ship, and ter­ri­tory in Soma­lia and its sur­round­ing countries.

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April 2, 2015 0

NY Arrests Put Spotlight on Female Islamic Extremists

Update — 4/6/15: Another woman, Keonna Thomas of Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia, was charged on April 3, 2015 with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion by allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS.

Two Brook­lyn women arrested today on charges of con­spir­ing to use a weapon of mass destruc­tion are the 11th and 12th U.S. women linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism since 2014. Women engag­ing with ter­ror­ist groups is not a new phe­nom­e­non, but their num­bers have dra­mat­i­cally increased since 2014: ADL has doc­u­mented 12 female U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism in the last 15 months – the same as the total num­ber of women in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013.

A poem by Asia Siddiqui published in the extremist magazine Jihad Recollections

A poem by Asia Sid­diqui in the extrem­ist mag­a­zine Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions

Noelle Velentzas, a 28-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Brook­lyn, New York and Asia Sid­diqui, a 31-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Brook­lyn, New York and Velentzas’s for­mer room­mate, allegedly researched how to make explo­sive devices and pur­chased the mate­ri­als nec­es­sary to do so. Although court doc­u­ments do not indi­cate that they had cho­sen a tar­get, they expressed a pref­er­ence for attack­ing law enforce­ment and U.S. gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary facilities.

The two made clear that they were moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Velentzas praised the 9/11 attacks and repeat­edly stated that her heroes are Osama bin Laden and his men­tor, Abdul­lah Azzam.

More­over, Velentzas and Sid­diqui have an exten­sive his­tory of engag­ing with rad­i­cal extrem­ism online. In 2006, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Sid­diqui “became close with Samir Khan,” who went on to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) and, together with AQAP pro­pa­gan­dist Anwar al-Awlaki, founded Inspire mag­a­zine, the group’s pri­mary English-language mag­a­zine. In 2009, Sid­diqui wrote a poem that was pub­lished in Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions, an ear­lier mag­a­zine that Khan produced.

Extrem­ist mag­a­zines includ­ing Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions and Inspire have actively encour­aged sub­mis­sions from read­ers in the hope that hav­ing their work pub­lished will lead the read­ers to become fur­ther entrenched in the extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion. Sid­diqui her­self allegedly expressed sup­port for Mohamed Osman Mohamud, another Amer­i­can who was pub­lished in Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions and who went on to attempt a domes­tic attack – in his case, the attempted bomb­ing of the Port­land, OR Christ­mas tree light­ing cer­e­mony in 2010.

Other Amer­i­cans that have writ­ten for Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions include Younes Abdul­lah Muham­mad (aka Jesse Cur­tis Mor­ton), a co-founder of now-defunct extrem­ist group Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim. Muham­mad is cur­rently in prison, hav­ing pleaded guilty to threat­en­ing the cre­ators of South Park.

Sid­diqui and Velentzas also appeared to have been inspired by other domes­tic attacks, includ­ing the Boston Marathon bomb­ing.

Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Sid­diqui told an under­cover infor­mant “Velentzas has been obsessed with pres­sure cook­ers since the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 and often makes com­ments about pres­sure cook­ers,” and Velentzas told the infor­mant that “she had recently received a pres­sure cooker as a present, and joked about cook­ing some­thing in the pres­sure cooker, then laughed and added, ‘food,’ – a ref­er­ence to explo­sive materials.”

Image from an article on making car bombs in the  Spring 2014 issue of Inspire

Image from an arti­cle on mak­ing car bombs in the Spring 2014 issue of Inspire

Like the Tsar­naev broth­ers, who are accused of hav­ing per­pe­trated the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, Sid­diqui and Velentzas attempted to learn how to make bombs from Inspire mag­a­zine. Refer­ring to the Spring 2014 issue of Inspire that pro­vided instruc­tions for the con­struc­tion and place­ment of car bombs, Velentzas allegedly stated that “Inspire mag­a­zine was useful…to learn how to ‘valet’ his/her car and how to cook ‘food.’” She reg­u­larly used the word “food” as a euphemism for explosives.

The two also allegedly watched ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos online, includ­ing behead­ing and recruit­ment videos, and expressed affin­ity for ISIS. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Velentzas stated that she wanted them to be referred to as “cit­i­zens of the Islamic State,” and “that attacks on ISIS were tan­ta­mount to attacks on her own state.”

Velentzas was also report­edly friends on Face­book with Tairod Pugh, a New Jer­sey man arrested in March for attempt­ing to join ISIS.

Sev­en­teen U.S. res­i­dents in total have been arrested on Islamic extrem­ism moti­vated ter­ror charges in 2015, 6 of whom were from New York State. If arrests con­tinue at the cur­rent rate, it will reflect a marked increase of arrests over the last three years, cor­re­spond­ing to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its aggres­sive recruit­ment and pro­pa­ganda campaigns.

Twenty-five U.S. res­i­dents in total were linked to Islamic extrem­ism in 2014, and 14 in 2013, although sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of indi­vid­u­als not iden­ti­fied are believed to have trav­eled abroad to join ter­ror­ist groups.

This morning’s arrest also marked the fourth instance of a domes­tic attack plot in 2015. In Jan­u­ary, Ohio res­i­dent Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell was arrested for his plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad and in Feb­ru­ary, New York City res­i­dents Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov were arrested for attempt­ing to join ISIS and dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack if they were unable to do so, and in March, Hasan and Jonas Edmonds were arrested for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.

Notably, there were no known domes­tic plots in 2014; the cur­rent increase may be related to an increase in ISIS pro­pa­ganda encour­ag­ing such attacks.

Thirty-five U.S. res­i­dents have been pub­licly linked to or cited inspi­ra­tion from ISIS since 2014.

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