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April 2, 2015 0

NY Arrests Put Spotlight on Female Islamic Extremists

Update — 4/6/15: Another woman, Keonna Thomas of Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia, was charged on April 3, 2015 with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion by allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS.

Two Brook­lyn women arrested today on charges of con­spir­ing to use a weapon of mass destruc­tion are the 11th and 12th U.S. women linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism since 2014. Women engag­ing with ter­ror­ist groups is not a new phe­nom­e­non, but their num­bers have dra­mat­i­cally increased since 2014: ADL has doc­u­mented 12 female U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism in the last 15 months – the same as the total num­ber of women in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013.

A poem by Asia Siddiqui published in the extremist magazine Jihad Recollections

A poem by Asia Sid­diqui in the extrem­ist mag­a­zine Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions

Noelle Velentzas, a 28-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Brook­lyn, New York and Asia Sid­diqui, a 31-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Brook­lyn, New York and Velentzas’s for­mer room­mate, allegedly researched how to make explo­sive devices and pur­chased the mate­ri­als nec­es­sary to do so. Although court doc­u­ments do not indi­cate that they had cho­sen a tar­get, they expressed a pref­er­ence for attack­ing law enforce­ment and U.S. gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary facilities.

The two made clear that they were moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Velentzas praised the 9/11 attacks and repeat­edly stated that her heroes are Osama bin Laden and his men­tor, Abdul­lah Azzam.

More­over, Velentzas and Sid­diqui have an exten­sive his­tory of engag­ing with rad­i­cal extrem­ism online. In 2006, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Sid­diqui “became close with Samir Khan,” who went on to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) and, together with AQAP pro­pa­gan­dist Anwar al-Awlaki, founded Inspire mag­a­zine, the group’s pri­mary English-language mag­a­zine. In 2009, Sid­diqui wrote a poem that was pub­lished in Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions, an ear­lier mag­a­zine that Khan produced.

Extrem­ist mag­a­zines includ­ing Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions and Inspire have actively encour­aged sub­mis­sions from read­ers in the hope that hav­ing their work pub­lished will lead the read­ers to become fur­ther entrenched in the extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion. Sid­diqui her­self allegedly expressed sup­port for Mohamed Osman Mohamud, another Amer­i­can who was pub­lished in Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions and who went on to attempt a domes­tic attack – in his case, the attempted bomb­ing of the Port­land, OR Christ­mas tree light­ing cer­e­mony in 2010.

Other Amer­i­cans that have writ­ten for Jihad Rec­ol­lec­tions include Younes Abdul­lah Muham­mad (aka Jesse Cur­tis Mor­ton), a co-founder of now-defunct extrem­ist group Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim. Muham­mad is cur­rently in prison, hav­ing pleaded guilty to threat­en­ing the cre­ators of South Park.

Sid­diqui and Velentzas also appeared to have been inspired by other domes­tic attacks, includ­ing the Boston Marathon bomb­ing.

Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Sid­diqui told an under­cover infor­mant “Velentzas has been obsessed with pres­sure cook­ers since the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 and often makes com­ments about pres­sure cook­ers,” and Velentzas told the infor­mant that “she had recently received a pres­sure cooker as a present, and joked about cook­ing some­thing in the pres­sure cooker, then laughed and added, ‘food,’ – a ref­er­ence to explo­sive materials.”

Image from an article on making car bombs in the  Spring 2014 issue of Inspire

Image from an arti­cle on mak­ing car bombs in the Spring 2014 issue of Inspire

Like the Tsar­naev broth­ers, who are accused of hav­ing per­pe­trated the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, Sid­diqui and Velentzas attempted to learn how to make bombs from Inspire mag­a­zine. Refer­ring to the Spring 2014 issue of Inspire that pro­vided instruc­tions for the con­struc­tion and place­ment of car bombs, Velentzas allegedly stated that “Inspire mag­a­zine was useful…to learn how to ‘valet’ his/her car and how to cook ‘food.’” She reg­u­larly used the word “food” as a euphemism for explosives.

The two also allegedly watched ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos online, includ­ing behead­ing and recruit­ment videos, and expressed affin­ity for ISIS. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Velentzas stated that she wanted them to be referred to as “cit­i­zens of the Islamic State,” and “that attacks on ISIS were tan­ta­mount to attacks on her own state.”

Velentzas was also report­edly friends on Face­book with Tairod Pugh, a New Jer­sey man arrested in March for attempt­ing to join ISIS.

Sev­en­teen U.S. res­i­dents in total have been arrested on Islamic extrem­ism moti­vated ter­ror charges in 2015, 6 of whom were from New York State. If arrests con­tinue at the cur­rent rate, it will reflect a marked increase of arrests over the last three years, cor­re­spond­ing to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its aggres­sive recruit­ment and pro­pa­ganda campaigns.

Twenty-five U.S. res­i­dents in total were linked to Islamic extrem­ism in 2014, and 14 in 2013, although sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of indi­vid­u­als not iden­ti­fied are believed to have trav­eled abroad to join ter­ror­ist groups.

This morning’s arrest also marked the fourth instance of a domes­tic attack plot in 2015. In Jan­u­ary, Ohio res­i­dent Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell was arrested for his plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad and in Feb­ru­ary, New York City res­i­dents Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov were arrested for attempt­ing to join ISIS and dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack if they were unable to do so, and in March, Hasan and Jonas Edmonds were arrested for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.

Notably, there were no known domes­tic plots in 2014; the cur­rent increase may be related to an increase in ISIS pro­pa­ganda encour­ag­ing such attacks.

Thirty-five U.S. res­i­dents have been pub­licly linked to or cited inspi­ra­tion from ISIS since 2014.

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December 24, 2014 1

13th Issue of AQAP Inspire Calls for Attacks Against U.S. Airliners

AQAP-Inspire-13-magazine-cover

Inspire 13 cover image

Update: 12/24/2013 — Fol­low­ing noti­fi­ca­tion by the ADL, YouTube has removed the video pro­mot­ing Inspire 13 from its site.

The 13th issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, released on Decem­ber 24, lays out a strat­egy for defeat­ing the U.S. by attack­ing Amer­i­can mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy, man­power, media and econ­omy, and encour­ages lone wolf attacks against com­mer­cial air­planes and finan­cial figures.

The cen­tral fea­ture of the mag­a­zine, enti­tled “The Hid­den Bomb” presents step-by-step, illus­trated instruc­tions for con­struct­ing a home-made eas­ily portable bomb inside 17cm of a plas­tic water bot­tle case.  These instruc­tions fol­low pre­vi­ous issues of Inspire that included instruc­tions for pres­sure cooker bombs and car bombs, as well as sug­ges­tions for other types of attacks such as run­ning civil­ians over with cars.

This issue of Inspire sug­gests that the bombs be used against U.S. com­mer­cial air­lin­ers – specif­i­cally Amer­i­can Air­lines, Delta, United or Con­ti­nen­tal, and ide­ally over U.S. soil. It also pro­vides advice as to the best loca­tion on the plane and alti­tude at which to det­o­nate the device.

If an attack on a U.S. air­liner is not fea­si­ble, the mag­a­zine sug­gests attack­ing British com­pa­nies British Air­ways or Easy Jet, or French com­pa­nies Air­France or Air­France KL. A dif­fer­ent arti­cle fur­ther clar­i­fies the pri­or­i­ties of attack, stat­ing that, “the first pri­or­ity and the main focus should be on Amer­ica, then the United King­dom, then France…. This goes on with the NATO coun­tries as per the known order.”

The guide claims that this bomb can be hid­den in a part of the body not included in air­port pat-downs and is unde­tectable by dogs, odor-detecting machines, or metal detec­tors. The arti­cle states that the bomb is detectable by mil­lime­ter wave scan­ners, but the mag­a­zine advises that “in most cases they are not used in local airports.”

Inspire 13 also encour­ages assas­si­na­tions of Amer­i­can finan­cial lead­ers listed as “eco­nomic per­son­al­i­ties” such as Ben Bernanke or “wealthy entre­pre­neurs” such as Bill Gates. It advises that if those per­son­al­i­ties remove their money from U.S. banks, stop invest­ing in the U.S., and declare that they dis­agree with Amer­i­can poli­cies, they will not be targeted.

The mag­a­zine also includes sev­eral sec­tions high­light­ing the actions of Al Qaeda mem­bers and indi­vid­u­als that it claims under­took vio­lent actions on behalf of the extrem­ist cause. These include Alton Nolan of Okla­homa, Michael Zehaf Bebeau of Que­bec, Mar­tin Rouleau-Couture of Ottowa, Zale Thomp­son of New York and Man Haron Monis of Aus­tralia – the major­ity of whom seem to have under­taken attacks through some com­bi­na­tion of per­sonal vio­lent ten­den­cies and encour­age­ment from ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda  but have not been asso­ci­ated with ter­ror­ist movements.

Image from the magazine advocating lone wolf attacks

Image from the mag­a­zine advo­cat­ing lone wolf attacks

“The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst night­mare,” states one article.

In some sec­tions, it attempts to exploit con­tro­ver­sial issues in the U.S. as ratio­nales for join­ing ter­ror­ist move­ments. For exam­ple, a short quote states, “If I am an Afro-American liv­ing in Fer­gu­son – I’d rather be labeled a ter­ror­ist.” One arti­cle pre­sented as an inter­view with an AQAP mem­ber states U.S. tor­ture of Mus­lim pris­on­ers as a rea­son to attack the U.S.

The major­ity of jus­ti­fi­ca­tions pre­sented for attack­ing the U.S., how­ever, have been uti­lized by Al Qaeda and its affil­i­ates since the group’s found­ing: Attacks should be under­taken because of alleged Amer­i­can sup­port for cur­rent regimes in Mus­lim coun­tries;; sup­port for the Russ­ian and Indian gov­ern­ments in their fights against ter­ror­ism; and hav­ing “sur­ren­dered to the Jews” in sup­port­ing the State of Israel.

Like other issues of Inspire, it also attempts to draw read­ers in by ask­ing provoca­tive ques­tions and mak­ing the attack sound sim­ple. “It’s not nec­es­sary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did,” notes a poem in the mag­a­zine, “it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (of the Fort Hood shoot­ing) did.”

Other sec­tions of the mag­a­zine include an essay com­mem­o­rat­ing Tamer­lan Tsar­naev of the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing, quotes about Inspire by Amer­i­can aca­d­e­mics and gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and a “Mes­sage for the Amer­i­can Peo­ple Regard­ing the Killing of Luke Somers,” the Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist taken hostage by AQAP and killed dur­ing a res­cue mis­sion ear­lier this month.

This edi­tion of Inspire was released together with a pro­mo­tional video that fea­tured images from the mag­a­zine to the back­drop of a song in Eng­lish that included the lyrics, “The bat­tle for the hearts and minds will con­tinue till the kuf­far (apos­tates or dis­be­liev­ers) in vice,” “Inspir­ing the believ­ers to jihad has become the newest fad,” and, “Amer­ica you are being watched…the mujahideen (reli­gious fight­ers) are com­ing for you.”

Inspire is per­haps the most noto­ri­ous Al Qaeda pro­pa­ganda vehi­cle. It has played a role in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of mul­ti­ple domes­tic extrem­ists, includ­ing the Tsar­naev broth­ers (of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing), Jose Pimentel (attempted bomb­ing in NYC) and Abdel Daoud (attempted bomb­ing in Chicago).

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August 19, 2014 0

New AQAP Magazine Calls For Lone-Wolf Attacks Against U.S. And U.K.

aqap-aqsa-we-are-coming-inspire

Back cover of the AQAP pub­li­ca­tion, “Pales­tine: Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience”

Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) issued a new English-language mag­a­zine on Twit­ter August 16. Titled “Pales­tine: Betrayal of the Guilty Con­science,” the pub­li­ca­tion uses the recent con­flict in Gaza as an excuse to renew the group’s call for lone-wolf attacks in the U.S. and the U.K.

AQAP has reg­u­larly issued such calls for lone-wolf attacks in the past, includ­ing just a few days ago when it urged fol­low­ers to attack the U.S. in retal­i­a­tion for mil­i­tary assis­tance in Iraq.

The mag­a­zine, which reuses con­tent from AQAP’s Inspire mag­a­zine, includes direc­tions for build­ing pres­sure cooker bombs and car bombs and sug­gests a new list of poten­tial tar­gets includ­ing Israeli, British and Amer­i­can owned com­pa­nies, tourist resorts fre­quented by Amer­i­can, British and Israeli cit­i­zens, Las Vegas casi­nos and night clubs, Geor­gia Mil­i­tary Col­lege, the US Air Force Acad­emy, Gen­eral Atom­ics head­quar­ters in San Diego, and Marks and Spencer stores in Britain.

For more infor­ma­tion about this pub­li­ca­tion, see the ADL analy­sis “AQAP Exploits Gaza Con­flict to Call for Lone-Wolf Attacks Against U.S.”

ADL has also writ­ten exten­sively about the  influ­ence posed by such online English-language pro­pa­ganda on would-be domes­tic extrem­ists and the ensu­ing threat it poses to domes­tic security.

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