What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban

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

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 23, 2017:

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.

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

Also see:

Report: Intel for Carry-on Electronics Ban Came from Yemen Raid

Corruption, Terrorism, and Genocide: The 7 Nations Covered by Trump Executive Order

AP/Various

AP/Various

Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 31, 2017:

The media is misrepresenting President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugee admission as a “Muslim ban” – or, more cleverly, a ban on immigration from “Muslim-majority countries.”

In truth, the ban applies to everyone from seven specific countries. In fact, one of the first families caught at the airport when the executive order went into effect was a Christian family from Syria.

These seven nations were not chosen at random. They were all singled out as exceptional security risks in the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015 and its 2016 extension. In fact, President Trump’s order does not even name the seven countries. It merely refers to the sections of U.S. Code that were changed by the Terrorist Prevention Act:

I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.

A different section of the executive order does refer to Syria specifically, because it calls for the indefinite suspension of Syrian refugee admissions, until such time as the President believes security concerns have been adequately addressed.

The list of seven nations affected by Trump’s executive order was, therefore, compiled by President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security, in a series of judgments that actually goes back to Obama’s first term, circa 2011. Barack Obama made this list, not Donald Trump, and there was very little resistance from congressional Democrats at any step in the process of arriving at the final list of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Nor should there have been congressional resistance, because that list is eminently sensible. Several of these countries are disasters because of Obama foreign policy, while others were security nightmares long before he took office. Here is a review of current conditions in those nations:

Iraq: Of course, Iraq is currently fighting the Islamic State for control of Mosul and other captured territories. This is creating a flow of both retreating ISIS fighters and refugees from contested areas.

ABC News notes that while some Iraqi soldiers fighting in Mosul “feel a little bad” about Trump’s exec order, as one of them put it, others understand his reasoning. “We don’t want our doctors and professors to keep going to another country and make it greater than our own,” said one Iraqi soldier, who punctuated his comment by exclaiming, “Honestly, I love Trump!”

Many of the Iraqi refugees have been mistreated by local forces, which could easily make them targets for radicalization. The UK Guardian reported on Sunday that human rights groups are processing complaints about the outright torture of children suspected of connections to the Islamic State, which in turn has an extensive program for radicalizing children and turning them into brainwashed jihadi killers.

Shiite militia groups backed by Iran, some of which were murdering U.S. soldiers just a few years ago, are heavily involved in the fighting. There are concerns these emboldened, battle-tested, heavily armed militias will move into Syria and cause a new sectarian crisis. Many of these groups are units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, for all intents and purposes, and would become shock troops for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as he finishes off the last elements of the rebellion against him.

The Iraqi government, it must be said, does not have the most sterling record for honesty and efficiency. Transparency International recently rated Iraq’s government as one of the most corrupt in the entire world. The Iraqi parliament reflexively responded to Trump’s executive order with an ill-considered “reciprocity ban” that will do significant damage to the Iraqi nation if enacted, at the very moment it is fighting a desperate battle to drive out ISIS. That is not the kind of government that can be readily trusted to provide the data needed for “enhanced vetting.”

Iran: Contrary to the fictions peddled by the Obama Administration, Iran is still very much an enemy of the United States. Its government is actively involved in subversive efforts across the Middle East, and around the world.

Even in the last months of the Obama administration, long after Obama’s huge economic concessions and cash payments to Tehran, the State Department continues to classify Iran as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism. The State Department remains concerned about “a wide range of Iranian activities to destabilize the region.”

The Iranians are still taking hostages, including U.S. citizens. They put their hostages through sham “legal proceedings” involving secret courts and lawyers who are not always permitted to speak with their clients. They store their hostages in hideous prisons that would pass inspection in no civilized country.

On Sunday, Iran continued its defiance of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with yet another secret test of a banned ballistic missile.

Syria: It is astonishing that anyone thinks “vetting” is possible for many refugees from war-torn Syria, whose sinister central government still does not control many parts of the country.

ISIS, of course, is headquartered in Syria, and al-Qaeda is one of the strongest military forces in the rebellion. Syrian resistance groups are so difficult to screen that the Obama administration could only find tiny handfuls of reliable “moderate” fighters to arm and train; they were promptly kidnapped, killed, or co-opted by terrorist groups after Obama deployed them. The “white hat rebel” program ended as a laughingstock across the Middle East.

Terrorist groups are still hunting down and destroying “moderate” rebel units to this very day, even during the “ceasefire” brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Worse, Syria has become a pressure-cooker for jihad, with groups once regarded as moderate becoming unmistakably radical over the past five years.

ISIS militants fleeing the battlefields of Iraq have been falling back into Syria, while Syrian ISIS fighters have been fleeing from their own battlefield reversals. The return of Islamic State militants, and other battle-hardened jihadis, from Syria to Western nations has long been seen as a major security concern.

The Syrian civil war is universally regarded as one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. Every party to the conflict has been blamed for causing civilian casualties, while some of them deliberately target civilians. The Assad regime has used indiscriminate conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction, against rebel-held districts. Civilians have been deprived of food, power, sanitation, and medicine in besieged areas for months, sometimes for years. This will create a huge population that is susceptible to radicalization by terrorists who blame Western powers for either inflicting horror upon civilians, or failing to prevent it.

Libya: Due to the U.S. media’s poor reporting on the continuing disaster of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya, most Americans probably do not realize Libya still lacks a functioning central government. The brief spate of coverage after the rise of Libyan ISIS ended with reports that a “Government of National Accord” had been installed, but in truth it only controls a portion of the country, and some observers believe it is on the verge of collapse. A Qaddafi-era general named Khalifa Haftar is working to seize power, and the Russians have been cozying up to him. The end result of Obama policy in Libya could very well be another Russian client state in the Middle East.

Haftar currently controls the government that used to be recognized by the international community as Libya’s legitimate administration. That government was chased out of the national capital, Tripoli, by a coalition of Islamist militias, widely known as Libya Dawn. They are still a force to be reckoned with, and constitute the third major Libyan government.

ISIS is still a serious problem in Libya, as demonstrated by U.S. air raids against Islamic State positions on President Obama’s very last day in office. “They have been largely marginalized but I am hesitant to say they’ve been completely eliminated in Libya,” a U.S. defense official said at the time.

Somalia: Somalia has been fighting a vicious insurgency from an Islamist terror organization called al-Shabaab, whose name means “The Youth.” It aggressively recruits young Muslims, including young Somalis living in the United States.

The group has links to both al-Qaeda and ISIS. The primary leadership decided not to swear fealty to the Islamic State, leading to something of a schism between different factions of al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab is not just a gang of furtive terrorists lurking in the shadows – it effectively controls large portions of rural Somalia, and has been waging war against neighboring Kenya. An attack launched just this weekend killed dozens of Kenyan troops, according to al-Shabaab claims disputed by the Kenyan government.

Al-Shabaab is one of the most savage Islamist terror organizations in the world, responsible for horrific massacres like the slaughter of 150 students at Garissa University College in April 2015, and 67 murdered at the Westgate shopping center in the Kenyan capital. An attack on the Dayah hotel in Mogadishu killed eight people just last week.

Al-Shabaab killers are notorious for asking potential victims to prove they are devout Muslims in order to spare their lives.

Somalia’s government was ranked the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International, in the same study that named Iraq one of the worst. That is not exactly news, because Somalia’s government has been listed as the most corrupt on Earth for ten years straight. For the sake of comparison, the Number Two and Three worst governments on Transparency International’s list are South Sudan and North Korea.

Somalia’s most recent elections were an absurd carnival of bribes and voter intimidation, even with U.N. oversight. The BBC declared the country “has not had a functional national government since the ousting of its former leader Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.”

Sudan: As mentioned above, the Sudanese government is a corrupt disaster. The country actually split in half in 2011. Over 1.5 million people have been killed in the Sudanese civil war, while 2 million refugees have been displaced from the Darfur region.

The president of the Republic of Sudan is an iron-fisted Islamist dictator named Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been in power for over 25 years, after seizing power in a 1989 coup that came after two decades of civil war.

Bashir is wanted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Those charges have been pending since 2009. There are actually three counts of genocide against him. He is supposedly under an international travel ban, but he travels anyway, occasionally cutting his trips short when he thinks he might be arrested.

The Sudanese government imposed sharia law on its provinces in the Nineties. Bashir has been linked to Janjaweed militias, which serve as his own personal storm troopers, noted for their scorched-earth tactics and indiscriminate use of mass-casualty weapons against civilians. Some observers fear the Janjaweed will eventually ship Bashir’s leash and overthrow the government in Khartoum.

Sudan is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism and, until recently, it was politically aligned with Iran. Sudan has proven to be friendly terrain for all sorts of gangsters and terrorists, although its political realignment over the past few years reportedly included more cooperation on counter-terrorism, in a bid to get off the American list of terrorist sponsors. Even after that realignment, Hamas terrorists seemed to have little trouble traveling through Sudan, or raising money there.

Yemen: Yemen is a horrifying bloodbath of civil war and terrorist insurrection, which ties many of the other nations on this list together. Sudan, for example, has been part of Saudi Arabia’s coalition in Yemen, ever since it turned away from Iranian patronage.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, where there have been over 10,000 civilian casualties. The U.S. has been providing weapons to Saudi Arabia, whose coalition is blamed for many of the civilian deaths, so Yemeni resentment of the United States is a very real factor to consider when estimating the dangers of radicalization.

The U.S. blocked an arms sale to the Saudis in December 2016 after a Saudi coalition airstrike hit a funeral in the capital of Sana’a, leading to 140 deaths. The Saudi coalition has also been criticized for bombing Doctors Without Borders hospitals.

The internationally-recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was displaced by an Iran-backed Shiite insurgency from the Houthi minority, aided by forces loyal to the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Describing the state of Yemeni government as “chaotic” would be a vast understatement. Major cities like Sana’a have been subjected to violent takeovers and sieges, while the Yemeni wilderness is largely controlled by al-Qaeda.

On Sunday, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed, and three others wounded, in a firefight with al-Qaeda forces in central Yemen. Fourteen al-Qaeda fighters were reportedly killed, including the brother-in-law of the late al-Qaeda guru, Anwar al-Awlaki. It was the first counterterrorism operation authorized by President Trump.

In October, the U.S. Navy was obliged to strike ground targets in Yemen, after missiles were fired at American ships stationed off the coast.

Islamic State Expands to East Africa With New Allegiance Pledge

Illustrative picture. (Photo: ISIS propaganda)

Illustrative picture. (Photo: ISIS propaganda)

Clarion Project, April 10, 2016:

A new terrorist group in Somalia has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State styling itself “Jabha East Africa” (The East-African Front).

In a statement the group recognized the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the “rightful Khalifa (leader) of all Muslims.”

“We in Jahba East Africa are advising all East Africans to leave al-Shabaab and their sponsor groups, like Al-Muhajiroun, Al-Hijra and Ansar Islam,” the statement said.

“Like Al-Shabaab the sponsor groups have not understood the binding obligation of the Khalifah (caliphate).

“We are telling the mujahideen in East Africa that al-Shabaab has now become a psychological and physical prison.

“To pledge bayah to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is freedom for the mujahideen in East Africa and opportunity to wage jihad according to the Sunnah against the enemies of Allah.”

Despite rumors circulating that Somalia’s primary jihadist group Al-Shabaab was considering pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, the group has not yet done so. The Islamic State has accepted pledges of allegiance from terrorist groups around the world. The most notorious of the Islamic State’s vassals is Boko Haram, now styling itself the Islamic State in West Africa. Boko Haram reportedly has a higher body count than the Islamic State’s main army in Syria and Iraq.

Other important ISIS vassals include Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Egyptian Sinai.

On Saturday April 9 a car bomb killed three people at a restaurant in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

From Poet to Jihadi: The Story of a Somali American in Minnesota

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame

Clarion Project, by Meira Svirsky, April 10, 2016:

He had everything going for him – except the will to resist a powerful and angry narrative that eventually pulled him in.

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, now 21, was on the path to fulfilling the American dream.  And it wasn’t a just a materialist dream, the kind that leaves feelings of emptiness upon achievement.

By the time he was a teenager, he was expressing himself as a poet and actualizing talents in art and music. He was active at a local neighborhood center and part of a local arts group. He began talking to other young Somalis about following their dreams. In a video he made as a teenager in 2011, Warsame says, “You guys are tomorrow. And all you have to have, to get anywhere you want, is determination.”

Warsame, a Somali American, came to America when he was 10 months old. One of eight children, Warsane grew up in a neighborhood called “Little Mogadishu.” His mother and cousin were prominent voices in the movement to prevent the radicalization of the next generation of Somali Americans.

Warsame himself is described as a person who was successfully taking advantages of opportunities he was offered. Post high school, he held down jobs, attended a community college and had support from his family.

Still, Warsame gravitated to negative influences, problematic friends that concerned his mother. In 2014, she sent him away from Minneapolis to Chicago to live with his father. But it wasn’t enough. Warsame began watching videos of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Yemani imam described as the “Bin Laden of the internet.”  Awlaki, a high-level Al Qaeda operative, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, the first U.S. citizen to be so targeted.

From a young man who had spoken out against violence, Warsame became enthralled with beheading videos. He came to conclude that as a devout Muslim, he must join the fight against the infidels. In 2014, Warsame, with a group of friends plotted to go to Syria to join the Islamic State. According to his confession to authorities, Warsame was the ”emir,” the leader of a group recruiting and encouraging other young Somalis to join the terror group.

He was arrested in December of 2015 and now faces up to 15 years in prison.

Two months earlier, his mother had lectured a group of Somali parents at a town hall meeting, “I need you guys to wake up and to tell your child, ‘Who’s recruiting you?’ Ask what happened. …. We have to stop the denial thing that we have, and we have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.”

Yet even she was unaware of her son’s activities.

At his hearing he offered a in his defense a seemingly incomprehensible explanation, “I was always listening to one side. I didn’t see the other side of it, that innocent people were being killed.”

The Minnesota Somali communities have been the leading location in the U.S. for terror recruiting. Over the last number of year, close to 40 young Somali men have left the U.S. to fight for Islamist terror groups in Somalia and Syria.

Programs have sprung up to stem the flow, most notably Ka Joog, a community group called whose name literally means “stay away.” Ka Jooj works to build Somali youths into the next generation of American leaders and steer them away from terror recruitment, drugs and gang violence. The group was recently awarded $850,000 to establish a number of new projects, including a new job center in the Somali community where unemployment is close 19 percent, three times worse than state average.

“He was one of those kids that could’ve gone either way,” said Bob Fletcher, a former county sheriff and founder of the Center for Somalia History Studies. “To the gangs, to the radicalization, or to succeed academically with the circle of Ka Joog kids who he is close to.”

While it may be hard to understand how Warsame, with his unique background, “could have gone either way,” it is important to put into the equation Islamist groups, including CAIR, that that have a history of working against some of the counter-radicalization programs active in the Somali community, giving these kids a different message.

Abdirizak Bihi, is a Somai American who works with Ka Joog and is the director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center. Bihi’s nephew was recruited by Al-Shabaab and died in Somalia, where the terror group is based.

In 2011, CAIR-MN attacked Bihi and a Muslim colleague of his, Omar Jamal, branding them as “anti-Muslim” when they participated in a seminar run by Fletcher’s center that included teaching about Al-Shabaab. CAIR-MN was upset that their session described Al-Shabaab as an “Islamic extremist terrorist organization,” saying they did not “distinguish between Islam and terrorism.”

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim human rights activist, writes,”Representatives of CAIR, like Dawud Walid from their Michigan chapter are on record repeatedly when discussing al-Shabaab to American Muslims telling American Muslim youth for example that “9 out of 10 times the person trying to influence you over the internet is not even real…it’s someone with the government trying to set you up.

“[Walid] even casts doubt on whether Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organization. Yet when courageous American Muslims do speak out about radicalization in some mosques and among American Muslim groups, CAIR calls them “anti-Muslim.”

Bihi says that CAIR-MN has impeded his efforts to inform the U.S. government about Islamist radicalization for years by saying that he’s bigoted and doesn’t represent the Somali community.

“They say that I am a bad person, that I am anti-Muslim, and that I don’t represent a hundred percent the Somali community. They lie about my life most of the time and try to destroy my character, my capability and my trust in the community,” says Bihi.

As early as 2009, local Somali Muslims were angered by a CAIR Minnesota campaign that urged Muslims only to talk to law enforcement with a lawyer present, sowing distrust in the Muslim community about law enforcement agencies.  Local Somali Muslims argued that CAIR’s campaign merely served to obstruct federal investigations. At the time, Bihi organized a demonstration outside a CAIR-MN event where protesters chanted, “CAIR out! Doublespeak out!”

Bihi expresses hope that Warsame can be deprogrammed and return to being an asset to the community. At his hearing, the presiding judge offered Warsame a spot in ta new program that assesses his prospects for deradicalization before sentencing.

“I can envision him going to schools, talking to young people in the community, going to mosques, working with imams. His message here could resonate in many communities,” said Bihi.

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

U.S. Air Strike Kills 150 al Shabaab Fighters in Somalia

SOMALIAWashington Free Beacon, by Morgan Chalfant, March 7, 2016:

The United States carried out an air strike in Somalia over the weekend that killed approximately 150 militants belonging to the terror group al Shabaab, the Pentagon said Monday.

The air strike was carried out Saturday at the al Qaeda-linked terror group’s “Raso” training facility, which is located about 120 miles north of the Somali capital Mogadishu, Reuters reported. U.S. officials said that the fighters were training for a large-scale attack against American Special Operations forces and their allies in the region.

“We know they were going to be departing the camp and that they posed an imminent threat to U.S. and to Amisom, African Union mission in Somalia forces, that are in Somalia,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said.

Davis described the strike as an “air operation” and said no U.S. forces participated on the ground.

The Defense Department had been monitoring the training camp for weeks leading up to the air strike and had evidence that the militants posed an imminent threat to American troops and their allies. Davis refused to provide specific information about who or what the group may have been intending to target.

“Their removal will degrade al Shabaab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, which include recruiting new members, establishing bases, and planning attacks on U.S. and Amisom forces there,” Davis stated.

The Pentagon spokesman added that up to 200 fighters were present at the training camp when the strike occurred. The Defense Department is confident that no civilians were killed.

It is believed that the al Shabaab operatives were struck during a graduation ceremony, the New York Times reported. One official said that the fighters were “standing outdoors in formation.”

Al Shabaab militants have claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks across the region, including the 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya and, more recently, the February attack on the SYL hotel in Mogadishu.

Also see:

IED attack at airport in Somalia; lessons to be learned

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher Holton, March7, 2016:

An Improvised Explosive Device, sometimes known as a bomb, disguised as a laptop computer was detonated today at an airport security checkpoint in Somalia. Preliminary reports from the scene indicate 6 injuries and, thankfully, no deaths, from this incident.

But this is a nightmare scenario that we have discussed here on Terror Trends Bulletin before and it is worth reposting here:

Since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the federal government has gone to great lengths to keep weaponry of all sorts from finding its way on airliners.

The effectiveness of these measures is open to debate, but the idea has been to prevent items such as explosive devices fashioned in the form of contact lens saline solution bottles, shaving cream cans and the like from finding their way onto an airliner. The TSA is also supposed to be on the lookout for box cutters (and pocket knifes and fingernail files), as well as shoes loaded with explosives.

All of these measures have been reactive–in response to both successful and failed terrorist plots from the past. Such is the nature of our bureaucratic counter terror apparatus. The enemy watches what we do and dreams up more methods to exploit holes and vulnerabilities in the defensive security measures. And, of course, once the enemy tries a new method, successful or otherwise, the TSA modifies its policies to defend against the last attack.

Americans of all philosophies are frustrated by what they perceive as onerous inconveniences and gross invasions of personal privacy.

But that is not the issue that should be of greatest concern to Americans. What should truly concern us all is that the measures that have locked down airliners tighter than a drum have created bottlenecks and choke points in airport terminals, leaving even larger numbers of travelers vulnerable to violent terrorist attack.

airport-security-lines1

One attack on a single airliner has the potential to kill anywhere from dozens to a few hundred innocent passengers. But an attack on a busy airport terminal has the potential to kill several plane loads of innocent travelers before they get on the airplane.

Take a look at the accompanying photographs and the vulnerability is clear. A backpack bomb in a security line would be devastating and the security apparatus is exactly what caused the vulnerability.

Travelers queue up at the security checkpoint in Denver International Airport in Denver, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Travelers queue up at the security checkpoint in Denver International Airport in Denver, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

To be fair, security lines are not the only vulnerability. Long lines at ticket counters produce huge crowds and bottlenecks as well:

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line

What all this adds up to is an overall air travel industry that is still quite at risk.

Lest you think that I have pointed out a vulnerability that the Jihadists may not have thought of yet, rest assured that the Jihadists have already identified airports as targets for mass casualty attacks.

In fact, there have been two such attacks in recent years, one successful and one failed.

In January 2011, Islamikaze bombers attacked Domodedovo airport in Moscow, killing 35 and wounding 182. This incident is largely forgotten in the West. In fact, it received scant media attention beyond the day of the attack.

The fact that the attackers were believed to have been trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Pakistan should serve as a warning to America. If the Jihadis can train to attack Russian airports, they can train to attack American airports just as well.

Read  more

AQAP Continues Their Push Through Weak Opposition in Yemen

CSP, by Kevin Samolsky, February 23, 2016:

Another town in Southern Yemen has fallen under control of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) over the weekend. Ahwar, a Southern city located in the Abyan Province, was seized by AQAP fighters after ousting the group of Popular Resistance Force fighters in the area.

The Popular Resistance Force (PRF) is group of militias that has aided the government in their fight against the Houthi rebels and AQAP. The group is made up of Southern militias, and have been able to provide adequate support to the national army when fighting the Houthis. However, when fighting AQAP their effect has been minimal.

The PRF lost both Zinjibar and Jaar to AQAP late last year. A PRF leader mentioned the lack of support the PRF receives from the government has allowed AQAP to be so effective in the region.

AQAP has taken significant territory within Yemen as the government and Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States continues to fight the Houthi rebels. By taking Ahwar, AQAP further solidifies its control of the Abyan province. The group also have predominant control over the Shabwa and Hadramount provinces.

Along with taking Ahwar, AQAP assassinated Sheikh Mazen al-Aqrab, gunned down in a drive-by in the capital of Aden. Al-Aqrab was one the PRF’s most senior commanders.

Ahwar serves as a strategic point between the cities of Zinjibar and Mukallah. By taking Ahwar, AQAP is creating a region of influence along the coast line. The government forces and Gulf Coalition are primarily focused on the Northwest portion of the country, and this leaves the rest of Yemen virtually ungoverned. AQAP, and to some degree the Islamic State (IS), has taken full advantage of this situation, and has quickly seized important cities in Yemen.

Soon after AQAP reclaimed the city of Azzan, AQAP senior field commander Jalal Baleedi was killed in a U.S. drone strike. While Baleedi was a high ranking officer, his death has had little impact on AQAP’s progress. The U.S. drone strike program continues to achieve tactical successes eliminating local AQ commanders, while not altering the strategic outcome, similar to the situation currently playing out in Somaliawith Al-Shabaab, with whom AQAP has close ties.

AQAP’s push through the Southern coast of Yemen is drawing the group closer to the current capital, Aden. After the government forces were expelled from Sanaa, they soon moved to Aden where they are still in control. While the government has control over the majority of the city, AQAP has been able to seize several neighborhoods on the outskirts. By controlling the entire Southern coast, AQAP may be attempting to cut the government off from its allies in the South, primarily the PRF.

If AQAP successfully establishes control over the Southern coast of Yemen it gives the group the ability to threaten a sizeable shipping lane, along with access to support their fellow Al Qaeda ally in Somalia, Al Shabaab.

The situation in Yemen is unlikely to change and AQAP will continue to poses a threat to Aden as long as the Saudi-led coalition remains focused exclusively on the Iranian-backed Houthis and the PRF militias remain a relatively weak force.

***

Also see:

Airport workers seen with laptop used in Somalia in-flight jet blast

Mogadishu-CCTV-shows-Somali-jet-bomber-being-handed-explosive-hiding-laptopCNN, By Robyn Kriel and Faith Karimi, Feb. 8, 2016:

(CNN)Somali intelligence officials say two airport workers handled a laptop that concealed a bomb that later exploded in a passenger plane.

In a video made public on Sunday by officials, one airport worker takes the laptop and hands it to another employee.

The employees then hand it over to a man who was killed when the laptop explosion blew a hole in the plane’s fuselage, said Abdisalam Aato, a spokesman for the Somali Prime Minister.

Both workers have been arrested.

Somali officials identified the lone fatality as suspect . He was sucked out of the airliner through the hole from the blast Tuesday.

Bomber knew where to sit

Investigators suspect Borleh, a Somali national, carried a laptop computer with a bomb concealed onto the plane, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

He knew precisely where to sit and how to place the device to maximize damage, the source told CNN.

Given the placement, the blast likely would have set off a catastrophic secondary explosion in the fuel tank if the aircraft had reached cruising altitude, the source said.

But the explosion happened at a lower altitude, between 12,000 feet and 14,000 feet, killing the Somali national and injuring two others.

Though preliminary tests showed the bomb contained a military grade of the explosive TNT, the source said, it failed to bring down Daallo Airlines Flight 3159. The pilot turned around and landed the Airbus safely in Mogadishu.

Somalia asked U.S. officials for help with investigations, and several FBI agents are on the ground assisting in Mogadishu, the spokesman said.

“This was a sophisticated attack … so we reached out to our international partners,” Aato said.

Militants behind attack

Investigators believe the attack was orchestrated by Al-Shabaab, although they are not certain Borleh was a direct member of the group, according to the source. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Al-Shabaab is an al Qaeda affiliate, though some of its it has factions have declared loyalty to ISIS. It has been responsible some of the deadliest violence in recent years in Somalia and surrounding nations, including Kenya and Uganda.

At least 20 people have been arrested in connection with the blast aboard the plane, the spokesman said.

Also see:

Dr. Sebastian Gorka: How Islamic State ‘Outgrew the Mothership’ of Al-Qaeda

Gorka-You-Tube-National-Security-Center-640x480

Breitbart, by John  Hayward, Dec. 7, 2015:

The authorities have disclosed that San Bernardino jihadi Tashfeen Malik swore fealty to the Islamic State during her murder spree, but also that her husband Syed Farook was in contact with Syria’s Nusra Front and Somalia’s al-Shabaab – terrorist groups affiliated with the Islamic State’s rivals and progenitors, al-Qaeda.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a Breitbart National Security contributor and the Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University, explained this apparent ideological dissonance on Fox & Friends by noting that ISIS grew from al-Qaeda, and despite their current, occasionally violent rivalry, there is still ideological connective tissue between them.

gorka on f&f

“ISIS isn’t completely differentiated from al-Qaeda. ISIS came out of al-Qaeda,” Dr. Gorka said. “ISIS was originally al-Qaeda in Iraq, the organization run by Zarqawi, until we killed him. What’s happened in the last three or four years, it’s outgrown its mothership. It’s stolen the brand of jihad, and now ISIS is much more powerful than al-Qaeda.”

“These are all members of the same global jihadi movement, competing to be the lead brand,” he continued.  “But the connection is the same, whether it’s AQ, al-Nusra, al-Shabaab, or ISIS.  They’re all jihadis.”

Gorka said the Obama Administration was “living in a fantasyland, a bubble, where they have a pre-concocted narrative that terrorism is the result of economic hardship, political disenfranchisement… global warming, climate change is much more dangerous… the real jayvee team is ISIS, al-Qaeda is on the ropes… This is the narrative that they’ve spun themselves into for seven years, and anything that counters that, any shock of reality that goes against the White House meme, has to be ignored. So let’s talk about gun control. It’s incredible.”

Another persistent problem is the Left’s insistence on shoehorning terrorist attacks into their preferred victimhood narratives. As Gorka noted, there have been some efforts to portray the San Berardino jihadis as “oppressed,” their murderous rage an understandable response to verbal offense given by their victims, perhaps even by Farook’s employers holding a Christmas party.  Details of their family background have been searched for shopworn liberal excuses for crime and violence, such as a difficult home life.

“Who cares what his parents did to this man?” Gorka said about Syed Farook. “Did we talk about Hitler’s father being abusive to him? It’s not relevant.”

Gorka charged that the Administration is “allowing political correctness, and considerations of an ideological nature, to undermine the threat assessment work that needs to be done.”

“Let’s not talk about jihad, let’s not talk about why these people do it.  Let’s talk about gun control.  It’s like a bad SNL skit in my opinion,” he said, referring to the “Saturday Night Live” comedy show.

Gorka pointed to the San Bernardino attack as more obvious evidence that ISIS has arrived in America… but it’s hardly the first or only evidence, as a report he cited from the Threat Knowledge Group, written before the California attack, makes clear.

“The war is real.  The war is here,” he said.  “30 percent of the 82 people we’ve killed or arrested in America in the last two years [for ISIS involvement] didn’t want to go abroad to be jihadis. They wanted to kill Americans in America.  This is a war that is real and global.  Jihad has arrived at the shores of America.  9/11 isn’t history – it is now.

Gorka offered some safety advice for Americans, dismissing the Administration’s narrative about sudden radicalization and instant jihad to note that such attacks take careful preparation, and can be interrupted by alert citizens who keep their eyes open… if they disregard political correctness to report what they see.

He also dismissed the gun-control narrative to emphasize that individual American citizens must take responsibility for their own safety, and the safety of their loved ones.  “Do not expect Washington to save you when an attack occurs,” he warned.  “Dialing 911 is not gonna cut it. You have to take responsibility, you have to be aware, and if possible, fight back.”

“We need leadership that says one thing very clearly: we have an enemy – not global climate change, the enemy is global jihad, and these people are evil,” Gorka concluded.

Instead, we have leadership that stresses political correctness and refuses to admit the war is on, because they’re determined to push President Obama’s talking points about ISIS being “contained.”

“Tell that to the fourteen people dead in California,” Dr. Gorka suggested.

Islam and Free Speech: Missing the Point in Garland

pic_giant_050415_SM_Garland-SWAT-Mohammed2

The purpose of the free-speech event was to highlight the threat posed by Islamic supremacists.

National Review, by ANDREW C. MCCARTHY May 4, 2015:

‘Even free-speech enthusiasts are repulsed by obnoxious expression.” That acknowledgment prefaces the main argument I’ve made in Islam and Free Speech, a just-released pamphlet in the Broadside series from Encounter Books. Alas, in view of last night’s deadly events at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, the argument is more timely than I’d hoped.

In Garland, two jihadists opened fire on a free-speech event that was certain to be offensive to many Muslims. The gunmen wounded a security guard before being killed when police returned fire. The jihadists are reported to be roommates who resided in Phoenix. As this is written, only one of them has been identified: Elton Simpson. The wounded security guard, Bruce Joiner, was treated and released. Joiner works for the Garland Independent School District, which owns the Culwell Center.

Simpson was apparently what my friend, terrorism analyst Patrick Poole, describes as a “known wolf.” That’s a radical Muslim whom the Obama administration and the media are wont to dismiss as an anonymous, unconnected loner but who, in fact, has previously drawn the attention of national-security agents over suspected jihadist ties.

Simpson previously attempted to travel to Africa, apparently to join al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda franchise. He was reportedly convicted of lying to FBI agents, though a judge found the evidence insufficient to prove he was trying to join the terror group. The al-Shabaab connection seems salient now: Police are investigating tweets about the Garland event prior to the violence, allegedly posted by a young al-Shabaab jihadist who is said to be an American citizen.

The Garland free-speech event was a contest, sponsored by Pamela Geller’s New York–based American Freedom Defense Initiative. Participants were invited to draw cartoons of Islam’s prophet, in homage to the Charlie Hebdo artists killed by jihadists in France. Besides Ms. Geller, the featured speaker at the event was Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian whose life has been threatened for years for speaking openly about the scriptural moorings of Islamic terrorism. Al-Qaeda has publicly called for Wilders to be killed, and a notorious Australian imam called on Muslims to behead him because anyone who “mocks, laughs [at], or degrades Islam” must be killed by “chopping off his head.”

In Garland, activists opposed to the violence endorsed by Islamic doctrine and to the repression inherent in sharia law were invited to draw caricatures of Mohammed, with a $10,000 prize awarded to the “best” one. The contest was sure to yield images offensive to Muslims just as transgressive artist Andres Serrano had to know the public exhibition of his Piss Christ photograph would offend Christians.

Yet, as I argue in Islam and Free Speech, it will not do to blame the messenger for the violence. The shooting last night was not caused by the free-speech event any more than the Charlie Hebdo murders were caused by derogatory caricatures, or the rioting after a Danish newspaper’s publication of anti-Islam cartoons was caused by the newspaper. The violence is caused by Islamic supremacist ideology and its law that incites Muslims to kill those they judge to have disparaged Islam.

It will not do to blame the messenger for the violence. The shooting last night was not caused by the free-speech event any more than the Charlie Hebdo murders were caused by derogatory caricatures.

Christians were offended by Piss Christ, but they did not respond by killing the “artist” or blowing up the exhibiting museum. If any had, they would have been universally condemned for both violating society’s laws and betraying Christian tenets. In such a case, we would have blamed the killers, not the provocative art. There can be no right against being provoked in a free society; we rely on the vigorous exchange of ideas to arrive at sensible policy. And the greater the threat to liberty, the more necessary it is to provoke. 

The threat to liberty in this instance is sharia blasphemy law. A bloc of Muslim-majority countries, with the assistance of the Obama administration (led by the U.S. State Department, particularly under Hillary Clinton), is trying to use international law to impose Islam’s repressive law to make it illegal to subject Islam to negative criticism. No sensible person favors obnoxious expression or gratuitous insult. But as I contend in the pamphlet, there is a big difference between saying “I object to this illustration of insensitivity and bad taste” and saying “I believe that what repulses me should be against the law.”

Ms. Geller’s detractors are predictably out in droves today, prattling about how the violence would not have happened were it not for the offensive display. No one would feel deprived by the lack of sheer insult, they say, so wouldn’t it be better to compromise free-expression principles in exchange for achieving peaceful social harmony? But that line of thinking puts violent extortionists in charge of what we get to speak about — an arrangement no free society can tolerate.

It is very unfortunate that this debate is so often triggered by forms of expression that non-jihadists will find insulting and therefore that even anti-jihadists will find uncomfortable to defend. This grossly understates the stakes involved. This is about much more than cartoons. As I outline in Islam and Free Speech, classical sharia forbids most artistic representations of animate life, not just expressions that are obviously sacrilegious. More significantly, it deems as blasphemous not just expressions that insult the prophet and Islam itself but also

critical examinations of Islam . . . especially if they reach negative conclusions or encourage unbelief[;] proselytism of religions other than Islam, particularly if it involves encouraging Muslims to abandon Islam[; and any] speech or expression [that] could sow discord among Muslims or within an Islamic community. And truth is not a defense.

It is not the purpose of Pam Geller, Geert Wilders, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, and other activists to insult Muslims. Their mission is to awaken us to the challenge of Islamic supremacists — not just the violent jihadists but also the powerful Islamist forces behind the jihad. Islamists are attempting to coerce us into abandoning our commitment to free expression. They are pressuring us to accommodate their totalitarian system rather than accepting assimilation into our liberty culture.

You may not like the provocateurs’ methods. Personally, I am not a fan of gratuitous insult, which can antagonize pro-Western Muslims we want on our side. But let’s not make too much of that. Muslims who really are pro-Western already know, as Americans overwhelmingly know, that being offended is a small price to pay to live in a free society. We can bristle at an offense and still grasp that we do not want the offense criminalized.

It would be easy, in our preening gentility, to look down our noses at a Mohammed cartoon contest. But we’d better understand the scope of the threat the contest was meant to raise our attention to — a threat triggered by ideology, not cartoons. There is in our midst an Islamist movement that wants to suppress not only insults to Islam but all critical examination of Islam. That movement is delighted to leverage the atmosphere of intimidation created by violent jihadists, and it counts the current United States government among its allies.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Texas Attack Is Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism, Suspect ID’d as Elton Simpson of Phoenix

Simpson was arrested in 2010 on terror-related charges, but given probation. No time served.

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole. May 4, 2015:

BE SURE TO SEE UPDATES BELOW

The name of one of the suspects in last night’s shootout outside a Dallas-area free speech event has been released.

ABC News 13 in Phoenix has ID’d Elton Simpson as the individual who posted a message with #texasattack to his Twitter account just before the shooting.

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They report:

A controversial cartoon contest in north Texas yesterday depicting the prophet Mohammed ended in deadly gunfire.

ABC News can confirm that one of the suspects is Elton Simpson, an Arizona man who was previously the subject of a terror investigation. He’s from Phoenix and television stations in Phoenix are reporting the second shooter was Simpson’s roommate. We’re still waiting on his name.

The FBI believes Simpson sent out a tweet using the hashtag #texasattack about a half hour before shooting.

ABC News adds that police have been executing search warrants at Simpson’s home in Phoenix overnight.

It appears that this attack is yet another case of what I have termed “known wolf” syndrome, when the suspect is already known to law enforcement and intelligence. Virtually every terror attack in the West over the past year has been by one of these “known wolf” suspects.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Simpson was well known to the FBI, ABC News reported. Five years ago he was convicted for lying to federal agents about his plans to travel to Africa, “but a judge ruled the government did not adequately prove he was going to join a terror group there.”

Simpson was apparently known to the FBI since 2006:

ha tweet

UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh actually wrote about Simpson’s case back in 2011. Quoting from the judicial opinion:

On January 13, 2010, a grand jury indicted Defendant Elton Simpson for knowingly and willfully making a materially false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). The indictment also charged that the statement involved international and domestic terrorism. The indictment specified that on or about January 7, 2010, the Defendant falsely stated to special agents of the FBI that he had not discussed traveling to Somalia, when in fact he had discussed with others traveling to Somalia for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad. The Government is charging Mr. Simpson with making a false statement in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1001. The Government is also charging that the false statement involves international or domestic terrorism as defined under section 2331, so that he is eligible for a sentence enhancement pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §1001. […]

… The problem … is that the Government has not established with the requisite level of proof, that the Defendant’s potential travel to Somalia (and his false statement about his discussions regarding his travels) was sufficiently “related” to international terrorism. Rather, the Government missed several steps to meeting its burden for establishing this charge. As a result, the Court cannot find the Defendant eligible for the sentence enhancement.

According to ABC News, Simpson was convicted of lying to the FBI, but was placed on probation and never went to prison.

I’ve been chronicling these recent “Known Wolf” terrorism cases here at PJ Media:

Oct. 24, 2014: ‘Lone Wolf’ or ‘Known Wolf’: The Ongoing Counter-Terrorism Failure

Dec. 15, 2014: Sydney Hostage Taker Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Jan. 7, 2015: Paris Terror Attack Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Feb. 3, 2015: French Police Terror Attacker Yesterday Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Feb. 15, 2015: Copenhagen Killer Was yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Feb. 26, 2015: Islamic State Beheader ‘Jihadi John’ Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Apr. 22, 2015: Botched Attack on Paris Churches Another Case of “Known Wolf” Terrorism

This was also the subject of a Capitol Hill briefing I gave back in late January sponsored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET):

The suspect had tweeted that he had been arrested in 2010. His Twitter account has been deactivated, but I’m trying to find the screenshot of the tweet I made last night. I’ll post here when I find it.

From a U.S.-based jihadist supporter:

jihadi tweets

UPDATE: ABC has posted a picture of Simpson

Here is the court decision in that prior 2010 case:

UPDATE #2: Dallas Morning News adds more detail, including his known association with Al-Qaeda traitor Hassan Abu Jihad:

Simpson told agents in 2010 that he planned to study Islam at a madrassa in South Africa, records show. He said he would be gone for five years and didn’t have “firm plans” for what he would do after his studies.

But in a 2007 recorded conversation, Simpson spoke about fighting non believers for Allah. He also spoke about Afghanistan and Iraq and “Jewish oppression of Muslims.” And he criticized those who “don’t believe that they should be over there fighting.”

The FBI also got him on tape in 2009 speaking to someone about his plans.

“It’s time to go to Somalia, brother,” he said. “We know plenty of brothers from Somalia…I’m telling you, man. We gonna make it to the battlefield, akee, it’s time to roll.”

Simpson said non believers, known as “kuffar,” are “fighting against us because they don’t want us to establish sharia,” records show.

And he told an associate that he could sell his car to finance a trip overseas to fight.

“That’s a plane ticket right there. Bye-bye America,” Simpson said.

Simpson in 2009 also told someone he sent a link to someone else about “how they gonna use the car with bombs on it.” He said he was going to school at the time but that it was “just a front.” […]

When FBI agents visited Simpson in 2010, he asked them about an acquaintance, Hassan Abu Jihad, who was appealing his 2008 federal conviction in Connecticut for providing material support to terrorists.

Abu Jihad also was found guilty of “communicating national security information to persons not entitled to receive it,” records show. He was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years in federal prison. Simpson told agents he was concerned about Abu Jihad’s future.

Simpson said he knew Abu Jihad when the man lived in Phoenix previously. Abu Jihad was arrested in Phoenix in 2007.

************

Police searching car, apartment after shooting outside Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas (foxnews.com)

Police in Texas were still checking a car for possible explosives early Monday and authorities reportedly were searching the Phoenix home of the two suspects who were killed in an attack on an art exhibit that inflamed radical Muslims.

The City of Garland, Texas said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that the men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center on Sunday night and began shooting at a security officer. Garland Police Department officers returned fire, killing both gunmen, the statement said.

The statement did not say whether the shooting was related to the event, a contest hosted by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

One of the suspects was known to U.S. intelligence and had been part of a recent terror investigation for allegedly trying to travel to Africa, home of the Al Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab, sources told Fox News.

Officials have been at the Phoenix apartment complex – some 1,100 miles from the Garland, Texas, crime scene — since late Sunday night and are reviewing computer records from materials found at the residence. Police tape continues to surround the area, KSAZ reports.

Authorities also are investigating Twitter messages from overseas posted prior to the event calling for violence. The tweets were posted by a 25-year-old American jihadi with al-Shabaab, investigators told Fox News.
FBI spokesman Perryn Collier on Monday confirmed that the Phoenix residence is being searched for indications of what prompted the shooting.

The FBI said the men involved in the shooting were roommates, according to 12 News.

Authorities said they were worried that the suspects’ car in Garland could contain an incendiary device. Several nearby businesses were evacuated as a precaution and a bomb squad was on the scene early Monday. Police had cordoned off a large area and at least three helicopters circled overhead.

The Garland Independent School District, which owns and operates the Culwell Center, identified the wounded security officer as Bruce Joiner. The district said in a statement that Joiner — who was shot in the ankle — was treated and released from a local hospital.

The FBI said the men involved in the shooting were roommates, according to 12 News.

Authorities said they were worried that the suspects’ car in Garland could contain an incendiary device. Several nearby businesses were evacuated as a precaution and a bomb squad was on the scene early Monday. Police had cordoned off a large area and at least three helicopters circled overhead.

The Garland Independent School District, which owns and operates the Culwell Center, identified the wounded security officer as Bruce Joiner. The district said in a statement that Joiner — who was shot in the ankle — was treated and released from a local hospital.

Roby said he then heard two single shots.

Geller told the AP before Sunday’s event that she planned the contest to make a stand for free speech in response to outcries and violence over drawings of Muhammad. Though it remained unclear several hours after the shooting whether it was related to event, she said Sunday night that the shooting showed how “needed our event really was.”

In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Muhammad. Another deadly shooting occurred the following month at a free speech event in Copenhagen featuring an artist who had caricatured the prophet.

Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam.

When a Chicago-based nonprofit held a January fundraiser in Garland designed to help Muslims combat negative depictions of their faith, Geller spearheaded about 1,000 picketers at the event. One chanted: “Go back to your own countries! We don’t want you here!” Others held signs with messages such as, “Insult those who behead others,” an apparent reference to recent beheadings by the militant group Islamic State.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Terrorism in Africa: The Imminent Threat to the United States

Ansar al Sharia recruits receive training at a camp near Benghazi.

Ansar al Sharia recruits receive training at a camp near Benghazi.

Long War Journal, April 29, 2015:

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on the threat posed by jihadist groups in Africa. 

In preparing today’s testimony, I reviewed the history of al Qaeda’s plotting against the West. A number of facts demonstrate that al Qaeda’s presence in Africa has been tied to these efforts. For instance, declassified documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that he ordered al Qaeda’s branches in Africa to select candidates capable of striking inside the U.S. Bin Laden also ordered al Qaeda’s African branches to coordinate their work with his “external operations” team, which was responsible for plotting attacks against Western interests. Some of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders, including those who have overseen al Qaeda’s planned attacks in the West, have come from Africa. Senior al Qaeda leaders embedded in Shabaab have also trained operatives to attack in Europe. I discuss this evidence in detail in the final section of my written testimony.

Complex tribal, ethnic, and religious dynamics mean that any summary of the situation in Africa will be necessarily incomplete.  However, I will attempt to distill some themes that are important for understanding the rising jihadist threat in the continent. While there are important differences between ISIS and al Qaeda, and the two are at odds with one another in a variety of ways, they are both inherently anti-American and anti-Western. Thus, they constitute a threat to our interests everywhere their jihadists fight.

Since the beginning of the year, the ISIS branch in Libya has repeatedly attacked foreign interests. The group has bombed and/or assaulted with small arms the Algerian, Moroccan, Iranian, South Korean and Spanish embassies in Tripoli. Fortunately, these attacks have caused only a few casualties, as foreign governments pulled most of their diplomatic personnel out of Libya months ago. But these incidents show the organization’s followers are deeply hostile to any foreign presence.

Other ISIS attacks on foreigners in Libya have been more lethal and at least two Americans have been killed by ISIS’ so-called “provinces.” In January, the group’s fighters launched a complex assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli. Ten people, including David Berry, a former U.S. Marine serving as a security contractor, were killed. In August 2014, jihadists from the ISIS province in the Sinai killed William Henderson, an American petroleum worker.

Some of ISIS’ most gruesome acts in North Africa have come with pointed threats against the West. In February, the jihadists beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts. The propaganda video showing the murders was entitled, “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” ISIS explicitly threatened Italy in the video and also made it clear that they would target Christians simply for adhering to a different faith. Earlier this month, ISIS’ branch followed up by killing a large group of Ethiopian Christians.

In March, ISIS claimed responsibility for the massacre at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. More than 20 people were killed in the assault, which targeted foreign tourists. Citizens of Britain, France, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, and Spain were among the victims. Although ISIS was quick to lay claim to the museum slayings, the reality is more complicated. The Tunisian government has blamed the Uqba ibn Nafi Brigade, which is part of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an official branch of al Qaeda. Based on publicly-available information, it appears that the attackers may have joined ISIS, but the operation itself was planned by the AQIM brigade’s leadership.

Al Qaeda’s international network continues to launch high-profile attacks across the continent. Some of these operations directly target foreigners. Earlier this month, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, killed more than 140 people at the Garissa University College in Kenya. The gunmen reportedly separated out non-Muslims for killing, letting many Muslims go. This shows that the organization, like other parts of al Qaeda, is very concerned about the impact of its violence in the Muslim-majority world. In this respect and others, the Garissa attack was similar to Shabaab’s siege of the Westgate shopping mall in September 2013. More than 60 people were killed, with Shabaab’s gunmen singling out non-Muslims. Shabaab’s attacks in Kenya and other neighboring countries are part of what the UN has identified as the group’s “regional” strategy. Shabaab has undoubtedly suffered setbacks since the height of its power in East Africa, but it still operates a prolific insurgency inside Somalia, while also seeking to expand its capabilities in the surrounding countries. In fact, America’s counterterrorism efforts in East Africa seem to be principally aimed at the part of Shabaab tasked with exporting terrorism throughout the region.

As we’ve seen over the past several years, al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Africa will attack American and Western interests when the opportunity presents itself.  The September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission and Annex in Benghazi and the raid on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis three days later were carried out by al Qaeda-linked groups. The Ansar al Sharia organizations in Libya and Tunisia, both of which are tied to AQIM, were involved in these assaults on America’s diplomatic presence in North Africa. In early 2013, terrorists commanded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar killed dozens of foreign workers during the siege of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria. Belmokhtar, who is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri, claimed responsibility for operation on behalf of al Qaeda.

There is no doubt, therefore, that both ISIS and al Qaeda pose a threat to Western interests in Africa. Below, I explore current trends within both organizations, highlighting some ways these international networks may threaten Americans both home and abroad. But first, I briefly look at the different strategies ISIS and al Qaeda are employing to build up their networks.

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Subcommittee Hearing: Terrorism in Africa: The Imminent Threat to the United States

Witnesses

Dr. J. Peter Pham
Director
Africa Center
Atlantic Council
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Mr. Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Dr. Daniel Byman
Research Director
Center for Middle East Policy
Center for Security Studies
Brookings Institution
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Terrorist Groups Take Advantage of South African Violence

82377795_dd6b3c8f-43f3-45a5-9f18-975676c3558eCSP, by Joshua Kraus, April 23, 2015:

In South Africa,  which is sometimes affectionately refereed to as a “rainbow nation,” gangs of black South African residents have taken machetes and torches to immigrants accused of taking scarce jobs and undermining an already unstable economy. According to the South African defense minister, this latest string of violence has killed at least seven people this month.

The anti-immigration violence is not new to South Africa. This type of bloodshed took place in 2008, killing 62 and displacing another 100,000 people. The world awoke to the type of atrocities that were happening in South Africa when Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a native of Mozambique, was photographed while being burned alive. His murder investigation was recently closed after a very questionable police investigation unsurprisingly resulted in no witnesses.

Both Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram and Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab have referenced the riots in recent propaganda statements.  Boko Haram has threatened that if the South African government does not limit this violence and stop the inexcusable murdering of Nigerians, it will execute all South Africans residing in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and other surrounding countries. The embassies in those countries are being threatened as well.

Al-Shabaab has posted messages on social media sites with phrases explaining that “We (Al-Shabaab) will enter Durban” and “For all the foreign lives lost in SA (South Africa) there is a price to pay”.

Why have Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab insinuated themselves into the South Africa “xenophobia” story?

Recently, Kenya’s military and its people have waged character assassinations against the Somali people in retaliation for the attack on Garissa University that killed 148 people. Kenya sent a request to the United Nations to shut down Dadaab, one of the biggest refugee camps in Kenya for Somalia people. Kenyan security officials previously described Dadaab as a breeding ground for terror and a primary recruiting ground for Al-Shabaab in recent years. The camp’s house would force out more than 350,000 Somalia inhabitants back into Somalia. This perception of repression would only feed into the plight of the Somali people as their government has yet to defend them. Al-Shabaab is sure to take advantage of the maltreatment of the Somali people and form a tight knit community whose mission is to advance sharia law.

According to Aden Duale, a member of the Garissa Township National Assembly, Al-Shabaab is said to train in camps such as Daab and further conduct radicalization classes and suicide bombers from the camp. Both Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab’s advancement of protecting their own people from “xenophobia” can possibly lead to further destabilization of established governments due to the lack of respect for a class of people.

Jihadist organizations such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab are using classic insurgency tactics to radicalize a group of people and create homegrown terrorism. The refusal by the Kenyan government to acknowledge homegrown terrorism only gives more precedence for Al-Shabaab to operate safely and securely in refugee camps.

This refusal to acknowledge homegrown terrorism can translate to the global jihad movement within the United States. Since 1991, the U.S. State Department has imported more than 100,000 Somali nationals directly from United Nations refugee camps into U.S. cities and towns. According to State Department estimates, they arrive at a rate of 5,000 to 12,000 per year.

Boko Haram Re-Brands as Islamic State in West Africa

Nigerian special forces prepare to fight Boko Haram in Diffa, March 26, 2015. The country's army has reportedly severed Boko Haram’s access to arms suppliers, forcing the insurgents to resort to less sophisticated weaponry. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Nigerian special forces prepare to fight Boko Haram in Diffa, March 26, 2015. The country’s army has reportedly severed Boko Haram’s access to arms suppliers, forcing the insurgents to resort to less sophisticated weaponry. REUTERS/Joe Penney

CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, April 23, 2015:

There is a lot of relatively good news on the progress of the Nigerian army in it’s efforts to defeat Boko Haram.  Here is where all of the nit-picking about the differences between IS and Boko Haram will mean even less.  Boko Haram was lionized for it’s ability to take and hold territory.  However, because of it’s primary driver as an internationally connected Islamist group that is ideologically driven, it will adapt to a new menu of tactics that resemble Al Shabaab.  This is where the relationship beetween IS and Boko Haram becomes significant.

The signal is the re-brand as Islamic State in West Africa.  Analysts were hard pressed to see the tactical advantages that the allegiance between IS and Boko Haram could afford the West African jihadist movement in Nigeria.  The counter terrorism battle space in Nigeria will mutate as former Boko Haram fighters disperse and attempt to blend back in to the population.  The question of whether al Shabaab will also pledge allegiance to IS will arise with more frequency in the coming months.

As Boko Haram (now Islamic State in West Africa) is forced to shift tactics, Boko Haram’s pledge to IS will pay off.  When al Shabaab held territory they resembled Boko Haram.  When they control territory they raise money like a state.  When they are defeated militarily they operate like a terror group.  The make up and the mission of these groups do not change.  They all want to hold territory.  That factor does change.  When it does, each jihadist group adapts.

What al Shabaab Hopes for Your Town

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CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, April 14, 2015:

After the recent large scale attack in Garissa Kenya that was preceded by an assassination in Uganda, two massacres in Mandera near the Somali border of Kenya, and a gratuitous made-for-film raid of Mpekatoni near the Kenyan coast, al Shabaab has now slain seventeen people at the higher education ministry in Mogadishu.  Early reports hint at a level of sophistication where the security wall was first compromised by a car bomb allowing armed Shabaab fighters to enter.

Jan2014Setting aside al Shabaab’s long held international connections with al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other groups plus their ability to recruit from as far away as the United States, take a moment to look at what this series of attacks says about a jihadist movement’s ability to strike the home front in a regional context.  Remember that Shabaab, Boko Haram, and IS have all held varying quantities of territory.  Al Shabaab was the first to lose major tracts of territory along with the resources and logistical advantages including the holding of major coastal port cities.

Al Shabaab began as an outgrowth of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia.  When, as a local Somali Islamist group they were defeated by the Somali government with the help of Ethiopia, factions of the ICU formed al Shabaab in 2006 and began to take large swaths of territory in the southern half of the country.  For a long time they controlled two strategically important ports, Kismayo and Barawe, where they could make a lot of money and import weapons and fighters.  Kenyan counter terrorism efforts along with the African Union mission, AMISOM, put boots on the ground, took ground in both cities and held it.  This was a strategic short term blow to the finances and logistical benefits enjoyed by al Shabaab.  Attacks in Kenya and Uganda showed an increasing diversity of tactics.  Al Qaeda style targeting and bombing, raids of armed gunmen, assassinations from motorcycle drive-by’s, and car bombs are all part of the al Shabaab play book.

Oct2014

Describing al Shabaab as a regionally focused group has it’s downsides.  Where al Shabaab saw defeat on the ground they were able to export the violent form of Jihad through out East Africa.  The bombing in Uganda that killed 76 World Cup fans in Kampala in 2010 had devastating consequences with an Al Qaeda-like signature that displayed the advantage Shabaab’s relationship with the group.  Al Shabaab has respectable propaganda and social media capability.  The group makes clear in their words, actions, and with their targets that they want Shariah law imposed and Christians and non-Muslims should either be submissive or dead.

It would be amiss to interpret the military defeat of al Shabaab in regions of Somalia as the main cause of their diaspora of diverse attacks across the region.  Yes, there is a cause and effect there but not one of such simplistic description.  Al Shabaab’s resilience and ability to adapt and survive is largely rooted in their religious ability to attach meaningfulness to killing.  Media and even regional officials often try to explain Shabaab’s recruitment of youth as exploitation of the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised.  That is a tactic and a factor but not the answer to the equation.

Late last year, National Defense University issued a report on the rising Islamist threat in Tanzania.  Citing smaller scale and under-reported Shabaab attacks, Dr. Andre LaSage had this to say,

“Thus far, the attacks in Tanzania have been relatively unsophisticated.They have involved crude homemade explosives, handguns, and buckets of acid; they have been focused on poorly protected targets of opportunity;and they have not resulted in mass casualties. However, as events over the past few years in neighboring Kenya have demonstrated, today’s seemingly minor and manageable threats can evolve quickly into something far more lethal and intractable.”

Imagine being a Ugandan, Kenyan, Somali, or Tanzanian citizen.  Each of these societies are largely Western and share a very similar idea of what is normal with Europeans and Americans.  They have university, work, transportation, courthouses, and restaurants just like us.  They also live on the front lines of a religious war where some Imams recruit their children and raise them toassassinate parents to symbolize their coming conquest of the West.

After ascertaining scope and behavior patterns within East Africa, reconsider the international scope of this jihadist movement  and their threats to export the jihad to the U.S.  The regional pattern of al Shabaab’s adaptation will hint at the future behavior of Boko Haram and IS in the territories they hold in the near future.  Also keep in mind that these movements follow a message that is proliferated globally through the internet.  Al Shabaab has made clear that they want the experience of citizens in Bloomington Minnesota to resemble the experiences of citizens of Nairobi shopping at the Westgate Mall.  Al Shabaab, IS, Al Qaeda, AQIM, AQAP, and Boko Haram are all part of the global jihadist movement and all have made threats against the U.S.  What are now battlefronts in Africa will be the new normal if those who sign up for the global jihad have their way.