New Threats from Al Qaeda: Inspire 17 Magazine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton. Aug. 13, 2017:

Al Qaeda has issued its latest edition of Inspire magazine, Inspire 17.

The magazine is published by the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but it covers Al Qaeda operations worldwide. In particular, Inspire 17 features the emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud.

However, this latest issue of Inspire is noteworthy in that the most prominent personality in the magazine is Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden. Hamza bin Laden is emerging as a global leader of Al Qaeda and has specifically vowed to take revenge on the U.S. for killing his father.

Here is a brief summary of the highlights of Inspire 17:

Al Qaeda claims that they will be concentrating on targeting Western nations’ transportation infrastructure, seeking to disrupt the movement of people and cargo.

While Al Qaeda says that they will be targeting all aspects of transportation, air, sea and land, as well as local and international, Inspire 17 focuses on rail transport.

As implied by the name “inspire” Al Qaeda seeks to inspire individual Jihadis to take action. They suggest attacking transport vehicles such as trains and aircraft, lines of transport, such as railways, and stations, terminals and transit points, such as train stations, subway terminals and airports.

Bin Laden specifically states: “I urge my Mujahideen brothers everywhere, especially Lone Jihad heroes; I say to them: Target America.”

But America is not the only target mentioned in the magazine. It sets a priority order for targets in the following order: “everyone who transgresses against our religion,” Jewish interests, US, NATO, Russia.

Al Qaeda specifically instructs its followers to target civilians, as opposed to military targets: “In targeting civilians, there is much advantage and benefit for attaining goals of Jihad that cannot be attained when targeting the military.”

The emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud is quoted as singling out France for attack: “France! Do you know time for settling debts has approached? Do not think you will escape punishment! Start preparing to pay what you owe to Muslims, in cash and in kind.”

France has conducted a robust military campaign against AQIM for several years now.

The impact on Western and American lifestyles from increased security measures is not lost on Al Qaeda: “O Mujahideen, it is time we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with air.”

Concentrating on rail, the magazine describes a austere technique for attacking trains by derailing them from railroad tracks by positioning an item on them that will alter the course of the train’s wheels.

Unlike previous terror attacks on rail infrastructure, such a technique would not require explosives.

The magazine points out the merit of derailing high speed trains and lists Acela in the US, Class 395 Javelin in the UK and TGV in France as high speed trains to attack.

The magazine also suggests prioritizing derailing trains with HAZMAT cargo in cities and towns in the USA.

The following passenger trains are listed as specific targets: Lake Shore Limited, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Acela Express, Amtrak Cascades, Cardinal, Carolinian, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Pacific Surfliner, Palmetto, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle. It also depicts a map of US rail lines by Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF and Amtrak.

AQAP leader calls for ‘simple’ attacks in the West

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 8, 2017:

Qasim al Raymi, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), wants jihadists in the West to carry out “easy and simple” attacks. His message was delivered in a short video (just over 5 minutes long) that was released online yesterday by AQAP’s propaganda arm, Al Malahem Media.

Raymi addresses the “patient” jihadists “living in the Western countries” and he argues they should be viewed as part of a cohesive, global cause.

“My Mujahid brother, we do not view you as an individual – even though it is referred to as Individual Jihad,” Raymi says. “We rather view you as a group, a brigade, or even an army in itself.”

Raymi says he and others “wish” they “had an army” in the West to carry out operations, but jihadists who act on their own “are that army.”

“And it is important to view yourself from this angle, that you are part of this Ummah [community of worldwide Muslims], a part of this body,” Raymi says. “If any part of the body is not well, then the whole body shares the sleeplessness and fever with it.”

The AQAP chief continues: “We are a single united body, and today this body is in pain in many places. And you are situated in a place where you can harm our enemy. And so it is upon you to carry out that role.”

Raymi emphasizes that the actions of individual jihadists are connected to the wars being fought by their ideological brethren overseas. He notes that their enemies “continuously carry out thousands of operations on a daily basis” and invites Muslims in the West to see themselves as members of the same families struck abroad. “We are a single united body,” Raymi says. “An American Muslims is the same as a Yemeni Muslim, and a Yemeni Muslim is the same as an Australian Muslim. We do not believe in nationalism; we believe in Islam.”

In this context, Raymi mentions a series of wars and clashes that he considers to be a part of the same broader struggle, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the wars in Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Syria. Raymi then asks: “If every operation against the Muslims were to be retaliated by a single Muslim living in the West and result[ed] in the killing of many Americans, then what do you think will happen (as a result)?” The goal is to make “the enemy think twice about his actions,” Raymi says.

AQAP forced to praise operations conducted by Islamic State supporters

AQAP was an early innovator when it comes to inspiring individual jihadists to strike on their own without formal training abroad. Other ideologues had espoused the concept previously, but Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP leader, was the chief advocate of such operations at the time of his death in a US drone strike in Sept. 2011. Awlaki and his comrades founded the English-language Inspire magazine, which is largely devoted to encouraging “lone mujahid” to lash out in the West.

As the Islamic State rose to prominence beginning in 2014, however, AQAP was eclipsed as the main instigator of “lone mujahid” attacks. Many of the small-scale terror plots carried out in recent years have involved supporters of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s caliphate, or were claimed by the Islamic State as the work of its “soldiers.” In some cases, ties to the Islamic State organization are nebulous, or non-existent, but counterterrorism officials have found connections (even if only online) or evidence of inspiration in many cases.

Therefore, Raymi’s speech could be viewed as part of AQAP’s attempt to reclaim the narrative when it comes to inspiring “lone mujahid” attacks. His talk is branded as an “Inspire” production. Still, the Islamic State’s success in amplifying AQAP’s original concept looms large.

Indeed, the only example of an individual jihadist cited by Raymi is Omar Mateen, who repeatedly swore allegiance to Baghdadi during his night of terror in June 2016. Mateen was reportedly exposed to Anwar al Awlaki’s teachings online. But like a number of other individual plotters who were first drawn to AQAP’s messaging, Mateen became infatuated with the idea of striking in the name of the so-called caliphate.

Raymi ignores Mateen’s oath of fealty to Baghdadi, as AQAP has rejected the Islamic State’s caliphate declaration.

“If you sacrifice and expect reward from Allah, then you can do great things,” Raymi says. The AQAP emir continues: “Our brother, Omar Mateen — May Allah accept him and elevate his status high — when he executed his blessed operation…how many smiles do you think he drew on the faces of the widows, orphans and Mujahideen all over? Today, the Muslim Ummah only hears of tragedy after tragedy facing it. Yet it is you who (can) draw a smile in their face. And if making a Muslim smile is a charity, then what about drawing a smile upon thousands and millions of Muslims?” Raymi points to his own smile while making this point. (See the screen shot above.)

Raymi uses the example set by Mateen to draw lessons for his listeners: “Don’t complicate matters, take it easy and simple, the same as our brother Omar Mateen did, he took an AK-47 [sic] and headed towards their gatherings and attacked them.”

“If such operations were to continue whenever there is a tragedy upon Muslims, we will be transferring the tragedy back to them, and it will be an eye for an eye,” Raymi argues.

AQAP has previously praised Omar Mateen’s shooting rampage. The group released an “Inspire Guide” explaining the supposed benefits of the massacre from the jihadists’ perspective. But AQAP also argued that Mateen’s choice of target – a LGBT nightclub in Orlando – confused matters by drawing attention away from the jihadists’ cause.

“The executor [Mateen] specifically chose a homosexual nightclub, and even though the killing of such people is the most binding duty and closer to human nature, [it is better] to avoid targeting areas where minorities are found,” AQAP’s propagandists wrote last year in their “Inspire Guide” for the Orlando attack. AQAP worried that the target took away from the “essence of the operation.” AQAP’s guide continued: “The Western media focused on the testimony by Mateen’s father who said that his son hates homosexuals and the terrorist ideas had no place in his motives. The media reiterated this, saying that Omar saw some homosexuals kissing each other and that such a scene offended him. The media tried to portray the operation motives to be against a particular group of people in order to turn the American public away from the real motives of the operation.”

AQAP also argued that Mateen erred by targeting a nightclub where “most of the individuals present…were Latino.” It “is better to avoid targeting places and crowds where minorities are generally found in America” and jihadists should instead target “areas where the Anglo-Saxon community is generally concentrated,” because this “class of the American community is the majority and it is the one that is in the American leadership.”

This critique of Mateen’s mass murder – that he should have chosen a target that didn’t muddy the jihadist motivation – is entirely missing from Raymi’s speech.

AQAP has, at times, encouraged followers to carry out more targeted slayings. For instance, the 15th issue of Inspire, released in the Spring of 2016, was dedicated to “Professional Assassinations.” The cover story advocated “precision in choosing the target from the beginning to the time of execution,” and the group also published a list of “economic personalities” whose murder would garner much attention. AQAP was behind the targeted strike on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris in Jan. 2015. Inspire had previously listed Charlie Hebdo’s employees as legitimate targets, because they had supposedly offended Islam.

To be sure, AQAP has promoted less precise attacks throughout its history, including first advocating the use of trucks and other vehicles in indiscriminate killings. And the “Professional Assassinations” edition of Inspire also contained an article encouraging the use of knives in attacks inside the US (“O Knife Revolution, Head Towards America”), just as they have been employed against Jews in Israel.

But AQAP has also been encouraging followers to pursue more complex operations, such as using magnetic car bombs against high-profile individuals. AQAP may very well continue to provide innovative terrorist ideas along these lines, but it is telling that Raymi avoids all of this, telling would-be followers not to “complicate matters, take it easy and simple.”

In addition to the June 2016 Orlando massacre, AQAP has praised other attacks that were inspired, or claimed by the Islamic State.

For example, in Inspire and the Inspire Guides, AQAP has lauded: the truck attack on Bastille Day in Nice, France last year; the Sept. 2016 stabbings at a mall in Minnesota; and the vehicular assault near the British parliament in March.

In another Inspire Guide, Raymi’s men decried the arrests of women who were allegedly preparing to carry out a jihadist operation in France on behalf Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate. AQAP advised “brothers in the west not to allow our Muslim sisters to participate in any lone jihad operation” – a recommendation some in the Islamic State’s network are likely to ignore. AQAP has also endorsed the bombings in New Jersey and New York last September. The bombings were carried out by a jihadist who cited Osama bin Laden, Awlaki and the Islamic State’s spokesman in his notebook. It was that same spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, who helped the Islamic State amplify AQAP’s “lone mujahid” concept by stressing the necessity of striking in the name of the so-called caliphate.

Therefore, AQAP has been forced to praise terrorist anti-Western attacks carried out in the name of their rivals in the Islamic State. This cannot sit well with Raymi and the al Qaeda loyalists around him.

Raymi’s video is a rare, direct appeal by the AQAP leader to jihadists in the West. He clearly seeks to move AQAP back into the fore of the “lone mujahid” effort.

“If you are true to Allah and seek his assistance, then he will never neglect you,” Raymi tells his audience. “You will be greatly rewarded for [alleviating] the distrust of your Mujahideen brothers everywhere and be an example of brotherhood and the spirit of unity.”

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

HOLTON: Why All The Jihadi Attacks Around The World? Why Now?

The Hayride, by Christopher Holton, April 21, 2017:

Way back in February of 1998, Osama Bin Laden declared a Jihad against Jews and Crusaders in a written document entitled the “World Islamic Front Statement.”

In that document he specifically stated:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it

Despite this, with just a few notable exceptions over the years, few Muslims answered Bin Laden’s call to kill Americans.

Bin Laden was of course killed by U.S. Special Operations forces in May 2011.

Since then, we have seen many more attacks here in the U.S.

Why? If Osama Bin Laden was not able to inspire Muslims to attack and kill Americans, why are we seeing so many such attacks in recent years? Such as:

  • The 15 April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
  • The Orlando night club massacre on 12 June 2016.
  • The San Bernardino massacre on 2 December 2015
  • The Chattanooga massacre on 16 July 2015
  • The failed Garland, Texas attack on 3 May 2015.
  • The Queens, New York hatchet attack on police officers standing on a street corner on 23 October 2014.
  • The Philadelphia attack on a police officer sitting in his squad car on 7 January 2016
  • The Moore, Oklahoma beheading of a grandmother at the hands of a Muslim co-worker on 26 September 2014
  • The 28 November 2016 terrorist vehicle attack on Ohio State University campus.
  • The September 17-19 2016 bombings in New York and New Jersey.
  • The Fresno, California shooting on 18 April 2017.

These are just a few of the incidents in recent years, here in the United States, that have, unfortunately, been categorized as “lone wolf” terrorist attacks by our recalcitrant news media.

In fact, the term “lone wolf” does not exist in Islamic doctrine. What DOES exist in Islamic doctrine is the fact that Jihad is an individual as well as a collective obligation.

What we are seeing are in fact individual acts of Jihad–acts of war, not criminal acts. We continue to deny this at our peril. There is a doctrinal basis for the enemy that is waging war against us. This form of warfare does not require formal ties between fighters or units (organizations) waging the war.

The concept of Jihad being an individual obligation is longstanding and has its basis in mainstream Islamic law (Shariah). We can see this from a widely-read and used text of Shariah sold annually at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim organization in the United States, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing prosecution in U.S. history: the U.S. v the Holy Land Foundation. In that trial, ISNA was identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front group. Interestingly, ISNA’s Canadian wing was shut down in 2013 for funneling money to a Jihadist terrorist group in Kashmir.

The name of the Shariah text is A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence by Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan and published by Al-Maiman Publishing House in Saudi Arabia. Al-Fawzan is a member of the Board of Senior Ulema in Saudi Arabia and also a member of the Permanent Committee for Fatwa and Research in the kingdom.

Volume One of this work has a chapter devoted to Jihad. On page 473, the basis in Shariah for individual Jihad is explained in detail and reveals for us why we are seeing this escalation of attacks:

For a Muslim, there are certain cases in which jihad is an individual duty:

1) When a Muslim is present at the battlefield, it is obligatory for him to fight and he is prohibited to leave the battlefield and flee.

2) When enemies attack a Muslim country…

3) When a Muslim is needed to help his fellow Muslims fight their enemies.

4) When a Muslim is called by the ruler (or the one in authority) to fight in the Cause of Allah, for the Prophet (PBUH) said:

Whenever you are called for fighting in the cause of Allah, you should go immediately.

As you can see, these four circumstances are quite broad and all could be interpreted as existing right now. But numbers 2, 3 and 4 are particularly relevant right now and serve as the doctrinal basis for why Muslims have suddenly begun rising up in violent Jihad in the West:

  • The Islamic State has called on Muslims to wage Jihad because the Islamic State is under attack. This applies to 2 and 3 above.
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State has issued calls on Muslims in the West to rise up in Jihad. This applies to 4 above and is the key difference between the days of Bin Laden and today.

Bin Laden may have been admired by many Muslims, but he never declared himself as a Caliph and his calls for Jihad were mostly ignored. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s calls are being answered because he has declared himself as the Caliph and many Muslims recognize him as such. That is why were are seeing acts of individual Jihad that we mostly did not see before.

And that is why the U.S. and the West cannot tolerate the existence of the Islamic State over the long-term. It has become the flame attracting moths. It will only gain more legitimacy and strength if it is allowed to persist. In short, it must be destroyed.

HERE ARE TWO IMPORTANT PASSAGES THAT APPLY TO WHAT WE ARE SEEING TODAY. The news media and our elected officials seem to take comfort when an attacker was “merely inspired” by the Islamic State (ISIS) and were not directed by the Islamic State. The opposite should actually be the case, as reflected by the two remaining passages below from two important Jihadi ideologues:

Individual jihad has recurred throughout Islamic history. In the time of the Crusades…groups of mujahideen responded to the crisis. Many isolated expeditions and groups carried out the obligation of jihad.

Individual jihad using the method of urban or rural guerilla warfare is the foundation for sapping the enemy and bringing him to a state of collapse and withdrawal. It will pave the way for the desired strategic goal.

What mandates these methods as a strategic opinion is the imbalance of forces between the resistance and the large invading alliance of unbelievers, apostates and hypocrites.

We fight them for the sake of incidents to cause political pressure and psychological collapse, so that they leave our lands. Carrying out a small operation every month against the enemy will have more of an impact on him than a big operation every year or two.

Toward a New Strategy in Resisting the Occupier
Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah
Al Qaeda Chief of External Operations
Killed by US air strike in Pakistan in 2008

Successful jihad will only happen within an ummah [Islamic nation or community] in which the fighting creed is firmly established and clarified. This must happen in order to attain the “Revolutionary Jihadist Climate” that will spontaneously give rise to instruments of resistance.

Violent jihad is as an individual duty obligatory upon every Muslim. All the ulema have said this…”

The Call to Global Islamic Resistance
Abu Musab al-Suri
Al Qaeda propagandist
Captured in Pakistan 2005

These two passages reflect what we are seeing today, not just in the USA, but even more so in Europe, as evidenced by the March 2017 London parliament shooting and the 20 April 2017 police shooting on the Champs Elysees.

Over a decade ago Al-Hakaymah called for frequent, small-scale attacks rather than big 9/11 type attacks. What we are seeing today was clearly part of the Jihadists’ plans.

Again, well over a decade ago, Al-Suri foresaw an environment in which individual Jihadis would rise up spontaneously in resistance without specific direction and planning from a higher, central authority. Again, that is clearly what we are seeing today.

This “Revolutionary Jihadist Climate” spontaneously giving rise to instruments of resistance is NOT something to take comfort in at all. It is problematic for law enforcement and the intelligence community and dangerous for Americans.

A terrorist cell connected directly in some way to Al Qaeda leadership can be detected, infiltrated and taken down as it communicates with and receives orders from commanders overseas. But individual Jihadis or Jihadi couples who have the intention of carrying out attacks are much more difficult to detect and are very nearly impossible to infiltrate.

The “Revolutionary Jihadist Climate” spontaneously giving rise to instruments of resistance is a relatively new, dangerous phase in the global Jihadist movement.

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

joscelynLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | February 28, 2017 | tjoscelyn@gmail.com | @thomasjoscelyn

Editor’s note: 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.

Read more

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Homeland Security Committee:

Multiple terrorist networks actively plot attacks against the United States, and American interests, or encourage adherents to conduct inspired attacks inside the U.S Homeland without specific direction. Though significant progress has been made in improving American counterterrorism efforts since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, challenges persist. Over the last several years, the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence (CT&I) has continually worked to identify and address these weaknesses and improve U.S. domestic security. This hearing provides an opportunity to examine the continued evolution of the terrorist threat and review recommendations for improvement from national security experts.

OPENING STATEMENTS

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), Subcommittee Chairman
Opening Statement

WITNESSES

Mr. Edward F. Davis
Chief Executive Officer
Edward Davis, LLC
Witness Testimony

Mr. Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
Witness Testimony

Mr. Robin Simcox
Margaret Thatcher Fellow
Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy
The Heritage Foundation
Witness Testimony

Mr. Peter Bergen
Vice President, Director
International Security and Fellows Programs
New American
Witness Testimony

Terror flash: ISIS scraps large-scale plots for social media-inspired lone killers

Photo by: Sasha Goldsmith Authorities investigate a truck after it plowed through Bastille Day revelers in the French resort city of Nice, France, on July 14, 2016. France was ravaged by its third attack in two years when a large white truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing dozens of people as it bore down on the crowd for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed seaside promenade. (Sasha Goldsmith via AP, File)

Photo by: Sasha Goldsmith
Authorities investigate a truck after it plowed through Bastille Day revelers in the French resort city of Nice, France, on July 14, 2016. France was ravaged by its third attack in two years when a large white truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing dozens of people as it bore down on the crowd for more than a mile along the Riviera city’s famed seaside promenade. (Sasha Goldsmith via AP, File)

The Washington Times, January 4, 2017:

A confidential government report says terrorist groups such as the Islamic State have all but abandoned trying to put together huge plots such as the Sept. 11 attacks and warns counterterrorism agencies of a “new landscape” where lone killers strike and massacre quickly thanks to the digital age.

The report by the National Counterterrorism Center marks a historical shift that requires the FBI, CIA and other agencies to try to locate the mobile and digital-savvy loner, and not necessarily detect a complex plot.

“The steady rise in the number of lone actor operations is a trend which coincides with the deepening and broadening of the digital revolution as well as the encouragement of such operations by terrorist groups because intensified [counterterrorism] operations have disrupted their ability to launch larger plots,” the NCTC says in a report obtained by The Washington Times. “Lone actors now have greater capability to create and broadcast material than a decade ago, while violent extremists can contact and interact with potential recruits with greater ease.”

The report was circulated Dec. 28 to counterterrorism agencies across the country.

The analysis says the new faces of extremist violence are “small autonomous cells” and “individual terrorism.”

“Recent rapid technological change, which allows terrorists to reach a large audience quickly and directly, has enabled them to achieve their messaging goals without launching large-scale attacks which demand significant physical infrastructure,” says the NCTC, which operates under Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.

“Increasingly, thanks in part to the digital revolution, they can rely on what Syrian terrorist Abu Musab al-Suri called ‘individual terrorism.’ With ISIL losing territory and the al-Qa’ida network increasingly decentralized, individuals and small autonomous cells may increasingly take the initiative in both the murderous and messaging dimensions of violent extremism,” the report states.

The Islamic State, which holds territory in Iraq and Syria, has created armies in over a dozen countries and is known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

In a speech last month to troops at U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, President Obama touted his counterterrorism efforts by saying no group has launched a complex plot from abroad against the United States during his presidency.

 

Critics say that may be true but that Islamic terrorist attacks are increasing globally.

The massacres in San Bernardino, California, in 2015, and last summer in Orlando, Florida, are just two examples of this type of terrorism.

Other examples: An Islamic State agent gunned down 39 New Year’s revelers at a packed nightclub in Istanbul. Also this holiday season, Anis Amri, a lone terrorist devoted to the Islamic State, drove a truck through a Berlin outdoor Christmas market, killing 12.

The NCTC calls this “The new landscape … with few formal boundaries or solid structures, where groups can form wherever resources permit and circumstances are favorable. It is also one in which technology may permit active militants in the future to become individual terror broadcasting units, cataloging their path to terror and teaching others their tradecraft.”

The center identifies the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as the “turning point,” when terrorists realized that the internet and social media could provide platforms to reach and organize radicals by the thousands.

It points to Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader in May 2004, who videotaped his beheading of American Nick Berg and disseminated the gruesome image on the internet.

“The exact number of downloads is unknown, but its wide dissemination on extremist websites, and the ‘buzz’ it created on extremist online forums, suggested this footage reached a much greater audience than any comparable material,” the report says.

What followed was Syrian terrorist Abu Khalid al-Suri’s analysis of technology and publication of a training guide titled “A Call to Global Islamic Resistance.”

“He provided one of the most articulate and elaborate definitions of this strategy and the first one which explicitly stressed the internet as a means of relaying advice and orientation. This new doctrine allowed violent extremist groups to become more resilient in the face of intense international [counterterrorism] efforts,” the NCTC report states.

One terrorist who bought into al-Suri’s analysis was American al Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki. He posted 1,910 videos on YouTube, one of which has been viewed 164,420 times. Al-Awlaki, who urged attacks on the U.S. as a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

The report highlights the Islamic State, which rose from a defeated al Qaeda spinoff in Iraq to amass a huge army of terrorists based in Syria, and invaded Iraq in 2014.

“ISIL has consciously choreographed violence in the areas it controls to meet the demands of its key audiences, and it has carefully exploited the capabilities of contemporary media technology to deliver that content, often via social media but also via other means,” it says.

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer who is out with a new book, “Future War,” said the NCTC report captures the “modern terrorist.”

“The modern terrorist acts more often than not without detailed operational guidance from a central authority like al Qaeda in Pakistan or ISIS central in Raqqa, Syria,” Mr. Maginnis said. “They take general encouragement from public pronouncements of their ideological leaders such as ISIS’ glossy magazine Dabiq and then operationalize their radical intentions either individually or by small autonomous cells of close and trusted associates.”

The migrant Tunisian Amri is a prime example.

“The modern terrorist is hard to detect, much like the truck terrorist at the Berlin Christmas market weeks ago,” Mr. Maginnis said. “He hid within his closed community, used personal resources, struck in an unexpected way and then disappeared into the fabric of the society of his new country.”

FBI Releases Video, New Details in Minnesota Mall Terror Attack by Somali Refugee Dahir Adan

11866454_gPJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, OCTOBER 6, 2016

The FBI held an unusual press conference today in the case of last month’s terror attack at a shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The attacker, 20-year old Somali refugee Dahir Adan, was shot and killed on the scene by an off-duty police officer after stabbing ten mall workers and shoppers.

The press conference was unusual in that the investigation into the matter is still ongoing, but the FBI and local law enforcement felt the need to release graphic video of the attacks in order to shoot down various conspiracy theories circulating in the Minnesota Somali community and perpetuated by Black Lives Matter groups.

One of the early conspiracy theories floated by Adan’s family was the claim that he was an innocent bystander who was in the mall to pick up his new iPhone at the mall:

Those false rumors led some in the Somali community to use the incident to circulate claims that the shooting of Adan was unjustified:

Others claimed that Adan was mentally ill, which the family denied:

Just last week FBI Director James Comey testified that Adan appeared to be inspired by “extremist ideology”:

The FBI released further details on his possible motivation during their press conference today.

CBS News reports:

The stabbings at a central Minnesota mall last month that wounded 10 likely was premeditated by the attacker, who may have become radicalized recently, federal authorities said Thursday.Dahir Ahmed Adan became interested in Islam in the last several months, withdrew from his friends and encouraged his sisters to be more religious, FBI Special Agent Rick Thornton said at a news conference.

Witnesses told investigators that 20-year-old Adan yelled “Islam, Islam” and “Allahu akbar,” as well as asking several people whether they were Muslim before stabbing them during the Sept. 17 attack, which started outside Crossroads Center mall before moving inside.

“We were told Adan had not previously shown an interest in religion. Adan also encouraged some female relatives to become more religiously observant,” Thornton said, adding that investigators continue to analyze Adan’s digital footprint, including his social media and online activity, and are trying to obtain permission to unlock his smartphone.

FBI Director James Comey said last week it appeared Adan was at least partly inspired by extremist ideology. Thornton also said that Adan went from being a high academic performer to failing out of college “almost overnight” after taking an increased interest in Islam.

Read more

ISIS Calls for Random Knife Attacks in Alleys, Forests, Beaches, ‘Quiet Neighborhoods’

(ISIS photo)

(ISIS photo)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, Oct. 5, 2016:

A new magazine issued by the Islamic State advises lone jihadists to get over any squeamishness about using knives and embrace sharp objects as “widely available” weapons of jihad in nighttime stabbing campaigns.

ISIS’ Al-Hayat Media Center issued the second issue of its magazine Rumiyahmeaning Rome, in English, Turkish, German, French, Indonesian, Russian, Arabic and Uyghur. The design of the magazine is more simple than ISIS’ English-language Dabiq. It’s also much shorter: 38 pages compared to the 82 pages in the last issue of Dabiq.

In the first issue of Rumiyah, which debuted a month ago, jihadists were advised to target teens playing sports after school or even flower sellers hawking blooms on the street.

In the new PDF issue distributed widely via social media and Google Drive, an article on terror tactics assures would-be jihadists that “one need not be a military expert or a martial arts master, or even own a gun or rifle in order to carry out a massacre or to kill and injure several disbelievers and terrorize an entire nation.”

A footnote in the article states that ISIS won’t be using the term “lone wolf,” but “just terror operations” — “just” as an adjective for “justice.” Al-Qaeda calls lone operations “open-source jihad.”

Hinting that the article is one in a forthcoming series about terror tactics, ISIS focused on the benefits of knives to help potential terrorists with the “ocean of thoughts” that “might pour into one’s mind” when considering an attack.

“Many people are often squeamish of the thought of plunging a sharp object into another person’s flesh. It is a discomfort caused by the untamed, inherent dislike for pain and death, especially after ‘modernization’ distanced males from partaking in the slaughtering of livestock for food and the striking of the enemy in war,” the unbylined article states. “However, any such squirms and discomforts are never an excuse for abandoning jihad.”

ISIS suggested a “campaign of knife attacks” in which the attacker “could dispose of his weapon after each use, finding no difficulty in acquiring another one.”

“It is explicitly advised not to use kitchen knives, as their basic structure is not designed to handle the kind of vigorous application used for assassinations and slaughter,” the article states, further advising “to avoid troublesome knives, those that can cause harm to the user because of poor manufacturing.”

Knife-wielding terrorists are advised to target smaller crowds or someone walking home from a night out or working the night shift, “or someone walking alone in a public park or rural forested area, or someone by himself in an alley close to a night club or another place of debauchery, or even someone out for a walk in a quiet neighborhood. One should consider canals, riversides, and beaches.” They further advise jihadists to carry an object like a baseball bat to inflict blunt-force trauma on victims before stabbing.

In gory detail, jihadists are encouraged to go for major organs, arteries or the neck, but not the skull as their knife blade may break. “It is advised to not necessarily attempt to fully detach the head, as the absence of technique can cause a person to spend a long time attempting to do so, that is, unless the individual’s circumstances and capabilities allow for such.”

“Lest the operation be mistaken for one of the many random acts of violence that plague the West, it is essential to leave some kind of evidence or insignia identifying the motive and allegiance to the Khalifah, even if it is something as simple as a note pinned or attached to the victim’s body,” the terror guide adds.

Jihadists are told to plan their attacks in such a way that they “attain a reasonable kill count,” and to bear in mind “the more gruesome the attack, the closer one comes to achieving the desired objective” of inflicting terror.

The magazine issue recognizes Dahir Adan for stabbing 10 people at a Minnesota mall last month “in response to the calls to target the citizens of the nations involved in the Crusader coalition.” ISIS mentioned nothing of Ahmad Rahami’s pressure-cooker bombs in New York and New Jersey that same weekend.

ISIS’ Amaq news agency took credit for Adan’s attack soon after it happened.

An infographic in the magazine from ISIS’ Bangladesh branch breaks down their attacks by targets: 42 percent Hindus and Buddhists, 27 percent Christian, 19 percent secularists and atheists, and 12 percent Shiite.

The Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka was targeted on July 1 as “a sinister place where the Crusaders would gather to drink alcohol and commit vices throughout the night, feeling secure from the wrath of Allah that was awaiting them,” states an article bylined Tamim Chowdhury, a onetime Canadian resident who was the head of ISIS in Bangladesh until he was killed in an August raid.

Twenty-two civilians and two police officers were killed in the cafe attack.

“The mujahidin will continue discovering ‘security gaps and holes’ and lay in ambush for the Crusaders wherever they can be found, bi idhnillah,” Chowdhury wrote. “The mujahidin will target expats, tourists, diplomats, garment buyers, missionaries, sports teams, and anyone else from the Crusader citizens to be found in Bengal until the land is purified from the Crusaders and all other kuffar and the law of Allah is established in the land.”

Another article from ISIS’ East Africa branch urges men to follow “without delay” in the footsteps of San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik and a recent trio of female terrorists who attacked a police station in Mombasa, Kenya.

“They can take their example from the countless thousands of men who have sacrificed themselves for Islam throughout the ages, or they can take a lesson from their courageous sisters,” the article states, adding that imams in the West should be especially targeted as they “have fabricated a false religion of apostasy from elements of democracy, nationalism, liberalism, pacifism, and pluralism, doing so in servitude of their Crusader masters.”