Archive for the ‘Islamist terror tactics’ category

A bloody day in London town

March 30, 2017

A bloody day in London town, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May, March 30, 2017

“I absolutely agree, and it is wrong to describe this as ‘Islamic terrorism’,” she [Prime Minister Theresa May] replied. “It is ‘Islamist terrorism.'”

Clever of her. She did not dismiss the attack as “violent extremism.” She did not suggest that the attacker might just as easily have been a Rastafarian, Zoroastrian or Buddhist. She tacitly recognized that ideologies based on Islamic scripture drive such terrorist attacks while avoiding the implication that most Muslims approve of such ideologies.

This nuanced explanation should have become the norm long ago. Instead, many on the left insist that Islam is simply and only a “religion of peace.” Muslims who contradict that are “perverting” Islam. Non-Muslims who contradict that are Islamophobes.

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“The kafir’s blood is halal for you, so shed it.” That’s just one of the catchier headlines in a recent issue of Rumiyah, a slick online magazine published by the Islamic State group.

A “kafir,” of course, is a non-Muslim. “Halal” means religiously permissible. As for Rumiyah, that’s Arabic for Rome, one of the Christian capitals that the leaders of Islamic State hope to conquer. (The other great Christian capital, Constantinople, fell to soldiers of the caliphate in 1453. It’s now called Istanbul.)

Was Khalid Masood — the convert to Islam who last week staged a terrorist attack at London’s Houses of Parliament, seat and symbol of British democracy — a reader of Rumiyah? If so, he might have been inspired by an article late last year urging people like him to do precisely what he did: drive a vehicle into a crowd of non-Muslims, “smashing their bodies with the vehicle’s strong outer frame while advancing forward — crushing their heads, torsos, and limbs under the vehicle’s wheels and chassis.” Masood then exited the vehicle and stabbed a police officer — a tactic used frequently against Israelis in recent years.

The Western response to such atrocities has become ritualistic. The police say they are investigating and are uncertain about the perpetrator’s motive. Foreign heads of state condemn the attack, offer condolences and pledge solidarity. Leaders of the nation attacked defiantly announce that life will go on and no one will be intimidated.

Next, comes the debate over whether Islam should be implicated or vindicated. In this instance, a conservative MP, Michael Tomlinson, asked Prime Minister Theresa May whether she agreed that the term “Islamic terror” was inappropriate.

“I absolutely agree, and it is wrong to describe this as ‘Islamic terrorism’,” she replied. “It is ‘Islamist terrorism.'”

Clever of her. She did not dismiss the attack as “violent extremism.” She did not suggest that the attacker might just as easily have been a Rastafarian, Zoroastrian or Buddhist. She tacitly recognized that ideologies based on Islamic scripture drive such terrorist attacks while avoiding the implication that most Muslims approve of such ideologies.

This nuanced explanation should have become the norm long ago. Instead, many on the left insist that Islam is simply and only a “religion of peace.” Muslims who contradict that are “perverting” Islam. Non-Muslims who contradict that are Islamophobes.

Meanwhile, many on the right believe it is only the Islamists who are practicing “true” Islam. They implicitly concur with the Islamists that 21st century Sufis, Ismailis and Ahmadis are heretics, as are Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (both have gone to war against Islamists) and the millions of Kurds who reject Islamism because they recognize the existential threat it poses to their proud nation.

Islamism is not a complicated ideology. Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, wrote: “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.” Among the mottoes of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Jihad is our way; death for the sake of Allah is our wish.”

Some Islamists believe the path to power can be cleared only with the sword. We may call them jihadists. Some Islamists see other routes, for example through the ballot box or demographic change. Some Islamists even claim to eschew violence. But to infer from that they embrace nonviolence as a principle would be a mistake.

All Islamists, even those who are clean-shaven and wear neckties, are committed to the supremacy of their religion and their community, the umma, the “nation of Islam,” over all other religions, communities and nations.

No one would argue that when we condemn “white supremacism” we risk offending all people of pallor. So why is it “politically incorrect” to speak candidly — and condemn unequivocally — Islamic supremacism?

Another fact often avoided: Islamists can be Shia as well as Sunni. The earliest Islamist attacks against Americans (the Barbary pirates notwithstanding) were carried out in 1983 in Beirut, first against the U.S. Embassy, then against the barracks of the U.S. Marines who were there to serve as peacekeepers. Most analysts agree that Hezbollah, a Shia organization funded and instructed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, was responsible.

Neither Hezbollah nor Iran’s rulers have become more moderate over the decades since. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sees himself as leading a global jihadist revolution against the United States and the liberal world order. The significance of this appears to have eluded many policymakers.

How, for example, did President Barack Obama not understand that the deal he cut with Iran’s rulers will establish them as legitimate members of the nuclear weapons club within less than a generation — even if “Death to America!” remains their goal and rallying cry? And does U.S. President Donald Trump grasp that if the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq further empowers Tehran, the American victory will be Pyrrhic?

Sunni and Shia Islamists are rivals — not enemies. Neither would take issue with the unnamed author of the Rumiyah article noted above who asserts that “striking terror into the hearts of all disbelievers is a Muslim’s duty.”

Whether that view is based on true Islam or a perversion of Islam really doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s an expression of the most dynamic and lethal ideologies now spreading around the world. We need to more seriously study these ideologies. We need to more candidly discuss what Islamists intend to do to those who refuse to embrace or appease them. Only then can we hope to formulate a coherent and effective strategy to defend ourselves.

What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban

March 23, 2017

What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban, Long War Journal, , March 23, 2017

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia, detonated a laptop bomb on this Daallo Airlines aircraft in February 2016.

[Editor’s note: this article was originally published at Politico.]

More than 15 years after the September 11 hijackings, the U.S. government has issued yet another warning about airline security. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new restrictions on electronics brought on board certain U.S.-bound flights. Passengers on planes leaving from 10 airports throughout the Middle East and North Africa will no longer be able to carry laptops or similar electronics with them into the cabin of the plane. Cell phones and smaller electronics are unaffected by the new measures, but computers will have to be checked in luggage.

The move instantly generated controversy and questions. Namely, why now? Some dismissed the DHS announcement as a protectionist move aimed at boosting the futures of U.S. carriers, who have complained of unfair competition from Gulf airlines for years. Twitter wags called it a “Muslim laptop ban,” whose secret aim was to discourage travel from the Arab world. But by now it should be clear that the new restrictions are deadly serious, even if there are legitimate questions about how it is being implemented.

Initial press reports, including by the New York Times, cited anonymous officials as saying that the restrictions were not a response to new intelligence. But the DHS announcement implies otherwise. One question on the DHS web site reads, “Did new intelligence drive a decision to modify security procedures?” The answer: “Yes, intelligence is one aspect of every security-related decision.” The British government’s quick decision to follow suit also suggests that something new is afoot here.

Subsequent reports from CNN and The Daily Beast indicate that intelligence collected during a U.S. Special Forces raid in Yemen in January led to the restrictions. That is possible. The raid was highly controversial, but the Trump administration argues the costs were worth it because the U.S. learned key details about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) plotting. A Navy SEAL perished during the operation, as did a number of women and children. Within hours, jihadists began circulating a photo of an adorable little girl who died in the crossfire. The girl was the daughter of Anwar al Awlaki, a Yemeni-American al Qaeda ideologue killed in a September 2011 drone strike. Al Qaeda immediately called for revenge in her name.

Whether new intelligence led to the decision or not, we already know for certain that al Qaeda has continued to think up ways to terrorize the skies. For years, Al Qaeda operatives in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have been experimenting with sophisticated explosives that can be smuggled onto planes.

DHS points to the “attempted airliner downing in Somalia” in February 2016 as one reason for ongoing concerns. That bombing was carried out by al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia. Al Shabaab attempted to justify the failed attack by claiming “Western intelligence officials” were on board the flight, but that excuse may be a cover for something more sinister.

Some U.S. officials suspect that al Qaeda’s elite bomb makers wanted to test one of their newest inventions, a lightweight explosive disguised as a laptop that is difficult to detect with normal security procedures. At the very least, Shabaab’s attack demonstrated that al Qaeda has gotten closer to deploying a laptop-sized explosive that can blow a hole in jetliners. While no one other than the terrorist who detonated the bomb was killed, the plane was left with a gaping hole in its side.

Al Qaeda-linked terrorists have tested their contraptions before. In December 1994, a bomb was detonated on board a Philippine Airlines flight, killing one of the passengers and severely damaging the plane. The device was implanted by Ramzi Yousef, the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Yousef planned to blow up several airliners at once as part of “Project Bojinka” and he wanted to try out his invention beforehand. Authorities ultimately scuttled his plot, but al Qaeda didn’t forget Yousef’s idea. Instead, the terrorist organization returned to it again in 2006, when a similar plan targeting jets leaving London’s Heathrow Airport was foiled.

Al Qaeda’s failure in 2006 didn’t dissuade the group from pressing forward with a version of Yousef’s original concept, either.

In September 2014, the U.S. began launching airstrikes against an al Qaeda cadre in Syria described by the Obama administration as the “Khorasan Group.” There was some initial confusion over what the Khorasan Group really is, with some opining that it was simply invented by American officials to justify bombings, or a separate terror entity altogether. In reality, it was simply a collection of al Qaeda veterans and specialists who were ordered by the group’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, to begin laying the groundwork in Syria for operations against the West.

As far as we know, the Khorasan Group never did attempt to strike the U.S. or Europe. Perhaps this is because a number of its leaders and members were killed in the drone campaign. But there is an additional wrinkle in the story: Zawahiri didn’t give his men the final green light for an operation. Instead, Zawahiri wanted the Khorasan cohort to be ready when called upon. In the meantime, al Qaeda didn’t want an attack inside the West to jeopardize its primary goal in Syria, which is toppling Bashar al Assad’s regime.

The Islamic State gets all the headlines, but Al Qaeda has quietly built its largest guerrilla army ever in Syria, with upwards of 10,000 or more men under its direct command. The group formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra merged with four other organizations to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of Syria”) in January. Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee months earlier, in June 2016, that Nusra was already al Qaeda’s “largest formal affiliate in history” with “direct ties” to Zawahiri. The merger gives al Qaeda control over an even larger force.

Al Qaeda could easily repurpose some of these jihadists for an assault in Europe, or possibly the U.S., but has chosen not to thus far. That is telling. Zawahiri and his lieutenants calculated that if Syria was turned into a launching pad for anti-Western terrorism, then their efforts would draw even more scrutiny. At a time when the U.S. and its allies were mainly focused on ISIS, al Qaeda’s potent rival, Zawahiri determined the West could wait.

But Zawahiri’s calculation with respect to Syria could change at any time. And the organization maintains cadres elsewhere that are still plotting against the U.S. and its interests.

The Khorasan Group included jihadists from around the globe, including men trained by AQAP’s most senior bomb maker, a Saudi known as Ibrahim al Asiri. U.S. officials have fingered al Asiri as the chief designer of especially devious explosive devices. Al Asiri has survived multiple attempts to kill him. But even if the U.S. did catch up with al Asiri tomorrow, his expertise would live on. Some of his deputies have trained still others in Syria.

Al Qaeda now has units deployed in several countries that are involved in anti-Western plotting. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.”

The Pentagon regularly announces airstrikes targeting al Qaeda operatives, some of whom, identified as “external” plotters, have an eye on the West. Incredibly, more than a decade and a half after the 9/11 hijackings, al Qaeda members in Afghanistan are still involved in efforts to hit the U.S. In October 2016, for instance, the U.S. struck down Farouq al Qahtani in eastern Afghanistan. The Defense Department explained that Qahtani was “one of the terrorist group’s senior plotters of attacks against the United States.”

Meanwhile, ISIS has also proven it is capable of downing an airliner. Thus far, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men have used low-tech means. In October 2015, the so-called caliphate’s Sinai province claimed the bombing of a Russian airliner. If the group’s propaganda is accurate, then a Schweppes Gold soft drink can filled with explosives and equipped with a detonator led to the deaths of all 224 people on board. This beverage bomb was a far cry from the sleek explosives al Qaeda’s bomb makers have been experimenting with, but it was effective nonetheless. All it required was proper placement next to a fuel line or some other sensitive point in the airliner’s infrastructure. ISIS could have more sophisticated bomb designs in the pipeline as well.

The truth is that the threat to airliners isn’t going away any time soon. However, this doesn’t mean that every counterterrorism measure intended to protect passengers is the right one. Some quickly questioned the Trump administration’s policy. Why does it impact only flight carriers in some countries? Were security measures found to be lax in some airports, but not others? Why is the threat of a laptop bomb mitigated if it is in checked luggage, as opposed to on board the plane? And what about the possibility of al Qaeda or ISIS slipping a bomb onto connecting flights, before the planes head for the U.S. homeland?

These are all good questions that should be asked. And the Trump administration should answer them.

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security

March 1, 2017

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security, Long War Journal, February 28, 2017

Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee Counterterrorism and Intelligence, on the future of counterterrorism and addressing the evolving threat to domestic security.

Chairman King, Ranking Member Rice, and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. The terrorist threat has evolved greatly since the September 11, 2001 hijackings. The U.S. arguably faces a more diverse set of threats today than ever. In my written and oral testimony, I intend to highlight both the scope of these threats, as well as some of what I think are the underappreciated risks.

My key points are as follows:

– The U.S. military and intelligence services have waged a prolific counterterrorism campaign to suppress threats to America. It is often argued that because no large-scale plot has been successful in the U.S. since 9/11 that the risk of such an attack is overblown. This argument ignores the fact that numerous plots, in various stages of development, have been thwarted since 2001. Meanwhile, Europe has been hit with larger-scale operations. In addition, the U.S. and its allies frequently target jihadists who are suspected of plotting against the West. America’s counterterrorism strategy is mainly intended to disrupt potentially significant operations that are in the pipeline.

-Over the past several years, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies claim to have struck numerous Islamic State (or ISIS) and al Qaeda “external operatives” in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. These so-called “external operatives” are involved in anti-Western plotting. Had they not been targeted, it is likely that at least some of their plans would have come to fruition. Importantly, it is likely that many “external operatives” remain in the game, and are still laying the groundwork for attacks in the U.S. and the West.

-In addition, the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to adapt new messages in an attempt to inspire attacks abroad. U.S. law enforcement has been forced to spend significant resources to stop “inspired” plots. As we all know, some of them have not been thwarted. The Islamic State’s caliphate declaration in 2014 heightened the threat of inspired attacks, as would-be jihadists were lured to the false promises of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause.

-The Islamic State also developed a system for “remote-controlling” attacks in the West and elsewhere. This system relies on digital operatives who connect with aspiring jihadis via social media applications. The Islamic State has had more success with these types of small-scale operations in Europe. But as I explain in my written testimony, the FBI has uncovered a string of plots inside the U.S. involving these same virtual planners.

-The refugee crisis is predominately a humanitarian concern. The Islamic State has used migrant and refugee flows to infiltrate terrorists into Europe. Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda could seek to do the same with respect to the U.S., however, they have other means for sneaking jihadists into the country as well. While some terrorists have slipped into the West alongside refugees, the U.S. should remain focused on identifying specific threats.

-More than 15 years after 9/11, al Qaeda remains poorly understood. Most of al Qaeda’s resources are devoted to waging insurgencies in several countries. But as al Qaeda’s insurgency footprint has spread, so has the organization’s capacity for plotting against the West. On 9/11, al Qaeda’s anti-Western plotting was primarily confined to Afghanistan, with logistical support networks in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries. Testifying before the Senate in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper warned that the al Qaeda threat to the West now emanates from multiple countries. Clapper testified that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.” To this list we can add Yemen. And jihadists from Africa have been involved in anti-Western plotting as well. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S. from Afghanistan.

Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to seek ways to inspire terrorism inside the U.S. and they are using both new and old messages in pursuit of this goal.

The jihadists have long sought to inspire individuals or small groups of people to commit acts of terrorism for their cause. Individual terrorists are often described as “lone wolves,” but that term is misleading. If a person is acting in the name of a global, ideological cause, then he or she cannot be considered a “lone wolf,” even if the individual in question has zero contact with others. In fact, single attackers often express their support for the jihadists’ cause in ways that show the clear influence of propaganda.

Indeed, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) first began to aggressively market the idea of “individual” or “lone” operations years ago. AQAP’s Inspire magazine is intended to provide would-be jihadists with everything they could need to commit an attack without professional training or contact. Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP ideologue who was fluent in English, was an especially effective advocate for these types of plots. Despite the fact that Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September 2011, his teachings remain widely available on the internet.

The Islamic State capitalized on the groundwork laid by Awlaki and AQAP. In fact, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s operation took these ideas and aggressively marketed them with an added incentive. Al Qaeda has told its followers that it wants to eventually resurrect an Islamic caliphate. Beginning in mid-2014, the Islamic State began to tell its followers that it had already done so in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate has also instructed followers that it would be better for them to strike inside their home countries in the West, rather than migrate abroad for jihad. The Islamic State has consistently marketed this message.

In May 2016, for instance, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani told followers that if foreign governments “have shut the door of hijrah [migration] in your faces,” then they should “open the door of jihad in theirs,” meaning in the West. “Make your deed a source of their regret,” Adnani continued. “Truly, the smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here; it is more effective for us and more harmful to them.”

“If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State,” Adnani told his audience, “then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” Adnani told jihadists that they should “not make light of throwing a stone at a crusader in his land,” nor should they “underestimate any deed, as its consequences are great for the mujahidin and its effect is noxious to the disbelievers.”

The Islamic State continued to push this message after Adnani’s death in August 2016.

In at least several cases, we have seen individual jihadists who were first influenced by Awlaki and AQAP gravitate to the Islamic State’s cause. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife were responsible for the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino massacre. They pledged allegiance to Baghdadi on social media, but Farook had drawn inspiration from Awlaki and AQAP’s Inspire years earlier.

Omar Mateen swore allegiance to Baghdadi repeatedly on the night of his assault on a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. However, a Muslim who knew Mateen previously reported to the FBI that Mateen was going down the extremist path. He told the FBI in 2014 that Mateen was watching Awlaki’s videos. It was not until approximately two years later, in early June 2016, that Mateen killed 49 people and wounded dozens more in the name of the supposed caliphate.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man who allegedly planted bombs throughout New York and New Jersey in September 2016, left behind a notebook. In it, Rahami mentioned Osama bin Laden, “guidance” from Awlaki, an also referenced Islamic State spokesman Adnani. Federal prosecutors wrote in the complaint that Rahami specifically wrote about “the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.” This was Adnani’s key message, and remains a theme in Islamic State propaganda.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged that other individuals who sought to support the Islamic State were first exposed to Awlaki’s teachings as well.

These cases demonstrate that the jihadis have developed a well of ideas from which individual adherents can draw, but it may take years for them to act on these beliefs, if they ever act on them at all. There is no question that the Islamic State has had greater success of late in influencing people to act in its name. But al Qaeda continues to produce recruiting materials and to experiment with new concepts for individual attacks as well.

Al Qaeda and its branches have recently called for revenge for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who died in a U.S. prison earlier this month. Rahman was convicted by a U.S. court for his involvement in plots against New York City landmarks in the mid-1990s. Since then, al Qaeda has used Rahman’s “will” to prophesize his death and to proactively blame the U.S. for it. Approximately 20 years after al Qaeda first started pushing this theme, Rahman finally died. Al Qaeda’s continued use of Rahman’s prediction, which is really just jihadist propaganda, demonstrates how these groups can use the same concepts for years, whether or not the facts are consistent with their messaging. Al Qaeda also recently published a kidnapping guide based on old lectures by Saif al Adel, a senior figure in the group. Al Adel may or may not be currently in Syria. Al Qaeda is using his lectures on kidnappings and hostage operations as a way to potentially teach others how to carry them out. The guide was published in both Arabic and English, meaning that al Qaeda seeks an audience in the West for al Adel’s designs.

Both the Islamic State and AQAP also continue to produce English-language magazines for online audiences. The 15th issue of Inspire, which was released last year, provided instructions for carrying out “professional assassinations.” AQAP has been creating lists of high-profile targets in the U.S. and elsewhere that they hope supporters will use in selecting potential victims. AQAP’s idea is to maximize the impact of “lone” attacks by focusing on wealthy businessmen or other well-known individuals. AQAP has advocated for, and praised, indiscriminate attacks as well. But the group has critiqued some attacks (such as the Orlando massacre at a LGBT nightclub) for supposedly muddying the jihadists’ message. AQAP is trying to lay the groundwork for more targeted operations. For example, the January 2015 assault on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris was set in motion by al Qaeda and AQAP. Inspire even specifically identified the intended victims beforehand. Al Qaeda would like individual actors, with no foreign ties, to emulate such precise hits.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has lowered the bar for what is considered a successful attack, pushing people to use cars, knives, or whatever weapons they can get in their hands. The Islamic State claimed that both the September 2016 mall stabbings in Minnesota and the vehicular assault at Ohio State University in November 2016 were the work of its “soldiers.” It may be the case that there were no digital ties between these attackers and the Islamic State. However, there is often more to the story of how the Islamic State guides such small-scale operations.

The Islamic State has sought to carry out attacks inside the U.S. via “remote-controlled” terrorists.

A series of attacks in Europe and elsewhere around the globe have been carried out by jihadists who were in contact, via social media applications, with Islamic State handlers in Syria and Iraq. The so-called caliphate’s members have been able to remotely guide willing recruits through small-scale plots that did not require much sophistication. These plots targeted victims in France, Germany, Russia, and other countries. In some cases, terrorists have received virtual support right up until the moment of their attack. The Islamic State has had more success orchestrating “remote-controlled” plots in Europe, but the jihadist group has also tried to carry out similar plots inside the U.S.

Since 2015, if not earlier, the U.S.-led coalition has launched airstrikes against the Islamic State operatives responsible for these operations. Jihadists such Rachid Kassim, Junaid Hussain, and Abu Issa al Amriki have all been targeted. Both Hussain and al Amriki sought to “remotely-control” attacks inside the U.S. They have reached into other countries as well. For example, British Prime Minister David Cameron connected Hussain to plots in the UK. And Hussain’s wife, Sally Jones, has also reportedly used the web to connect with female recruits.

Kassim was tracked to a location near Mosul, Iraq earlier this month. Hussain was killed in an American airstrike in Raqqa, Syria on August 24, 2015. Along with his wife, al Amriki perished in an airstrike near Al Bab, Syria on April 22, 2016. But law enforcement officials are still dealing with their legacy and it is possible that others will continue with their methods.

In this section, I will briefly outline several cases in which Hussain and al Amriki were in contact with convicted or suspected terror recruits inside the U.S. In a number of cases, the FBI has used confidential informants or other methods in sting operations to stop these recruits. It should be noted that it is not always clear how much of a threat a suspect really posed and the press has questioned the FBI’s methods in some of these cases. I have included the examples below to demonstrate how the Islamic State’s digital operatives have contacted potential jihadists across the U.S.

For example, Hussain was likely in contact with the two gunmen who opened fire at an event dedicated to drawing pictures of the Prophet Mohammed in Garland, Texas on May 3, 2015. As first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, Hussain (tweeting under one of his aliases) quickly claimed the gunmen were acting on behalf of the caliphate. Then, in June 2015, Hussain claimed on Twitter that he had encouraged Usaamah Rahim, an Islamic State supporter, to carry a knife in case anyone attempted to arrest him. Rahim was shot and killed by police in Boston after allegedly wielding the blade. The DOJ subsequently confirmed that Rahim was “was communicating with [Islamic State] members overseas, including Junaid Hussain.”

On July 7, 2016, Munir Abdulkader, of West Chester, Ohio, pleaded guilty to various terrorism-related charges. According to the DOJ, Abdulkader communicated with Hussain, who “directed and encouraged Abdulkader to plan and execute a violent attack within the United States.” In conversations with both Hussain and a “confidential human source,” Abdulkader discussed a plot “to kill an identified military employee on account of his position with the U.S. government.” Abdulkader planned to abduct “the employee at the employee’s home” and then film this person’s execution. After murdering the military employee, Abdulkader “planned to perpetrate a violent attack on a police station in the Southern District of Ohio using firearms and Molotov cocktails.” Hussain repeatedly encouraged Islamic State followers to attack U.S. military personnel, just as Abdulkader planned.

On August 11, 2016, Emanuel Lutchman of Rochester, New York pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State as part of a planned New Year’s Eve attack. Lutchman admittedly conspired with Abu Issa al Amriki after he “initiated online contact” with the Islamic State planner on Christmas Day 2015. “In a series of subsequent communications,” DOJ noted, al Amriki “told Lutchman to plan an attack on New Year’s Eve and kill a number of kuffar [nonbelievers].” Al Amriki wanted Lutchman “to write something before the attack and give it to” an Islamic State member, “so that after the attack the [Islamic State] member could post it online to announce Lutchman’s allegiance” to the so-called caliphate. Lutchman wanted to join the Islamic State overseas, but al Amriki encouraged him to strike inside the U.S., as it would better serve the jihadists’ cause. “New years [sic] is here soon,” al Amriki typed to Lutchman. “Do operations and kill some kuffar.” Al Amriki also promised Lutchman some assistance in traveling to Syria or Libya, if the conditions were right. Lutchman divulged his contacts with al Amriki to individuals who, “unbeknownst to Lutchman,” were “cooperating with the FBI.”

On November 7, 2016, Aaron Travis Daniels, also known as Harun Muhammad and Abu Yusef, was arrested at an airport in Columbus, Ohio. He was reportedly en route to Trinidad, but he allegedly intended to travel to Libya for jihad. According to DOJ, Daniels was in contact with Abu Issa al Amriki, who acted as a “recruiter and external attack planner.” Daniels said at one point that it was al Amriki who “suggested” he go to Libya “to support jihad” and he allegedly “wired money to an intermediary” for al Amriki. The DOJ did not allege that Daniels planned to commit an attack in Ohio or elsewhere inside the U.S. Still, the allegations are significant because Daniels was allegedly in contact with al Amriki.

On November 29, 2016, Justin Nojan Sullivan, of Morganton, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges. “Sullivan was in contact and plotted with now-deceased Syria-based terrorist Junaid Hussain to execute acts of mass violence in the United States in the name of the” Islamic State, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord said in a statement. Sullivan and Hussain “conspired” to “plan mass shooting attacks in North Carolina and Virginia,” with Sullivan intending “to kill hundreds of innocent people.”

On February 10, 2017, the DOJ announced that two New York City residents, Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni, pleaded guilty to terror-related charges. “Working with [Islamic State] fighters located overseas, Saleh and Mumuni also coordinated their plot to conduct a terrorist attack in New York City,” the DOJ explained. Saleh, from Queens, sought and received instructions from an [Islamic State] attack facilitator to create a pressure-cooker bomb and discussed with the same [Islamic State] attack facilitator potential targets for a terrorist attack in New York City.” Saleh “also sought and received religious authorization from an [Islamic State] fighter permitting Mumuni to conduct a suicide ‘martyrdom’ attack by using a pressure-cooker bomb against law enforcement officers who were following the co-conspirators and thus preventing them from traveling to join” the Islamic State. Federal prosecutors revealed that the “attack facilitator” Saleh was talking to was, in fact, Junaid Hussain.

Also on February 10, 2017, Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, a Virginia man and former member of the Army National Guard, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years supervised release for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. According to the DOJ, Jalloh was in contact with Islamic State members both in person and online. He met Islamic State members in Nigeria during a “six-month trip to Africa” and also “began communicating online with” an Islamic State member located overseas during this time. The Islamic State member “brokered” Jalloh’s “introduction” to the FBI’s confidential human source. This means the U.S. government’s intelligence was so good in this case that the digital handler was actually fooled into leading Jalloh into a dead-end. Still, Jalloh considered “conducting an attack similar to the terrorist attack at Ft. Hood, Texas,” which left 13 people dead and dozens more wounded.

More than 15 years after the 9/11 hijackings, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S.

Al Qaeda has not been able to replicate its most devastating attack in history, the September 11, 2001 hijackings. But this does not mean the al Qaeda threat has disappeared. Instead, al Qaeda has evolved. There are multiple explanations for why the U.S. has not been struck with another 9/11-style, mass casualty operation. These reasons include: the inherent difficulty in planning large-scale attacks, America’s improved defenses, and a prolific counterterrorism campaign overseas.

In addition, contrary to a widely-held assumption in counterterrorism circles, al Qaeda has not made striking the U.S. its sole priority. In fact, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has even ordered his men in Syria to stand down at times, as they prioritized the war against Bashar al Assad’s regime over bombings, hijackings, or other assaults in the West. However, Zawahiri could change his calculation at any time, and it would then be up to America’s intelligence and law enforcement officials to detect and thwart specific plots launched from Syria. One additional caveat here is warranted. Despite the fact that Zawahiri has not given the final green light for an anti-Western operation launched from Syrian soil, al Qaeda has been laying the groundwork for such attacks in Syria and elsewhere. There is a risk that al Qaeda could seek to launch Mumbai-style attacks in American or European cities, bomb trains or other mass transit locations, plant sophisticated explosives on Western airliners, or dream up some other horrible attack.

In September 2014, the Obama administration announced that it launched airstrikes against al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group” in Syria. There was some confusion surrounding this group. The Khorasan Shura is an elite body within al Qaeda and part of this group is dedicated to launching “external operations,” that is, attacks in the West. Several significant leaders in the Khorasan Group were previously based in Iran, where al Qaeda maintains a core facilitation hub. In fact, at least two Khorasan figures previously headed al Qaeda’s Iran-based network, which shuttles operatives throughout the Middle East and sometimes into the West. As I have previously testified before this committee, some foiled al Qaeda plots against the West were facilitated by operatives based in Iran.

Al Qaeda began relocating senior operatives to Syria in 2011. And the U.S. has targeted known or obscure al Qaeda veterans in Syria in the years since, often citing their presumed threat to the U.S. and the West. I will not list all of these operatives here, but we regularly track the al Qaeda figures targeted in drone strikes at FDD’s Long War Journal.

During the final months of the Obama administration, American military and intelligence officials highlighted al Qaeda’s continued plotting against the U.S. on multiple occasions. And there was also a shift in America’s air campaign, from targeted strikes on individual al Qaeda operatives in Syria to bombings intended to destroy whole training camps or other facilities. In addition, the U.S. Treasury and State Departments began to designate terrorist leaders within al Qaeda’s branch in Syria who may not play any direct role in international operations. This change in tactics reflects the realization that al Qaeda has built its largest paramilitary force in history in Syria. And while only part of this force may have an eye on the West, there is often no easy way to delineate between jihadists involved in al Qaeda’s insurgency operations and those who are participating in plots against America or European nations.

In October 2016, the Defense Department announced that the U.S. had carried out “transregional” airstrikes against al Qaeda’s “external” operatives in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda “doesn’t recognize borders when they conspire to commit terrorist attacks against the West, and we will continue to work with our partners and allies to find and destroy their leaders, their fighters and their cells that are planning attacks externally,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said shortly after the bombings. Davis added that some of al Qaeda’s “external” plotters enjoyed a “friendly, hospitable environment” within Al Nusrah Front, which was the name used by al Qaeda’s guerrilla army in Syria until mid-2016. Davis added that the jihadists targeted “are people who are from outside Syria in many cases and who are focused on external operations.”

The Pentagon provided short descriptions for each of the al Qaeda operatives targeted in October 2016. On October 17, Haydar Kirkan was killed in Idlib, Syria. He was “a long-serving and experienced facilitator and courier for al Qaeda in Syria,” who “had ties to al Qaeda senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden.” Davis added that Kirkan “was al Qaeda’s senior external terror attack planner in Syria, Turkey and Europe.” Kirkan oversaw a significant network inside Turkey. The U.S. has killed a number of individuals with backgrounds similar to Kirkan since 2014.

On October 21, an AQAP leader known as Abu Hadi al-Bayhani and four others were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen’s Marib governorate. The Pentagon tied al-Bayhani to AQAP’s “external” plotting, noting that the al Qaeda arm relies on “leaders like Bayhani to build and maintain safe havens” from which it “plans external operations.”

Then, on October 23, two senior al Qaeda leaders, Farouq al-Qahtani and Bilal al-Utabi, were killed in airstrikes in Afghanistan. Qahtani was one of al Qaeda’s most prominent figures in the Afghan insurgency, as he was the group’s emir for eastern Afghanistan and coordinated operations with the Taliban. Osama bin Laden’s files indicate that Qahtani was responsible for re-establishing al Qaeda’s safe havens in Afghanistan in 2010, if not earlier. But Qahtani was also tasked with plotting attacks in the West.

General John W. Nicholson, the Commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, described the threat posed by Qahtani in a recent interview with the CTC Sentinel, a publication produced by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Gen. Nicholson described Qahtani as al Qaeda’s “external operations director,” saying that he was “actively involved in the last year in plotting attacks against the United States.” Nicholson added this warning: “There’s active plotting against our homeland going on in Afghanistan. If we relieve pressure on this system, then they’re going to be able to advance their work more quickly than they would otherwise.”

Kirkan, Bayhani, and Qahtani are just some of the men involved in anti-Western plotting who have been killed in recent bombings. And these targeted airstrikes are just part of the picture.

In October 2015, the U.S. and its Afghan allies destroyed what was probably the largest al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan’s history in the Shorabak district of Kandahar. The facility was an estimated 30 square miles in size, making it bigger than any of al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 camps.

The U.S. military says that approximately 250 al Qaeda operatives were killed or captured in Afghanistan in 2016. This is far more than the U.S. government’s longstanding estimate for al Qaeda’s entire force structure in all of Afghanistan. For years, U.S. officials claimed there was just 50 to 100 al Qaeda jihadists throughout the entire country.

On January 20, the Defense Department announced that “more than 150 al Qaeda terrorists” had been killed in Syria since the beginning of 2017. In addition to individual terrorists involved in plotting against the West, the U.S. struck the Shaykh Sulayman training camp, which had been “operational since at least 2013.”

The reality is that al Qaeda now operates large training camps in more countries today than on 9/11. The next 9/11-style plotters could be in those camps, or fighting in jihadist insurgencies, right now. If so, it will be up to America’s offensive counterterrorism campaign and its defenses to stop them.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Why FBI Suspects Keep Attacking Americans

September 22, 2016

Why FBI Suspects Keep Attacking Americans, Front Page MagazineMatthew Vadum, September 21, 2016

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The FBI has indeed been handcuffed in terrorist investigations by President Obama whose administration has worked with terrorist front groups like the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The law enforcement agency has also become increasingly politicized in the Obama era.

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Why does the Obama administration keep failing to thwart Muslim terrorist attacks in the U.S. after receiving apparently good intelligence warning of those attacks?

It turns out that Americans keep turning in budding Muslim terrorists to the Obama administration and the administration keeps on doing nothing. For example, the alleged mastermind of the weekend pressure-cooker bombing in New York City was turned in by his own father but the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to do much of anything about him.

These intelligence failures have become a recurrent theme in the Obama era, with deadly results. Excluding the events of the last few days, there have been 89 Muslim terrorist plots and attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001 and 25 of those have taken place since the beginning of 2015, according to David Inserra of the Heritage Foundation.

Counterterrorism expert Sebastian Gorka, vice president at the Institute of World Politics, blamed political correctness for the FBI’s inability to do something about Rahami before he acted.

“There are certain sensitivities,” Gorka said on the “O’Reilly Factor” last night.

“A certain political matrix is being forced upon our operators and investigators,” he said. Usually this kind of political pressure originates not from the FBI, but from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, he said.

The FBI is also hindered by inadequate human resources, Gorka said. There are reportedly 900 active terrorist investigations in all 50 states and the bureau can only do so much, he said.

The FBI has indeed been handcuffed in terrorist investigations by President Obama whose administration has worked with terrorist front groups like the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The law enforcement agency has also become increasingly politicized in the Obama era.

The pressure-cooker terrorist was apprehended after he injured a score of New Yorkers on the weekend but not through brilliant police work. He was caught during a shootout with cops.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, a.k.a. Ahmad Rahimi, was charged yesterday with use of weapons of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use. Rahami was born in Afghanistan but became a U.S. citizen.

Prosecutors say Rahami planted a pipe bomb and triggering cellphone Saturday morning in Seaside Park, N.J., before a scheduled U.S. Marine Corps charity run. Later that day he placed a pressure cooker bomb in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan that the complaint states caused injuries and “multiple-million dollars of property damage across a 650-foot crime scene.” Twenty-nine people were wounded. He was previously charged with multiple counts of attempted murder of police officers and other offenses arising from a gun battle when he was captured Monday.

Police also discovered and safely detonated a pipe bomb at a train station in Elizabeth, N.J. Although it is unclear if Rahami is connected to that bomb, his family did sue the city of Elizabeth in 2011 claiming harassment and religious discrimination related to their family restaurant, First American Fried Chicken.

Rahami came to the attention of the FBI two years ago when his father suspected his son was involved in terrorism. Mohammad Rahami told reporters he contacted federal authorities after Ahmad stabbed Nasser, another one of his sons, and attacked another family member, which led to a criminal investigation.

The FBI apparently performed a superficial examination of the case at the time.

“In August 2014, the F.B.I. initiated an assessment of Ahmad Rahami based upon comments made by his father after a domestic dispute that were subsequently reported to authority,” the agency said in a press release. “The F.B.I. conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism.”

It would seem the fact that Rahami made a three-month trip to Quetta, Pakistan, in 2011, and visited Quetta again during an 11-month trip beginning in 2013, were ignored by the FBI. Quetta is a Taliban stronghold and a hotbed of Salafi jihadism.

About two miles from the Chelsea attack, President Obama gave a speech at the United Nations in which he said the U.S. should take more immigrants like Rahami and implicitly attacked GOP candidate Donald Trump. Obama blamed America for the world’s problems as he jabbed at Trump’s promise to secure the border, crack down on illegal aliens, and change our asylum policies.

“The world is too small for us to simply be able to build a wall,” Obama said. “We have to open our hearts and do more to help refugees who are desperate for a home,” he said. He added, “today a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself.”

Obama also suggested that Americans and Europeans are racist for not wanting to be swamped by outsiders from hostile cultures. “And in Europe and the United States, you see people wrestle with concerns about immigration and changing demographics, and suggesting that somehow people who look different are corrupting the character of our countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rahami isn’t the first Islamic terrorist law enforcement agencies have failed to do anything about after receiving tips.

Omar Mir Siddique Mateen, who in June killed 49 innocent victims at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., was reported to the FBI in 2014. The massacre has been called the worst mass shooting in American history and the worst domestic terrorist attack since 9/11. Mateen, shot dead by police during the episode, had been under FBI investigation.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack after it took place. Mateen himself “claimed allegiance to the Islamic State and praised the Boston Marathon bombers,” before being killed by police on the scene, the New York Times reported at the time.

In December 2015, President Obama ignored FBI-procured evidence that the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., was an Islamic terrorist operation and ordered federal officials to mislead the public about the true nature of the assault.

Although the FBI knew immediately that the mass-casualty event was a Muslim terrorist attack, Obama and FBI Director James Comey reportedly clashed over why Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, opened fire Farook’s municipal government workmates, leaving 14 dead. They left a trail of social media evidence that went unused before the attack.

Whistleblower Phil Haney, an investigator who helped to create the Department of Homeland Security, revealed the government shut down a database he created that might have helped to prevent the attack. Haney says he looked into groups that had ties to Farook and Malik as far back as 2012. But civil rights officials accused him of unfairly profiling Muslims, removed his security clearance, and destroyed the data he collected. (Haney tells his story in Trevor Loudon’s powerful new documentary film about leftist and jihadist influence in the U.S. government, The Enemies Within.)

And don’t forget the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. The FBI had been investigating Tamerlan and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) warned the Obama administration about his jihadist sympathies.

But Barack Obama doesn’t like reality intruding on his preferred narrative. Islam is a religion of peace, and Muslims have to be given the benefit of the doubt in his view.

Cartoons of the Day

September 20, 2016

H/t Vermont Loon Watch

the-club

 

H/t Freedom is Just Another Word

homelyland-insecurity-1

 

ahmed-akbar-1

 

H/t Joop

hillyandtroops

 

Calling for Another Nice-Style Attack, ISIS Suggests Jihadists Try Baseball Bat, Power Screwdriver

August 21, 2016

Calling for Another Nice-Style Attack, ISIS Suggests Jihadists Try Baseball Bat, Power Screwdriver, PJ MediaBridget Johnson, August 21, 2016

(Islamist terror tactics evolve while “our” submissive anti-Islamophobia strategy plods along. — DM)

truck jihadA policeman looks at the truck used for an attack on Bastille Day crowds in Nice on July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

A new video out of ISIS’ Al-Khayr province in Syria suggests jihadists emulate the on-hand weaponry of the Nice attack with at-home items such as a power screwdriver, baseball bat or hypodermic needle.

The death toll in the July 14 attack on the French coastal city, in which a Tunisian living in Nice drove a cargo truck into a Bastille Day crowd, rose to 86 a few days ago as another man died of his injuries. Eighty-three were killed at the scene.

French authorities initially declared that the truck driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, had no known links to terrorism. The attacker’s uncle said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, claimed by ISIS as one of their own, was recruited by an Algerian shortly before the attack even though he “didn’t pray, didn’t go to the mosque and ate pork.”

His choice of a truck as a weapon has been fueling the ISIS call for lone jihadists to use whatever weapons are convenient and less likely to arouse suspicion.

As far as targets, the new video focuses largely on France and the United States. After giving weapons suggestions, the video shows a white man in a white T-shirt and jeans carrying a black bag and approaching a gate with a French flag flying overhead.

white guy(ISIS video screenshot)

The video begins, though, with footage of Israel Defense Force soldiers clashing with Palestinians. It soon shows Catholics celebrating Mass and talks about kuffar (disbelievers) paying jizya tax to the Islamic State.

Among the multiple terror montages in the nearly 20-minute video are scenes from the World Trade Center on 9/11, specifically those trapped by the fire trying to summon help from windows or jumping.

They highlighted Hamas’ statement after the Nice attack, in which the Gaza terror group condemned the France attack “out of principle and moral and humanitarian rejection of all forms of extremism and terrorism.”

That July 15 Hamas statement added: “The movement emphasizes in this context that the Palestinian people are more than stung by the fire of Israeli terrorism, which our people are still suffering from for decades.” ISIS hopes to poach recruits from Hamas fighters in Gaza as they push toward Israel.

The ISIS video shows American polling places, including at the former Berryville Primary School in Arkansas, but does not show either candidate, just President Obama and his European counterparts. They also use footage of U.S. service members and drone operation, and a short clip that appears to be either news footage or a city video showing police officers receiving a briefing. The officers shown are from Medford, Ore. Another Medford officer lingers near the trunk of a patrol car.

isis screen(ISIS video screenshot)

The images of the West are broken up by people describing coalition strikes that hit their homes and photos of children allegedly killed in coalition airstrikes, telling jihadists that they have to get revenge.

After showing images of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Rome, and the Statue of Liberty, the video encourages jihadists to diversify in their choice of weapons like the truck driver in Nice. They briefly show a do-it-yourself gun pattern, followed by a multi-bit ratcheting power screwdriver, a Louisville Slugger bat, a stock photo of a hand holding a test tube with an orange liquid, and a another stock photo of a hand holding a hypodermic needle with clear fluid inside.

Other suggestions include homemade explosives, a rock and a knife.

The video wraps up with footage of the Orlando shooting and praise of Mohamed Belkaid, an Algerian candy maker living in Belgium who was connected to the November Paris attacks and was killed by Belgian police in March, and Najim Laachraoui, one of the suicide bombers at the Brussels airport in March.