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September 22, 2014 0

ISIS-Related Arrest In Rochester Underscores Online Radicalization

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Mufid Elfgeeh

The online activ­ity of Mufid Elfgeeh, whose arrest for attempt­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port for ter­ror, attempt­ing to kill U.S. sol­diers, and pos­ses­sion of firearms and silencers was made pub­lic this week by the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice, under­scores the cen­tral­ity of the Inter­net in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion and recruit­ment process.

Elfgeeh uti­lized mul­ti­ple online plat­forms includ­ing Twit­ter, Face­book, YouTube and the android appli­ca­tion What­sApp to try to raise money for for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and to recruit three other indi­vid­u­als to join for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. His online activ­ity also inspired him to devise a plot to kill Shi’a Mus­lims and for­mer Amer­i­can ser­vice­men at home.

Social media enabled Elfgeeh to not only learn about the activ­i­ties of for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions through videos, tweets and other online pro­pa­ganda, but to also con­nect with appar­ent sup­port­ers of those orga­ni­za­tions, in par­tic­u­lar the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Elfgeeh sought dona­tions for ter­ror­ists in Syria through Twit­ter. Among his alleged tweets were requests that peo­ple donate a third of their salary or at least “#Five_thousand_dollars_from_every_household” to sup­port mil­i­tants in Syria. He also tweeted and retweeted state­ments of sup­port for var­i­ous ter­ror groups includ­ing, “al-Qa’ida said it loud and clear: we are fight­ing the Amer­i­can inva­sion and their hege­mony over the earth and the people.”

On Face­book, Elfgeeh was a mem­ber of at least two Arabic-language Face­book groups in which group mem­bers reg­u­larly post and share al Qaeda and ISIS pro­pa­ganda. His own Face­book pho­tos included sev­eral images from Al Bat­tar media, an offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda wing.

Elfgeeh also allegedly used Face­book to com­mu­ni­cate with indi­vid­u­als he believed were mem­bers of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and with the indi­vid­u­als he was recruit­ing about plans to travel abroad to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.

In his recruit­ing, he ini­tially sug­gested Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) and Al Shabaab as pos­si­ble des­ti­na­tions, and later focused on ISIS. Notably, AQAP, Al Shabaab and ISIS are all ter­ror­ist groups that have become highly adept at dis­trib­ut­ing exten­sive English-language pro­pa­ganda.

On April 22 2014, he allegedly posted a mes­sage on Face­book attempt­ing to gain con­nec­tions in ISIS, stat­ing, “Who­ever knows a brother from ISIS who is able to com­mu­ni­cate well in Eng­lish, can com­mu­ni­cate with me through the pri­vate, due to the impor­tance.” He also com­mu­ni­cated directly on Face­book with an indi­vid­ual he was recruit­ing to join ISIS (the indi­vid­ual was in fact an informant).

Elfgeeh was allegedly devel­op­ing a plot to com­mit mul­ti­ple mur­ders in the U.S. as well, appar­ently inspired by acts of ter­ror­ism around the world includ­ing Al Shabaab’s attack of the West­gate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and, in par­tic­u­lar, by Mohammed Merah’s shoot­ings in France.

His inspi­ra­tion for this plot appar­ently came from watch­ing videos on YouTube. He allegedly explained that he had learned about Merah’s actions because, “[i]t’s in YouTube.” He also allegedly had watched a video that pro­vided jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and instruc­tions for his plot: The video, he stated, “tell[s] you what to do …it’s YouTube…they call them here…’individual wolf’ (an appar­ent ref­er­ence to lone wolf attacks).”

Elfgeeh is a 30-year-old nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. Orig­i­nally from Yemen, he resided in Rochester, NY prior to his arrest where he owned and oper­ated a store called Halal Mojo and Food­mart. He was arrested on May 31, 2014 and pleaded not guilty on Sep­tem­ber 18.

Elfgeeh is the sec­ond Amer­i­can arrested in 2014 for recruit­ing oth­ers to join for­eign ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions, fol­low­ing Rahatul Ashikim Khan of Round Rock, Texas, who was arrested in June.

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September 10, 2014 1

Former Revolution Muslim Imam Encourages Support for ISIS

Imam Abdul­lah Al-Faisal, for­mer spir­i­tual leader of the now-defunct Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim (RM)orga­ni­za­tion, con­tin­ues to actively preach hatred and extrem­ism online in Eng­lish and now actively encour­ages his fol­low­ers to sup­port the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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Ad for the Authen­tic Tauheed con­fer­ence sup­port­ing ISIS

In an online con­fer­ence this week­end, Al-Faisal and three other extrem­ist, English-speaking cler­ics spoke for a col­lec­tive 200 min­utes on the theme of sup­port for ISIS and its self-proclaimed Caliphate.

Two of the cler­ics who spoke in addi­tion to Al-Faisal have also been known to incite extrem­ism. One, Atila Ahmed from Lon­don (also known as Abu Abdul­lah) was report­edly sen­tenced to nearly seven years in prison in 2008 on charges of solic­it­ing mur­der. The sec­ond, Miza­nur Rah­man from Lon­don (also known as Abu Baraa), was con­victed of hate speech and solic­i­ta­tion to mur­der in 2006.

Remarks dur­ing the con­fer­ence ranged from endorse­ment of ISIS to anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT state­ments, including:

  • “Who are those that reject the Dawla (ISIS)?…The peo­ple that claim that the sharia is not impor­tant, don’t think about the sharia, think about them­selves.” (Al-Faisal)
  • “When you see that the Dawla cut off the heads of Shi’as you will think that’s extreme, these peo­ple are crazy…first of all, the clas­si­cal schol­ars did not con­sider Shi’as as Muslims…you don’t know what the Shi’as believe and you don’t know why the Dawla is so harsh against the Shi’as.” (Al-Faisal)
  • “All the other groups espe­cially in Iraq don’t have as strong a com­mit­ment to imple­ment­ing Sharia as the Dawla and…Dawla is con­quer­ing town after town.” (Abu Ruqayyah)
  • “What about our­selves sit­ting on our back­sides eat­ing cakes and bis­cuits at home while they’re [ISIS fight­ers] strug­gling to bring honor to the com­mu­nity of Islam?”
  • “All you Mus­lims that vote, you have the blood of Mus­lims that are killed by the West on your hands… by giv­ing your alle­giance to kuf­far (apos­tates) and the man-made laws…” (Abu Abdullah)
  •  “Did you know that they say Abu Bakr al Bagh­dadi is a Jew? When they accuse Abu bakr al Bagh­dadi of being a Jew, what are they? They are noth­ing but the bark­ing dogs of jah­hanam (hell).” (Al-Faisal)
  • “If you say some­thing against the Zion­ist Jews or the Jews that died in the wars at the hands of Hitler and you don’t accept it, they could put you into prison. This is the free­dom that the Mus­lims are vot­ing for.” (Abu Abdullah)
  • “So by these they [homo­sex­u­als] are prey­ing on our chil­dren in schools. They say the inte­gra­tion, the accep­tance of democ­racy is brain­wash­ing our chil­dren into accept­ing homo­sex­u­al­ity. They’re try­ing to make our chil­dren like them [gay]. As you see if they’re pump­ing it day and night on the news on these shows all full of homo­sex­u­als and les­bians.” (Abu Abdullah)

These remarks are con­sis­tent with state­ments that Al-Faisal has been mak­ing via his Authen­tic Tauheed web­site and on his per­sonal Twit­ter account for months.

In July, Al-Faisal copied the offi­cial ISIS ver­sion of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s biog­ra­phy in Eng­lish onto his web­site and pre­sented a lec­ture encour­ag­ing stu­dents to learn from and about Bagh­dadi and ISIS.  Sim­i­larly, in a July lec­ture posted on his site, he stated, “There is no doubt that he (Bag­dadhi) is the legit­i­mate caliph and it is incum­bent upon you to give your be’ah (alle­giance),” later adding, “So take up arms, take up arms, O sol­diers of the Islamic State! And fight, fight!”

On his Twit­ter account, where this weekend’s con­fer­ence was adver­tised, Al-Faisal’s tweets have included:

  • “The #Islam­ic­state has no bor­ders because we are meant to be #mujahideen sans fron­tiers #ISIS” (August 20)
  • “Why should #Jews com­mit geno­cide and then play the race card to defend them­selves. To me, #Hitler was right.”(September 2)

    abdullah-al-faisal-twitter-isis

    Via Abdul­lah Al-Faisal’s Twit­ter feed

  • “Our females make us proud by join­ing IS (The Islamic State, or ISIS).” (Sep­tem­ber 9)
  • “Any Mujahid [reli­gious fighter] who doesn’t give his bayah (alle­giance) to Dawla (ISIS) is a fake Jihadi and his death will b in vain. So please b warned.” (Sep­tem­ber 9)

Al-Faisal has also used Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tions to encour­age oth­ers to fol­low his views. In com­ments to one of his posts writ­ten on Sep­tem­ber 4, al-Faisal was asked whether the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion was a “good resource to under­stand the zionist’s [sic] and their plan.” Al-Faisal responded, “I was taught the pro­to­cols of zion [sic] in Univ. Hence I would rec­om­mend it as an excel­lent source of knowledge.”

In the same con­ver­sa­tion, Al-Faisal was asked, “Shaikh I recently became Mus­lim but am still in High School how do you rec­om­mend I seek knowl­edge?” Al-Faisal directed the asker to the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion and also to a link on the Authen­tic Tauheed site that, in sum­ma­riz­ing prin­ci­ples of Islam, states, “There is a Quranic verse where Allah (SWT) pro­nounced Jews and Chris­tians as Kuf­far (apos­tates) even before the huj­jah (in this con­text, pun­ish­ment for not fol­low­ing Islam) was estab­lished against them.”

Prior to his sup­port for ISIS, al-Faisal was a known sup­porter of al Qaeda, and once con­demned Anwar al Awlaki, who after­ward went on to become al Qaeda’s chief English-language pro­pa­gan­dist, for not being rad­i­cal enough.

Al-Faisal has pre­vi­ously been jailed for his vio­lent preach­ing. In 2003, al-Faisal was sen­tenced in a court in Lon­don to nine years for incit­ing racial hatred and mur­der. The sen­tence was later reduced to seven years and in May 2007 he was paroled and deported to Jamaica.

In his UK ser­mons prior to his arrest, Al-Faisal encour­aged Mus­lims who are 15 and older to get weapon train­ing dur­ing school vaca­tions and to assume a “jihad men­tal­ity.” In his speeches he said that non-Muslims, includ­ing Hin­dus and Jews, should be killed like “cock­roaches.” In one lec­ture he said that the “filthy Jews [were] evil to the core.” In a recorded speech that was car­ried shortly after the Sep­tem­ber 11 attack and pre­sented as evi­dence at the trial, Al-Faisal, argued that it is “per­mis­si­ble to drop bombs on a kuf­far (apos­tate) nation” and that women and chil­dren who may be hurt are “col­lat­eral dam­age” and Mus­lims will “become martyrs.”

Al-Faisal’s Authen­tic Tauheed site, on which this weekend’s con­fer­ence took place and where he reg­u­larly posts his lec­tures, is hosted on the PalTalk web­site, which bills itself as a “free videochat com­mu­nity.” It also main­tains two Twit­ter feeds dis­tinct from al-Faisal’s feed. Al-Faisal has been using the ser­vice since at least 2008. The word tauheed (some­times spelled tawhid) is an Islamic term refer­ring to monotheism.

Al-Faisal was per­haps best known as the spir­i­tual guide for RM, a fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence for many years. RM dis­trib­uted al-Faisal’s CDs and posts videos of his lec­tures and his writ­ings to its Web site, and dona­tions to RM were believed to pos­si­bly sup­port Faisal financially.

He is also believed to have played a role in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” and Jer­maine Lind­say, one of the bombers behind the July 7, 2005 attacks on London’s tran­sit system.

Abdul­lah Ibrahim Al-Faisal (also spelled El-Faisal) was born Trevor For­rest in Jamaica. He con­verted to Islam when he was 16 and moved to Britain as a young man. In 1992, after sev­eral years of study­ing reli­gion in Saudi Ara­bia, he returned to Britain and became a preacher at the Brix­ton Mosque in Lon­don, where he deliv­ered very rad­i­cal speeches to crowds of up to 500 worshipers.

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September 5, 2014 1

The American Face of Foreign Terror Recruits

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Mar­cos Alonso Zea of New York attempted to join AQAP

U.S. intel­li­gence esti­mates indi­cate that sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of Amer­i­cans – as few as a dozen or as many as 300, accord­ing to some offi­cials – have trav­eled abroad to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Although most of these indi­vid­u­als have not been pub­licly iden­ti­fied, con­crete infor­ma­tion is avail­able about 20 Amer­i­cans who fought or attempted to travel abroad since the begin­ning of 2013. An analy­sis of their back­grounds pro­vides inter­est­ing sta­tis­tics that may sup­ple­ment our under­stand­ing of the peo­ple attracted to ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions and pro­vide clues about the many addi­tional, uniden­ti­fied Amer­i­cans believed to have trav­eled abroad.

For exam­ple, the infor­ma­tion tells us that:

  • They range in age from 18 to 44, but the major­ity are in their 20s.
  • Nine of them joined or attempted to join ISIS.
  • Six of them joined or attempted to join the Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Syria Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Three of them joined or attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) in Yemen.
  • 13 of the 20, or 65%, are report­edly con­verts to Islam.
  • They come from across the coun­try: Six came from Cal­i­for­nia, two each from Min­nesota, Michi­gan, North Car­olina, Florida and New York. Other states rep­re­sented include Texas, Penn­syl­va­nia, Illi­nois, Mass­a­chu­setts and Arizona.
  • Only two of the 20 were women. (ADL has doc­u­mented 13 female cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the U.S. arrested on ter­ror­ism charges since 2002.)

The num­ber of Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied as attempt­ing to join ISIS spiked sharply in 2014. Seven of the nine Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied above attempted to join the ter­ror group just this year.  Whereas in 2013, half of the Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied attempted to join the con­flict in Syria, but only one to ISIS.

This influx of Amer­i­cans attempt­ing to join ISIS is tak­ing place as ISIS steps ups its threats against the U.S., includ­ing behead­ing Amer­i­cans and expand­ing its sophis­ti­cated online media cam­paign designed to moti­vate and recruit westerners.

Indeed, con­fir­ma­tion by U.S. offi­cials that two Amer­i­can men with links to Min­nesota were killed last month in Syria is the lat­est indi­ca­tion that ISIS has replaced Al Shabaab in Soma­lia as the ter­ror­ist des­ti­na­tion of choice for Amer­i­can mil­i­tants. 

A full list of names follows:

  • Ahmad Abousamra of Mass­a­chu­setts: Believed to be work­ing with ISIS in Iraq or Syria (iden­ti­fied in 2014).
  • Abdi­rah­maan Muhumed of Min­nesota: Killed in Syria in August 2014 appar­ently fight­ing with ISIS.
  • Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain of Cal­i­for­nia: Killed in Syria in August 2014, appar­ently fight­ing with ISIS.
  • Don­ald Ray Mor­gan of North Car­olina: Arrested in August 2014 on firearm charges; believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Adam Dan­dach of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in July 2014 on pass­port fraud charges; believed to have been attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas: Arrested in June 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Moner Abu-Salha of Florida: Killed in a sui­cide attack he car­ried out in May 2014 on behalf of Jab­hat al Nusra.

    moner-abu-salha-nusra

    Moner Abu-Salha of Florida joined Jab­hat al Nusra

  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley of Col­orado: Arrested in April 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Mohammed Has­san Ham­dan of Michi­gan: Arrested in March 2014 for attempt­ing to join Hezbol­lah in Syria.
  • Nicholas Teau­sant of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in March 2014 for attempt­ing to join ISIS.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh of North Car­olina: Arrested Novem­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Mar­cos Alonso Zea of New York: Arrested in Octo­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.
  • Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Octo­ber 2013 for attempt­ing to join Al Qaeda. Nguyen had pre­vi­ously fought in Syria.
  • Amir Farouq Ibrahim, of Penn­syl­va­nia: Assumed dead in July 2013 and believed to have fought with ISIS.
  • Justin Kaliebe of New York: Arrested in June 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.
  • Nicole Mans­field of Michi­gan: Killed in May 2013, report­edly fight­ing with Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinios: Arrested in April 2013 for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Eric Har­roun of Ari­zona: Arrested in March 2013 for trav­el­ing to Syria to fight with Jab­hat al Nusra. He pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in Sep­tem­ber, 2013, and was sen­tenced to time served. That Har­roun fought in Syria is uncon­tested; how­ever, reports dif­fer as to whether he fought with Jab­hat al Nusra or with the Syr­ian Free Army, which is not con­sid­ered a ter­ror­ist organization.
  • Matthew Aaron Llaneza of Cal­i­for­nia: Arrested in Feb­ru­ary 2013 for attempted domes­tic ter­ror­ism and plans to travel to join the Tal­iban in Afghanistan.
  • Shel­ton Thomas Bell of Florida: Arrested in Jan­u­ary 2013 for attempt­ing to join AQAP.

In addi­tion to those indi­vid­u­als above, two appar­ent Amer­i­cans have been fea­tured in pro­pa­ganda videos from Syria, although their iden­ti­ties have not been fully verified:

  • A man called Abu Abdu­rah­man al-Trinidadi, allegedly Amer­i­can of Trinida­dian ori­gin, fea­tured sup­port­ing ISIS in a video released in August 2014.
  • A man called Abu Dujana al-Amriki, allegedly Amer­i­can, fea­tured sup­port­ing ISIS in a video released Novem­ber 2013.

Yet another Amer­i­can has been iden­ti­fied as fight­ing with ISIS because of his death in a Syr­ian airstrike in Sep­tem­ber 2014. Fur­ther infor­ma­tion about that indi­vid­ual has not yet been released.

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