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April 14, 2015

New ISIS Videos Threaten U.S. Amid Increase In Domestic Plots

Image promoting new ISIS video

Image promoting new ISIS video

Two new videos released this week by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demonstrate a ramping up of threats against the U.S. as terror groups increasingly call for homegrown attacks against Western countries – and as individuals increasingly appear to be heeding those calls.

Recent arrests of U.S. residents planning domestic attacks in ISIS’s name indicates that such calls for violence can have an impact on Americans motivated by Islamic extremism and the propaganda they find online distributed by ISIS and other terror groups.

There have been five alleged instances of domestic plots in the U.S. in 2015, ranging from conversations about the possibility of attack to actual attempted attacks. All were reportedly planned by individuals claiming allegiance to ISIS.

  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell of Ohio, arrested in January for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad.
  • Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov of New York, arrested in February and charged with material support for terror. Court documents state they were attempt­ing to join ISIS and dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack.
  • Hasan and Jonas Edmonds of Illinois, arrested in March and charged with attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.
  • Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui of New York, arrested in April for allegedly purchasing bomb-making equipment with plans for an attack.
  • John T. Booker and Alexander Blair of Kansas, arrested in April for allegedly attempting to undertake a suicide attack at the Ft. Riley military base.

These are among the 23 U.S. residents arrested on terror charges thus far in 2015, all but two of whom claimed allegiance to ISIS.

Both of the videos released this week feature references to previous terror attacks in Western countries and footage of brutal executions of ISIS victims in Iraq and Syria, as well as encouragement of individually-directed domestic plots.

One of the videos, released on April 10, was titled “We Will Burn America.” It featured footage and praise of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center along with narration in Arabic with English subtitles stating, “September 11 will be repeated.”

The video also features images from the attack on the Paris kosher supermarket and shootings in Canada, both of which were undertaken by individuals acting in ISIS’s name, as well as images of beheadings by ISIS. Its style was reminiscent of ISIS’s feature-film-length propaganda video “Flames of War,” which was shot to resemble an action movie and highlights the group’s ideological claims of a battle between good and evil, Islam and the West.

“We Will Burn America” was released on Twitter with the hashtag #we_will_burn_america. ISIS regularly encourages its supporters to participate in hashtag campaigns designed to artificially create trending items and spread the group’s propaganda. Last summer, the group undertook two hashtag campaigns similarly threatening the U.S., with the hashtags #CalamityWillBefallUS and #AMessageFromISISToUS.

The second video, released April 14, takes the form of a music video encouraging lone-wolf attacks and threatening Western countries. The language is German, with English subtitles. ISIS has released multiple music videos to appeal to young audiences while conveying the group’s messages.

A screenshot from the new ISIS music video

A screenshot from the new ISIS music video

Addressed “to the enemies of Allah,” the video’s narration states that “this is a message and more are going to follow.” The video portrays a man reading the Qu’ran and watching ISIS propaganda on his computer, including graphic videos of beheadings, the burning of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, mass killings, and wounded soldiers. “We want your blood,” it states, “it tastes so wonderful.”

It then shows individuals preparing for different types of domestic attacks, including a stabbing, car bomb, and a suicide bombing in Times Square, as well as learning about gun use and bomb-making online – seemingly examples for would-be domestic attackers and an acknowledgment of the importance of online terrorist propaganda. Images of previous attacks against the West, including the attack against the Paris kosher supermarket, are shown as well. “In France it has been proven by deeds. German sleeper cell are waiting,” it states. “Allah has called you! … Your neighbor is a kaffir (apostate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”

The release of the videos comes as ISIS is losing territory and recruits in the Middle East. Losses by terrorist groups have often corresponded with increased calls for attacks abroad, which do not require resource expenditure by the terror group itself and can then be claimed as victories for the group. Al Shabaab, for example, has similarly released calls for domestic attacks abroad in the past year as it undergoes losses of recruits, leadership, and territory in Somalia and its surrounding countries.

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July 18, 2013

Arizona Aryan Brotherhood Member Convicted Of Hate Crime For Threatening Phoenix Officer

A Phoenix jury on July 10, 2013, convicted a self-professed member of the Arizona Aryan Brotherhood, Brian Lee Harm, of one felony count of threatening the Phoenix Police Department officer who had arrested him for trespassing in August 2012.  The conviction included a hate crime enhancement.brian-lee-harm

According to the police report filed after Harm’s arrest, the officer encountered Harm while responding to a call about a white male waving his hands in the air and yelling at passing vehicles.   When the officer found him, Harm—who matched the description called in—was attempting to force open the sliding glass doors of a nearby office building.  The officer, and a second officer who soon arrived at the scene, spoke with Harm and eventually placed him under arrest for trespassing. 

Following his arrest, Harm became angry and abusive, soon lapsing into repeated crude ethnic slurs.  According to the officer, Harm’s rhetoric escalated, with Harm threatening to injure or kill the officer and to “make trouble” for all officers in the area.  When Harm stated that he was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood (a reference to the Arizona Aryan Brotherhood, a large and violent white supremacist prison gang), the officer began recording Harm’s remarks.

Among the recorded remarks Harm made was a threat to “beat nigger children, too, I don’t fu–in’ care.”  Harm said that he would have “all my Brotherhood brothers” come to the neighborhood and “you’ll pay the ultimate price.”  He told the officer that “ni—rs won’t be safe in this neighborhood” and that “it’s gonna be tough to go out to dinner for you now.”  His remarks included many more similar comments, including additional threats.

Prosecutors charged harm with felony threatening or intimidating as well as assisting a criminal street gang.  In Harm’s July 2013 trial, the jury acquitted Harm of the assisting a gang charge but found him guilty of threatening or intimidating.  Furthermore, in the aggravation phase of deliberations, the jury found that the offense involved the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury, that the defendant committed the offense with the intent to promote, further or assist criminal conduct by a criminal street gang, and that the offense was a bias crime (i.e., a hate crime).

Harm is currently in the Maricopa County Jail awaiting sentencing.

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