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September 22, 2014 0

ISIS-Related Arrest In Rochester Underscores Online Radicalization

mufid-elfgeeh-isis-rochester

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 12, 2014 3

Hezbollah Android App Re-Launched For The Third Time

Update — 9/19/14: In response to the removal of the app from the Google Play store, Al Manar posted a state­ment attribut­ing the removal to a “cam­paign by the Jew­ish Anti-Defamation League” and promised to find “alter­na­tive ways to pro­vide the appli­ca­tion for Android phones.”

Update — 9/13/14: ADL alerted Google to the re-launched app on Sep­tem­ber 12. The app was removed from Google play later that day. ADL applauds Google’s response to Al-Manar’s repeated attempts to re-introduce this app. 

Last week, al-Manar, Hezbollah’s media arm which is listed as a “Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Global Ter­ror­ist Entity” by the U.S. gov­ern­ment, launched an Android phone app through the Google Play online store pro­vid­ing mobile access to its satel­lite tele­vi­sion sta­tion, also known as al-Manar.

Hezbollah's al-Manar app for android

Hezbollah’s al-Manar app for android

Al-Manar adver­tised the launch of the app on the land­ing page of its web­site. The announce­ment asked media net­work fol­low­ers to install the app on their phones to receive al-Manar con­tent and news, includ­ing high pri­or­ity alerts.

This is the third time Hezbol­lah has launched an app with that func­tion; the two prior apps were removed from Google Play. In July 2012, Al Manar first adver­tised its newly-launched appli­ca­tion pro­vid­ing mobile access to its satel­lite TV. Avail­able orig­i­nally through Apple’s iTunes ser­vice, Apple soon removed the app for vio­lat­ing its terms of ser­vice. After the app was removed from iTunes, Hezbol­lah tried to re-launch it again for Android phones only, but the app was soon removed from Google Play as well. In March 2014 free mobile appli­ca­tions appeared on iTunes and Google Play to pro­vide access to Al Manar pro­grams via iPhone and Android smart­phones once more.

Hezbol­lah has attempted to use mobile apps in other con­texts as well.  In June 2014, Al Manar TVlaunched an online com­pe­ti­tion in time for the World Cup called “Expect and Win” that used the California-based instant mes­sag­ing ser­vice What­sApp.The com­pe­ti­tion called on users to sub­mit pre­dic­tions for which teams would win and offered prizes for select­ing the win­ning teams. In Jan­u­ary 2014, Al Manar started using What­sAppto deliver “break­ing news” via text mes­sages to sub­scribers and to allow its sup­port­ers to inter­act with the sta­tion.  In Feb­ru­ary 2013, the mil­i­tary branch of Hezbol­lah, The Islamic Resis­tance (“Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya”) pro­vided a col­lec­tion of free Farsi and Ara­bic lan­guage pod­casts on iTunes. The pod­casts pro­moted both the ter­ror­ist group’s and the Iran­ian regime’s mil­i­tant propaganda.

Con­tin­u­ous attempts by the ter­ror­ist group to re-launch their smart phone app demon­strate their deter­mi­na­tion to exploit mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to broad­cast mes­sages of hate and ter­ror­ism to their sup­port­ers worldwide.

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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).

authentic-tauheed-abdullah-faisal

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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