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July 3, 2014 0

Colorado Arrest Highlights Increasing Pull Of ISIS

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Shan­non Mau­reen Conley

The arrest of a 19 year-old Col­orado woman in April for attempt­ing to travel to Syria to aid the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), demon­strates the increased allure of ISIS and the Syria con­flict for Amer­i­cans look­ing to join ter­ror groups abroad. The arrest was made pub­lic today.

The woman, Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley, was arrested on April 8, 2014, at Den­ver Inter­na­tional Air­port, where she was attempt­ing to board a flight to Ger­many en route to Iraq. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Con­ley was appar­ently hop­ing to meet and marry an ISIS mem­ber with whom she had been com­mu­ni­cat­ing online. She then allegedly hoped to use her skills as a nurse on behalf of ISIS, or to fight with them “if necessary.”

Con­ley report­edly had attempted to receive U.S. mil­i­tary train­ing that she hoped to use to aid ISIS by join­ing the U.S. Army Explor­ers, a pro­gram that exposes youth to mil­i­tary career oppor­tu­ni­ties and occu­pa­tional skills. In con­ver­sa­tions with FBI agents, she allegedly referred to U.S. mil­i­tary bases as “targets.”

Con­ley appears to have been influ­enced by online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda, com­mu­ni­cated with alleged ISIS mem­bers on the Inter­net and, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, allegedly pos­sessed a series of “mate­ri­als about jihad and Al-Qaeda” includ­ing “a num­ber of CD/DVDs labeled ‘Anwar al-Awlaki.’”

Con­ley went by the name Hal­ima on her Face­book pro­file, where she described her job as “Slave of Allah.”

Con­ley is one of 5 U.S. cit­i­zens arrested this year on ter­ror­ism charges, 4 of whom were charged with attempt­ing to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in Syria – Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas and Nicholas Teau­sant of Cal­i­for­nia also allegedly attempted to join ISIS, while Moham­mad Has­san Ham­dan of Michi­gan allegedly attempted to join Hezbol­lah. Con­ley, Wolfe and Teau­sant are also all con­verts to Islam.

Intel­li­gence esti­mates indi­cate that at least 100 Amer­i­cans have trav­elled to join the Syria con­flict since it began in 2011. Alto­gether, between 12,000 and 15,000 for­eign fight­ers are believed to have joined the conflict.

Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Con­ley also exhib­ited threat­en­ing behav­ior at home, draw­ing dia­grams of and threat­en­ing a local church, which she claimed to par­tic­u­larly hate for its sup­port of Israel.

She report­edly posted a link to her Face­book page from “Acknowl­edge Apartheid Exists” about a Pales­tin­ian farmer who was sup­pos­edly shot by Israeli troops.

Although there have been sig­nif­i­cant ter­ror threats from a num­ber of women such as Colleen LaRose (“Jihad Jane”), women are arrested on ter­ror charges far less often than men. The ADL has doc­u­mented 13 female cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the U.S. arrested on ter­ror­ism charges since 2002.

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June 27, 2014 0

ISIS Propaganda Campaign Threatens U.S.

Friday image one graphicThe Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced a new social media cam­paign this week designed to threaten the U.S. and warn it against send­ing mil­i­tary assis­tance to Iraq.

The cam­paign, “Warn­ing to the Amer­i­can Peo­ple,” is being orga­nized on social media around the hash­tag #Calami­ty­Will­Be­fal­lUS and is being directed through one of the many Twit­ter han­dles pur­port­edly belong­ing to ISIS. Par­tic­i­pants are encour­aged to tweet using that hash­tag in Eng­lish or Ara­bic, although “tweet­ing in Eng­lish is pre­ferred.” Par­tic­i­pants are also encour­aged to repost offi­cially sanc­tioned tweets that appear on the ISIS “union page” and use “pho­tos of signs or designs with warn­ing to Amer­i­cans” when possible.

A num­ber of images and slo­gans were pre-released begin­ning on June 24. These include images of the falling World Trade Cen­ter, quotes by the Amer­i­can Al-Qaeda pro­pa­gan­dist Anwar al-Awlaki, and pic­tures of advanc­ing ISIS fighters.

The offi­cial slo­gans fea­ture threats against Amer­i­can inva­sion and a range of par­tic­u­larly inflam­ma­tory mes­sages, including:

  • “If the United States bombs Iraq, every cit­i­zen is a legit­i­mate tar­get for us.”
  • “This is a mes­sage for every Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. You are the tar­get of every Mus­lim in the world wher­ever you are.”
  • “For every drop of blood shed of the Iraqis, Amer­i­cans will shed a river of blood.”
  • “Every Amer­i­can doc­tor work­ing in any coun­try will be slaugh­tered if Amer­ica attacks Iraq.”
  • “Don’t come to Iraq unless you want another 11th Sep­tem­ber to happen.”

ISIS is par­tic­u­larly adept at har­ness­ing the power of social media. The orga­ni­za­tion main­tains a vari­ety of Twit­ter accounts in mul­ti­ple lan­guages and sev­eral ISIS regional groups main­tain Twit­ter feeds as well. ISIS also runs an app that auto­mat­i­cally directs its pro­pa­ganda onto sup­port­ers’ accounts, sig­nif­i­cantly aug­ment­ing its mes­sage and reach.Terrorist exploita­tion of online forums has become an increas­ingly impor­tant ele­ment of the rad­i­cal­iza­tion process in recent years.

In addi­tion, ISIS reg­u­larly takes advan­tage of hash­tags that enable ISIS’s mes­sage to trend on Twit­ter. It also main­tains a Twit­ter feed ded­i­cated to inform­ing sup­port­ers of trend­ing hash­tags. Sup­port­ers can then tweet ISIS mes­sages that will be viewed by any­one look­ing at a trend­ing topic (for exam­ple: an ISIS user might post a pro-ISIS ISIS hashtag usemes­sage along with the hash­tag “#world­cup” as demon­strated by the image at right).

The cur­rent cam­paign marks a depar­ture from stan­dard ISIS pro­pa­ganda. The major­ity of ISIS’s past atten­tion has been geared to bol­ster­ing its image and recruit­ing fight­ers; sur­pris­ingly lit­tle has been directed against the U.S. But ISIS has nonethe­less always expressed anger and sus­pi­cion about U.S. pol­icy. An April 2014 speech by the group’s main spokesman, for exam­ple, con­flated the U.S. with Satan, say­ing, “Yes, ver­ily the plot of Shay­tan [Satan] is weak. Amer­ica came to Iraq lead­ing a fren­zied crusade….The Cru­saders thought that no one would be able to over­come them; how­ever Allah the Mighty and Majes­tic dis­graced them and showed us the weak­ness of their plot.” In the same speech, he claimed that ISIS “is America’s tough­est enemy.”

In addi­tion to Twit­ter, the “Warn­ing to the Amer­i­can Peo­ple” cam­paign is being posted on Face­book, in YouTube videos, and on var­i­ous extrem­ist forums.

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June 2, 2014 0

Alleged Brussels Jewish Museum Shooter May Have Fought in Syria

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Mehdi Nem­mouche

The sus­pected gun­man in the May 24 attack on the Jew­ish Museum in Brus­sels, Mehdi Nem­mouche, report­edly spent about a year in Syria, where French and Bel­gian offi­cials say he may have fought with the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion for­merly asso­ci­ated with Al Qaeda.

The con­nec­tion may sub­stan­ti­ate fears that west­ern­ers fight­ing in Syria could return to attempt attacks in their home coun­tries. Nemmouche’s choice to attack a Jew­ish museum may also fur­ther demon­strate the con­nec­tion between ter­ror­ist ide­ol­ogy and anti-Semitism.

Nem­mouche was arrested in France on Fri­day. At the time of his arrest, he was in pos­ses­sion of con­sid­er­able ammu­ni­tion, includ­ing a Kalash­nikov rifle wrapped in a sheet with the ISIS sym­bol and the words “God is great.” He also had a video recorder on which he had appar­ently claimed credit for the attack and said he wanted to “kill Jews” and to “set fire to Brus­sels and fill it with blood.”

A native of France, Nen­mouche is believed to have been rad­i­cal­ized in prison and to have left for Syria only three weeks after his release in 2012. French and Bel­gian offi­cials claim there is evi­dence that he fought with ISIS while he was there.

The shoot­ing in the museum resulted in 3 deaths and 1 per­son injured. It bears resem­blance to a shoot­ing at a Jew­ish school in Toulouse, France in 2012 by Mohamed Merah. Merah, a French cit­i­zen, had spent time with extrem­ists in Afghanistan and Pak­istan before return­ing to France and per­pe­trat­ing the attack.

As many as 3,000 Euro­peans and 100 Amer­i­cans are believed tohave trav­elled to join the con­flict in Syria. This travel is only increas­ing as  groups uti­lize social media and online pro­pa­ganda to recruit followers.

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