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July 13, 2015 0

Online Activity Provides Insight Into MA Man Arrested For ISIS Plot

Alexander Ciccolo's Facebook profile picture

Alexan­der Ciccolo’s Face­book pro­file picture

Alexan­der Cic­colo, a 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Boston, Mass­a­chu­setts, is the 55th U.S. res­i­dent linked to ter­ror­ist plots and other activ­ity in 2015. A closer look at one of Ciccolo’s Face­book pro­files, which ADL began mon­i­tor­ing in 2014, sheds light on his views in sup­port of ter­ror­ism, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) specifically.

Cic­colo was arrested on July 4, 2015, and charged as a felon in pos­ses­sion of a weapon. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, he had allegedly planned an attack against a pop­u­lar bar fre­quented by uni­ver­sity stu­dents and a col­lege cafe­te­ria, pos­si­bly with the use of pres­sure cooker bombs mod­eled after those used in the Boston Marathon bomb­ing. He allegedly planned to broad­cast the attack live on the Inter­net, a tes­ta­ment to the cen­tral­ity of the Inter­net in ter­ror­ist activity.

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Cic­colo had ini­tially con­sid­ered an attack on civil­ians, mil­i­tary and law enforce­ment, for which he also allegedly con­sid­ered using pres­sure cooker bombs. As many as 5 other domes­tic plots in 2015 tar­geted the mil­i­tary, and as many as 3 other plots tar­geted law enforce­ment. At least 2 other domes­tic plots in 2015 involved attempts at repli­cat­ing the pres­sure cooker bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombing.

A series of Face­book posts ana­lyzed by ADL in Decem­ber 2014 in which Cic­colo posted using the name Ali NoSis­ters Al Amriki (pre­vi­ously Ali Al Amriki, with the mid­dle name added to indi­cate that he did not want women to add him as a friend, a fur­ther demon­stra­tion of his reli­gious extrem­ism) reveal Ciccolo’s appar­ent embrace of ter­ror­ist ideology.

Ciccolo Facebook post ISIS Syria father dream

One of Ciccolo’s Face­book posts

In a post dated Decem­ber 1, 2014, he described a dream in which he was “run­ning to Sham (Syria), climb­ing over walls, over fences, through train sta­tions and across the coun­try. It seemed like every­one was try­ing to stop me from get­ting to Sham. I even­tu­ally stopped run­ning and turned around. There was a man point­ing a pis­tol at me and my father was with him. I kept telling them to let me go, I was try­ing to rea­son with them. They wouldn’t lis­ten and con­tin­ued try­ing to harm me. I then had to kill this man and my father.” In the same post, he also described a sec­ond dream in which he “needed weapons des­per­ately, so I came up with a plan and stole the rifles an (AR15, and a shot­gun) out of the trunk of a police car.”

Two days later, Cic­colo posted a para­graph about ISIS cap­tur­ing weapons sup­plied by the U.S. and Israel (which he calls the “kuf­far alliance,” or apos­tate alliance) result­ing in both countries

Cicollo posted support for ISIS on Facebook

Cicollo posted sup­port for ISIS on Facebook

“work­ing against [them­selves]” and “rot[ting] them­selves from the inside out. They will suf­fer severe Hell­fire and they will find them­selves tor­tured souls.” One of Ciccolo’s Face­book friends com­mented on this post say­ing, “may almighty Allah help isis and in shaa allah rab (God will­ing) we shall become vic­to­ri­ous above the shay­atin (devils).”

Other state­ments fur­ther indi­cated his extrem­ist and con­spir­a­to­r­ial beliefs.

  •  “I only hope that I can serve Him the best I can and die a good death” (pos­si­bly refer­ring to dying as a ter­ror­ist; posted Decem­ber 1, 2014)
  • “If one does not learn to sub­ju­gate the other, one quickly finds the boot of the lat­ter on his throat,” (Decem­ber 16, 2014)
  •  “It is totally impos­si­ble to free asso­ciate with kuf­far (apos­tates) if you are a prac­tic­ing Mus­lim.” (Decem­ber 23, 2014)
  • “The kuf­far (apos­tates) con­t­a­m­i­nated all the food. Can some­one please send me a com­plete halal food list for the United States?” (Decem­ber 26, 2014)

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Cic­colo also praised the June 2015 attack on a beach and hotel in Tunisia, call­ing it “awe­some” and “a huge accom­plish­ment.” Court doc­u­ments also indi­cate that, ear­lier in the year, he posted a state­ment on Face­book that read, “Thank you Islamic State! Now we won’t have to deal with these kafir back in Amer­ica” (with an image of a dead U.S. sol­dier; posted Octo­ber 17, 2014)

Cicollo posted on Facebook about seeing Adolf Hitler

Cicollo posted on Face­book about see­ing Adolf Hitler

Some of Ciccolo’s ideas may have also been fueled by anti-Semitic sen­ti­ments.On Decem­ber 22, Cic­colo described a dream he claimed to have had in which he was “dressed in an SS uni­form” inspect­ing chil­dren in a school and then he “saw Hitler and his face was so bright and beautiful.”

Cic­colo is one of at least 15 con­verts to Islam linked to ter­ror­ism in the U.S. this year. And he is far from hav­ing grown up with extrem­ist ide­olo­gies: His father is a cap­tain in the Boston police and report­edly informed counter-terrorism inves­ti­ga­tors of his son’s increas­ing radicalization.

He is the fourth man linked to ter­ror plots in New Eng­land in 2015. Ciccolo’s alleged plot makes the 13th known domes­tic plot appar­ently inspired by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy this year.

News reports indi­cate that Cic­colo may suf­fer from men­tal illness.

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June 30, 2015 0

ISIS-Related Arrests in June Emphasize Ongoing Security Concerns

Four­teen U.S. res­i­dents from 7 states have been linked to ter­ror­ist activ­ity inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) this month alone.

Nicholas Rovinski of Rhode Island was allegedly part of a Boston-area plot and hoped to travel to join ISIS.

Nicholas Rovin­ski of Rhode Island was allegedly part of a Boston-area plot and hoped to travel to join ISIS.

Of the 14, five pri­mar­ily were arrested for attempt­ing join ISIS (some of them also dis­cussed pos­si­ble attacks in the event that their travel plans failed), one for recruit­ing for ISIS and eight for their roles in domes­tic plots that included a plot to behead Boston area law enforce­ment offi­cers, one to bomb New York City land­marks, the shoot­ing in Gar­land and another to shoot peo­ple and det­o­nate a bomb in North Carolina.

Three of the indi­vid­u­als allegedly used knives in con­fronta­tions with law enforce­ment offi­cials who were mon­i­tor­ing or attempt­ing to ques­tion them (Fareed Mumuni, Munther Omar Saleh, and Usaama Rahim; see below). A fourth indi­vid­ual, Amir Said Abdul Rah­man Al-Ghazi, had also pur­chased a knife but did not use it.

ISIS has pop­u­lar­ized the use of knives in its pro­pa­ganda, both through its use of knives in behead­ing videos and through direct calls for sup­port­ers to arm them­selves with knives or any other weapons avail­able. A speech pur­port­edly by ISIS spokesman Abu Moham­mad Al Adnani in Sep­tem­ber 2014, for exam­ple, told sup­port­ers, “If you are not able to find an IED or a bul­let, then sin­gle out the dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can, French­man, or any of his allies.  Smash his head with a rock, or slaugh­ter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.…” That same speech also directly encour­aged tar­get­ing law enforce­ment offi­cials, stat­ing, “Strike their police, secu­rity and intel­li­gence members….”

A Jan­u­ary 2015 speech pur­port­edly by Adnani called for attacks, “whether with an explo­sive device, a bul­let, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist,” and a video released in April 2015 stated, “Your neigh­bor is a kaf­fir (apos­tate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”

Munther Omar Saleh allegedly conspired to bomb a New York landmark.

Munther Omar Saleh allegedly con­spired to bomb a New York landmark.

All 14 of the indi­vid­u­als linked to ter­ror in June appear to be moti­vated by ISIS and nearly all appear to have been influ­enced by ISIS’s online pro­pa­ganda and social media presence.

Since ISIS announced its inde­pen­dence from Al Qaeda in 2014, 86% of U.S. res­i­dents engag­ing in activ­ity on behalf of for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions since 2014 have been linked to ISIS.

A total of 54 U.S. res­i­dents have been linked to Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity in the first half of 2015 – more than dou­ble the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als in 2014.

The FBI, which has indi­cated that it has ongo­ing ISIS-related inves­ti­ga­tions in all 50 states, has issued a warn­ing regard­ing increased secu­rity con­cerns over the July 4th weekend.

The activ­i­ties of the 14 U.S. res­i­dents arrested in June, as described in court doc­u­ments, are detailed below.

  • Usaama Rahim, a 26-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Mass­a­chu­setts, was killed on June 2, 2015, when he drew a knife after being approached by law enforce­ment offi­cials. Rahim had allegedly con­spired with David Wright, a 25-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Mass­a­chu­setts arrested later that day on a charge of con­spir­acy to behead Pamela Geller, head of the anti-Muslim orga­ni­za­tion Stop Islam­i­ciza­tion of Amer­ica. The two later shifted their plans and dis­cussed behead­ing police offi­cers. Alleged co-conspirator Nicholas Rovin­ski, a 24-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Rhode Island, was arrested June 12. Rovin­ski had also allegedly hoped to travel to join ISIS.
  • Reza Nikne­jad, an 18-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Vir­ginia, was charged in absen­tia on June 10, 2015 with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port for ISIS. Nikne­jad, who is pre­sumed to have joined ISIS, had allegedly been encour­aged to travel by Ali Shukri Amin, a 17-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Vir­ginia who had been arrested in February.

    Decarus Thomas of Arizona allegedly aided the Garland shooters

    Decarus Thomas of Ari­zona allegedly aided the Gar­land shooters

  • Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem (Decarus Thomas), a 43-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Ari­zona and a con­vert to Islam, was arrested on June 10, 2015, for allegedly aid­ing Gar­land shoot­ers Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi. Soofi and Simp­son were killed when they shot at a Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter in May. Kareem is believed to have opened his home to Soofi and Simp­son to dis­cuss their plot and to have sup­plied the rifles they used in their shooting.
  • Akmal Zakirov, a 29-year-old U.S. res­i­dent from New York, was arrested on June 11, 2015, for fund­ing travel plans for Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov, New York res­i­dents arrested in Feb­ru­ary for attempt­ing to join ISIS. Juraboev and Said­khme­tov had also allegedly dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of shoot­ing police offi­cers and shoot­ing the FBI head­quar­ters. Juraboev had also allegedly sug­gested that he would attempt to shoot Pres­i­dent Obama on behalf of ISIS.
  • Munther Omar Saleh, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New York, was arrested on June 13, 2015, for allegedly con­spir­ing to bomb an unspec­i­fied land­mark in New York City. Accord­ing to reports, Saleh had researched how to acquire mate­ri­als for and build a pres­sure cooker bomb online. Saleh was arrested when he attempted to attack a law enforce­ment offi­cer who had been mon­i­tor­ing him. Salah was arrested together with an unnamed 17-year-old co-conspirator. Saleh’s other alleged co-conspirator,  Fareed Mumuni, a 21-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New York, was arrested on June 17, 2015. Mumuni also attempted to attack a law enforce­ment offi­cer who had come to his res­i­dence to ques­tion him.
  • Samuel Rahamin Topaz, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New Jer­sey and a con­vert to Islam, was arrested on June 18, 2015, for allegedly attempt­ing to travel to join ISIS. Topaz had engaged in con­ver­sa­tions with Saleh and Mumuni, who allegedly encour­aged his plans. Topaz had also been in con­tact with Alaa Saadeh, a 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New Jer­sey arrested on June 29 and Saadeh’s brother, a U.S. cit­i­zen and for­mer New Jer­sey res­i­dent who was arrested in June in Jor­dan, allegedly on his way to join ISIS. Topaz and Saadeh had both report­edly planned to meet Saadeh’s brother in ISIS con­trolled ter­ri­tory together with Munther Saleh

    Justin Sullivan of North Carolina allegedly planned a domestic attack.

    Justin Sul­li­van of North Car­olina allegedly planned a domes­tic attack.

  • Amir Said Abdul Rah­man Al-Ghazi (for­merly Robert McCul­lum), a 38-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen and a con­vert to Islam from Ohio, was arrested on June 19, 2015, on charges of pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ISIS, being a felon in pos­ses­sion of a weapon and dis­tri­b­u­tion of mar­i­juana. Al-Ghazi had attempted to recruit for ISIS by cre­at­ing pro-ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos. He had pur­chased the gun for which he was charged as well as a machete for his pro­pa­ganda videos. Al-Ghazi had also expressed inter­est in under­tak­ing a domes­tic attack involv­ing the derail­ing of a train.
  • Justin Nojan Sul­li­van, a 19-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen and con­vert to Islam from North Car­olina, was arrested on June 22, 2015, on charges of pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ISIS. Sul­li­van allegedly planned to attack local estab­lish­ments, allegedly for train­ing, and fol­low them up with a bomb­ing. Although the tar­get for his bomb­ing was unspec­i­fied, Sul­li­van expressed intent to kill 1,000 people.

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June 10, 2015 0

ADL Submits Testimony to House Committee on Homeland Security

The House Com­mit­tee on Home­land Secu­rity held a hear­ing on June 3, 2015, on the increas­ing efforts by extrem­ists, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to use sophis­ti­cated social media and other Inter­net plat­forms to recruit mem­bers, share pro­pa­ganda and inspire attacks.Terrorism Gone Viral The Attack in Garland, Texas and Beyond

ADL, which tracks how ter­ror­ist groups exploit new tech­nol­ogy, works closely with the Inter­net indus­try and trains law enforce­ment around the coun­try, sub­mit­ted com­pre­hen­sive tes­ti­mony for the hear­ing record high­light­ing the exten­sive efforts of ter­ror­ists to har­ness new tech­nol­ogy for recruit­ment and radicalization.

The League’s state­ment included details on the unprece­dented num­ber of indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in the United States linked to plots, con­spir­a­cies, and other activ­ity on behalf of for­eign ter­ror­ist groups thus far in 2015.

The hear­ing, titled “Ter­ror­ism Gone Viral The Attack in Gar­land, Texas and Beyond,” focused on the attempted vio­lent attack at a Gar­land, Texas, com­mu­nity cen­ter last month. One of the appar­ent shoot­ers, Elton Simp­son, main­tained an active pres­ence on Twit­ter, with at least eight accounts that he used to net­work with ISIS sup­port­ers prior to the attack. Simp­son is believed to have inter­acted with Mohamed Abdul­lahi Has­san, a per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dent that may have inspired as many as 11 peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. to take action in the last two years.

Led by Com­mit­tee Chair­man Michael McCaul (R-TX), Mem­bers heard from three sub­ject mat­ter experts: John Mul­li­gan, Deputy Direc­tor of the National Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, Fran­cis X. Tay­lor, Under Sec­re­tary in the DHS Office of Intel­li­gence and Analy­sis and Michael B. Stein­bach,  Assis­tant Direc­tor of the FBI, on these issues.

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