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October 27, 2014 1

New Spate of Lone Wolf Attacks Highlights Terrorist Propaganda

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

A recent series of attacks in the U.S. and Canada have renewed national con­ver­sa­tion about the dan­ger of lone wolf ter­ror­ism: Attacks under­taken by indi­vid­u­als act­ing entirely on their own, with­out belong­ing to an orga­nized extrem­ist group, ter­ror­ist group or cell.

When extrem­ists plan and exe­cute attacks alone, as indi­vid­u­als, there are far fewer oppor­tu­ni­ties for law enforce­ment to detect the attacks in advance and they are much more dif­fi­cult to pre­vent. Con­se­quently, “lone wolf” actions tend to be more deadly.

There is increas­ing spec­u­la­tion that the rise of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other for­eign ter­ror­ist groups – and its increas­ing sophis­ti­ca­tion – may con­tribute to such attacks.

ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), and other groups have called on Amer­i­cans, Cana­di­ans and other west­ern­ers to self-radicalize and com­mit lone wolf attacks against their home countries.

In Sep­tem­ber, a speech released by ISIS told sup­port­ers, “If you can kill a dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can or Euro­pean – espe­cially the…French – or an Aus­tralian, or a Canadian…kill him in any man­ner or way how­ever it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s ver­dict. Kill the dis­be­liever whether he is civil­ian or mil­i­tary…” One of the sug­gested meth­ods of attack was to “run him [the West­erner] over with your car.”

In August, AQAP issued an English-language mag­a­zine, which stated that the U.S. “needs sev­eral more attacks inside and out­side its ter­ri­to­ries. This could be done by a Mujahid group or a lone Mujahid,” and pro­vided updated instruc­tions for build­ing pres­sure cooker bombs and car bombs. Such sen­ti­ments have been a fea­ture of AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda for years.

More­over, expo­sure to vio­lent images com­bined with the incite­ment of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda may pro­vide the nec­es­sary ratio­nale to lead indi­vid­u­als with vio­lent ten­den­cies – and some­times unsta­ble behav­ior – over the tip­ping point towards vio­lence. And in pro­vid­ing that ratio­nale, ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda may also direct the vio­lence, lead­ing to a higher like­li­hood of attacks against law enforce­ment, author­ity fig­ures, or other sym­bolic targets.

Zale Thompson’s alleged attack against NY police offi­cers and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s alleged attack on the Cana­dian Par­lia­ment pro­vide exam­ples of this new type of lone wolf: Indi­vid­u­als with some degree of upset and insta­bil­ity who buy into the frame­work of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda to the extent that they under­take acts of violence.

Thomp­son, for exam­ple, was rumored to be depressed and suf­fer­ing from drug abuse. He was angry about what he per­ceived as oppres­sion of blacks in the U.S. In his embrace of rad­i­cal Islam, he read and wrote about “holy war” and behead­ings, and googled the phrase “jihad against police,” accord­ing to law enforce­ment sources. He also looked up infor­ma­tion on the two Cana­dian attacks before allegedly attempt­ing to kill the police officers.

Less is known about Mar­tin Rouleau-Couture, the man who allegedly ran over two sol­diers in Canada last week, but he, too, appar­ently engaged with extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda online and praised ISIS on his Face­book page.

Lone wolves aren’t the only ones who respond to online incite­ment. A major­ity of the Amer­i­can cit­i­zens who attempt to join for­eign ter­ror­ist groups abroad or to work on their behalf at home have been influ­enced by it to some extent – appar­ently includ­ing the three teenage girls from Den­ver who allegedly attempted to join ISIS last week.

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October 22, 2014 0

Pro-Hezbollah Hackers Target Media Group For Its Position On Israel

On Octo­ber 20, pro-Hezbollah hack­ers took con­trol of the Twit­ter account of a promi­nent Lebanese Chris­t­ian TV sta­tion, Murr Tele­vi­sion, known as MTV Lebanon, because the sta­tion allegedly failed to describe Hamas com­bat­ants killed in the fight­ing with Israel as “martyrs.”mtv-lebanon-hacking-hezbollah

The hack­ers changed the Twit­ter account’s cover image to a photo of a Hezbol­lah fighter under a Hezbol­lah flag and tweeted a mes­sage from the account stating:

“[Only] when you learn the dif­fer­ence between a mar­tyr and a killed [per­son], between an agent [of Israel] and a resis­tance fighter…. [Only] When you learn that Israel is the enemy, then your account will return to you. So we don’t for­get Palestine.@MTVLebanonNews.”

While no group has claimed respon­si­bil­ity for the hack­ing, Hezbol­lah’s media arm,Al Manar, praised the attack in a report pub­lished yes­ter­day that read in part, “For sev­eral hours today, the flag of Hezbol­lah kept wav­ing over the pub­lic page of MTV twit­ter account.”

The hack­ing of MTV Lebanon and sub­se­quent prais­ing of it by Hezbollah’s media arm could rep­re­sent a new tac­tic in the way ter­ror­ist groups in the Mid­dle East attack their oppo­nents online and spread their ide­ol­ogy to a wider audi­ence. It does not appear that Hezbol­lah has pre­vi­ously endorsed cyber-attacks against its opponents.

ADL has tracked sev­eral hack­ing oper­a­tions against Jew­ish and Israeli insti­tu­tions by anti-Israel groups.

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October 8, 2014 0

Chicago Arrest Provides Example Of An American’s Detailed Plan To Join ISIS

The arrest of a Chicago man for allegedly attempt­ing to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demon­strates the extent to which Amer­i­cans attempt­ing to join ter­ror groups abroad are able to com­mu­ni­cate with for­eign con­tacts and for­mu­late their travel plans.mohammed-khan-isis

Mohamed Hamzah Khan, 19, was arrested Sun­day at Chicago O’Hare Inter­na­tional Air­port as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey.

While many of the Amer­i­cans arrested for attempt­ing to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in the past two years – includ­ing fel­low Chicagoan Abdella Tounisi – have not nec­es­sar­ily had a well-formulated plan, Khan’s case rep­re­sents an exam­ple of an indi­vid­ual whose efforts seem to have been informed, if not directed, by mem­bers of the ter­ror­ist group itself.

In a note­book found in his home, Khan allegedly had drawn maps of the Syria-Turkish bor­der, with arrows show­ing pos­si­ble cross­ings. He also allegedly listed steps to take, includ­ing an itin­er­ary for a trip by bus in Turkey that would get him to that bor­der. His knowl­edge of what to do in order to join ISIS likely came from online sources. Accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint, he had received phone num­bers for con­tact peo­ple in Syria from an indi­vid­ual he was allegedly in touch with online. Khan had report­edly bought a round-trip ticket to Turkey, pos­si­bly to avert suspicion.

The search of Khan’s home also allegedly uncov­ered an ide­o­log­i­cal affin­ity for ISIS. Police report­edly found a farewell note in which Khan had writ­ten, “We are all wit­ness that the west­ern soci­eties are get­ting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this,” and urg­ing his par­ents to join him in Syria. Accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in his case, author­i­ties also found a note­book in his home with a draw­ing of a fighter with an ISIS flag and the words “Come to Jihad” writ­ten in Arabic.

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