House Panel Expert: U.S. ‘Losing in Afghanistan’ as Al-Qaeda Grows Stronger

Reuters

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, April 27, 2017:

WASHINGTON D.C. — Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is growing stronger with the resurgence of the Taliban in recent years and “remains a direct threat” to America more than a decade and a half after the United States began targeting both terrorist groups in response to 9/11, an expert tells House lawmakers.

In October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan, and the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda has been raging since.

President Donald Trump inherited chaos and overall deteriorating security conditions in the war-devastated country.

Under former President Barack Obama’s watch, the Taliban seized more territory in Afghanistan than during any time since the U.S. military removed the jihadist group from power in 2001 and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) gained a foothold in the country.

The U.S. military “downplayed this problem of the Taliban” during Obama’s tenure, Bill Roggio, an expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and editor of the Long War Journal, told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism.

“If that’s the attitude of the U.S. military towards the Taliban inside Afghanistan, we will continue to lose this war,” he later added. “We need to reassess Afghanistan… our policy in Afghanistan is a mess frankly, and the Trump administration needs to decide what to do and how to do it quickly.”

“The Taliban—al-Qaeda relationship remains strong to this day. And with the Taliban gaining control of a significant percentage of Afghanistan’s territory, al-Qaeda has more areas to plant its flag,” also said Roggio in his written testimony.

Last Friday, the Taliban carried out its deadliest-ever attack on a major military base in northern Balkh province that left as many as 250 soldiers dead.

Although the U.S. military argues the Afghan conflict is at a “stalemate,” Roggio told the House panel that America is losing the war.

“We are losing in Afghanistan… and The Taliban controls or contests at least half of Afghanistan,” Roggio told lawmakers, adding in his written testimony:

Al-Qaeda’s footprint inside Afghanistan remains a direct threat to U.S. national security and, with the resurgence of the Taliban, it is a threat that is only growing stronger. Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has not occurred in a vacuum. It has maintained its strength in the country since the U.S. invasion, launched a new branch, AQIS [al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent], and established training camps with the help and support of the Taliban.

Roggio testified alongside Dr. Seth Jones from the RAND Corporation and Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown from the Brookings Institution.

Echoing the U.S. military, the experts told lawmakers that Russia and Afghanistan’s neighbor Iran are providing military assistance to the Taliban, adding that neighboring Pakistan provides sanctuary to the terrorist group as well as its al-Qaeda and Haqqani Network allies.

According to the Pentagon, the Haqqani Network poses the “primary threat” to the American military in Afghanistan.

The experts noted that a U.S. military withdrawal from the war-devastated country would spell trouble for America’s national security.

The United States has already invested nearly $120 billion in nation-building efforts in the country.

Despite the threat posed by the Afghan Taliban, the group is not officially listed as a terrorist group by the United States like its ally al-Qaeda and its rival ISIS.

Roggio pointed out that although ISIS’s presence in Afghanistan is a problem, the Taliban remains a bigger threat.

ISIS is considered an enemy by both the al-Qaeda and the Taliban, considered the strongest group in the country.

“The reason the Taliban matters is the Taliban and al-Qaeda, they remain tied at the hip,” testified Roggio. “The Taliban refuse to surrender al-Qaeda members — Osama Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. They continued to fight side by side. Al-Qaeda serves as a force multiplier.”

“The Islamic State is on the fringe. It’s a small problem in Afghanistan compared to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Pakistani jihadist groups that operate there (in ISIS’ Afghan stronghold Nangarhar province),” he added. They operate primarily in four districts in Nangarhar province and have a minimal presence in the north, and it certainly is a problem.

This week, ISIS in Nangarhar killed two U.S. troops and wounded another, the Pentagon revealed.

“Our efforts seemed to be focused on the Islamic State at this point in time while largely ignoring what the Taliban is doing throughout the country and that is directly challenging the Afghan military. They’re going toe to toe; They’re raiding their bases; They’re taking control of territory,” said Roggio.

***

Also see:

Analysis: ‘Signs of Recovery for the Islamic State’

Henry Jackson Society, by Kyle Orton, April 22, 2017:

The operation to clear the Islamic State (IS) from its Iraqi capital, Mosul, began on 17 October and is now 188 days old. IS was announced cleared from east Mosul on 25 January, and the offensive that began on 19 February to clear the more densely-populated and difficult west Mosul has ostensibly swept IS from sixty percent of that area. Official sources claim IS now controls less than seven percent of Iraqi territory, down from forty percent in 2014. But yesterday, a car bomb struck Zuhur, the first attack of this kind in east Mosul since February, murdering at least four people. This is part of a pattern of attacks that suggests the Mosul operation itself was rushed and more importantly that IS is already recovering in liberated areas.

OUT BUT NOT DOWN

When the Mosul offensive began, there was reason to worry that the timing was more political than it was determined by facts on the ground. Towns like Qayyara and Shirqat, which had been formally cleared of jihadists and were being used as launchpads for the assault on Mosul, were under constant harassment from the rural surroundings. More important is Hawija, which IS continues to hold.

Hawija, a town of about 200,000 people, fell to IS on 16 June 2014, after Mosul collapsed on 10 June and IS swept across northern and central Iraq. Located one-hundred miles south-east of Mosul, and roughly equidistant—forty miles or so—east of Shirqat and west of Kirkuk, with Bayji and Tikrit within sixty miles to the south, Hawija sits in a prime location to cause mayhem behind the lines, and has done so. IS is able to organize attacks from Hawija, and then fall back to safe-haven in the city. Days into the Mosul operation, IS executed a major raid in Kirkuk that killed dozens of people; the jihadists that did not blow themselves up slipped back into Hawija. This has happened despite the Kurdish Peshmerga having imposed a siege last August and blocked the four city gates.

In simple military terms, Hawija should have been cleared before Mosul, and now there are new worries. The recent announcement, which might well prove untrue, that IS’s occupation of Hawija, an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab town, will soon be brought to an end by al-Hashd al-Shabi, the conglomeration of Shi’i militias where Iranian proxies are the backbone, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, would continue one of the worst aspects of the campaign against IS, namely the use of demographically inappropriate forces to cleanse local areas that has meant IS’s military losses are not political losses.

Further to the east in Iraq, on the provincial boundary line between Saladin and Diyala, there is even more trouble as documented in an important recent report by Niqash. IS’s strategic depth is in the rural areas where it rode out defeat after 2008, a lesson it has taken into its foreign wilayats like Libya. The Jalam desert to the east Samarra—abutted by the Hamrin mountains to the north that stretch east into Diyala and west to the Tigris in Ninawa—with ad-Dawr to the south-east of Tikrit is a near-perfect location for IS. It was from the Jalam desert that IS invaded into Samarra in June 2014.

“The difficult terrain and long stretches of unpopulated land that straddle several provinces make this territory excellent for hiding, or for the establishment of secret bases,” Niqash notes. “[T]he IS fighters who are locals know the caves and valleys well and they know it would be very difficult to hunt them down here, if not impossible.” From these bases, IS have already managed to cut the road between Tikrit, the administrative centre of Saladin Province, and Kirkuk City. The area between Hawija and Kirkuk is known as the “death strip”. There have been many small raids, as well as some more significant ones, such as IS demolishing the police station in Albu Khado, which killed a number of people, or the attack on a police station in the village of Nayeb. To the west, there is the mountainous Makhul area, north of Bayji, where IS attacks at will, and the Iraqis are well aware that IS cells are spread all throughout Saladin and Diyala.

One special problem the Iraqis are having is Mutaibij, a remote village about twenty miles east of Duluiyah near the Udhaim River in the Euphrates River Valley. Mutaibij was occupied by Albu Issa tribesmen, who were opposed to IS, and now the village is abandoned. Despite four sweeps, however, the Iraqi Security Forces can never capture or kill any IS members when they move in. It has “become a mysterious place,” says local policeman Ziyad Khalaf. “Every time we raid that village, we don’t find anybody there. Then a few hours later, we are attacked again and we lose men.”

In the west of Iraq, along the Euphrates River Valley, where Anbar Province borders Syria’s Deir Ezzor Province, an IS-held zone the group calls Wilayat al-Furat (Euphrates Province), the terror group now has its centre of gravity. As Raqqa comes under pressure, IS has moved the bulk of its administration to Mayadeen in eastern Syria, seventy miles up-river from al-Qaim, long a main gateway for IS jihadists flowing into Iraq from Syria. “We are always under threat from the Islamic State group,” says an Iraqi border guard. “The danger doesn’t end when we arrive at our barracks. … [W]e are continuously losing men to the IS attacks. There are not enough soldiers or weapons to confront an enemy like this. They know that we are weak and they know the government is negligent.” Unlike the areas mentioned above, this desert wilderness has not yet even been nominally cleared and it remains to be seen if it can be. Until then, IS is able to use this base to strike at areas that have been cleared, like Rutba and Heet and devastated cities like Fallujah and Ramadi, with bombings and assassinations.

HISTORY AS A GUIDE TO THE FUTURE

In 2007-08, IS had been politically isolated and militarily driven from its cities by the Surge and Sahwa. Throughout 2010, the organization’s leadership structure was nearly destroyed. Yet in 2011, the IS movement was into a recovery—so much so it dispatched operatives into Syria to form a secret branch. By 2013, even as it underwent a schism with its Syrian wing, IS had nearly eliminated the Sahwa and launched a campaign of terrorism, particularly against the prisons, that freed important operatives, and seriously destabilized the Iraqi government. The heavy-handed reaction of the government, and its increased reliance on Iran, only fed IS. How had IS recovered in just five years?

Western inattentiveness was certainly part of it: the belief the Surge was a done deal rather than a process to be maintained. The political disengagement after 2009 allowed the worst, most sectarian and authoritarian instincts of the Iraqi Prime Minister free rein, polarizing the Sunni community, and IS reaped the benefits of that. IS did also realize it had made mistakes; it reassessed some tactics, especially in dealing with the tribes, though maintained remarkable continuity in ideology.

Still, the major part of the answer to IS’s resilience lies, as Craig Whiteside has written, in its deeply bureaucratic structure and strategic outlook that gives it the ability to wage a Mao-style revolutionary warfare. IS has proven capable of moving through the three stages: an infiltration and building stage by terror and inducement; expansion with terrorist and insurgent tactics; and then into the decisive phase of governance and state administration. Just as importantly, IS can move back through the stages when necessary. [emphasis added]

This means IS’s loss of territory should not be seen as the sole measure of how this war is going. What is needed in a revolutionary war is legitimacy over the long-term; if military defeats contain political victories, they can be absorbed, which is why IS has chosen simply to retreat in most areas before the attacks on its capitals. Fallujah was a classic case: IS held about two-thirds of the city; after evidence of atrocities by the Shi’a militias appeared, giving IS a political win, it pulled out within five days. The U.S.’s narrow focus on defeating IS, with the mistaken emphasis on when IS is defeated rather than how, has meant supporting Iranian-run Shi’a militias in Iraq and the PKK in Syria, playing into IS’s hands, legitimizing the group even as it loses territory, and assisting IS becoming a global movement that can mobilize its supporters abroad for external attacks.

The holding of a specific territory has never been the basis of IS’s legitimacy. Over the last year, IS has crystallized this view that the caliphate is more a cause than a destination, presenting the impending loss of its twin capitals, Mosul and Raqqa, as merely one stage in a cycle, part of the travails of the believers—a gift from god, indeed—to purify the herd before final victory. After inflicting terrible losses on the infidels, the jihadists will “retreat into the desert” temporarily, as they did last time only with hideouts stretching into Syria this time as well, and come back stronger, IS says. Given the conditions—no major U.S. troop presence on the ground; massive destruction, displacement, and persecution in the Sunni areas; heightened sectarianism; dysfunctional political systems all across the Fertile Crescent—IS’s belief that trends are on its side even more than in 2008 cannot be dismissed as self-serving delusion. In some areas those trends toward IS’s recovery are already becoming a reality.

House Report: ‘Unprecedented Spike’ in Homegrown Terror Threat

Homeland Security Committee

Homeland Security Committee

Breitbart, by  Edwin Mora, February 9, 2017:

The 2017 terrorism forecast for the United States and the rate at which Americans are being radicalized at home is “alarming,” according to a monthly assessment by the House Homeland Security Committee.

Citing an “unprecedented spike in the homegrown terror threat, primarily driven by the rise of” the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the House panel’s Terror Threat Snapshot for February warns that, “at this rate, the forecast for 2017 looks alarming.”

“Authorities continue to track a high number of homegrown terror plots in the United States, and the number of cases since 9/11 is nearing a historic milestone: There have been nearly 200 total homegrown jihadist cases in the United States since 9/11 (the figure currently stands at 193), a majority having taken place in just the past few years,” points out the House report.

The monthly assessment attributes the alarming rise in the terror threat to the pressure ISIS is facing “in its key safe havens,” noting that the jihadist organization’s “external operations plotting appears undiminished.”

According to the report, there have been at least 39 homegrown jihadist plots or attacks across 19 U.S. states since the beginning of 2016.

In July 2016, FBI Director James Comey predicted that, as ISIS came close to defeat in its home turf of Iraq and Syria, the number of terrorist attacks against the U.S. and other Western countries would increase.

Echoing Comey, Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement:

I am very encouraged that the Trump Administration is preparing to put greater pressure on jihadists in their safe havens throughout the world. But as they do, we can expect to see militants returning to the West to build new networks and to plot more deadly operations. I look forward to working with the new Administration on shutting down terror pathways in America. We must also remain vigilant here at home, because Americans are being radicalized at an alarming rate.

The Terror Threat Snapshot notes that the jihadist threat against Europe has also increased dramatically.

“European nations are moving forward with counterterrorism reforms designed to cope with the surging terror threat,” points out the assessment. “Yet despite improvements, the continent still suffers from major security weaknesses that make European countries more vulnerable to attack and put U.S. interests overseas at risk.”

Since 2014, there have been at least 166 ISIS-linked plots or attacks against Western targets, including 69 in Europe, 36 in the U.S., and 61 targeting Westerners outside those two regions.

The U.S.-led war against ISIS began in 2014, soon after the group announced the establishment of its now shrinking caliphate.

In the assessment, the House panel also notes that al-Qaeda and its ally the Taliban remain dangerous after more than 15 years of U.S.-led war against the terrorist groups.

“The Taliban threat has proven resilient and powerful in Afghanistan. According to an Afghan Defense Ministry official, the group is responsible for nearly 19,000 attacks throughout the country in just the past 10 months,” states the assessment. “Throughout that time, however, Afghan National Security Forces only carried out approximately 700 counter-insurgency operations.”

U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that a few thousand more U.S. troops would help break the current “stalemate” with the Taliban.

“We remain very focused on the defeat of al-Qaeda and its associates, as well as the defeat of Islamic State Khorasan Province, which is the ISIL affiliate in Afghanistan,” he added. The U.S. declared war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001.

FBI Director: ‘Terrorist Diaspora’ Like ‘Never Before’ May Follow Islamic State Defeat

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, Sept. 28, 2016:

Defeating the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) could lead to an increase in terrorist attacks in Western countries rather than a reduction, declared FBI Director James Comey.

“At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before. Not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield,” he said during a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University Wednesday.

The FBI chief predicted that the U.S.-led coalition would eventually decimate ISIS but added that “through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of really dangerous people and they are going to flow primarily to Western Europe.”

However, he also said that some of those potential terrorists could end up in the United States.

The New York Times (NYT) reports:

He drew a parallel between this scenario and the formation of Al Qaeda more than a quarter-century ago, which drew from fighters who had been radicalized fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“This is 10 times that or more. This is an order of magnitude greater than anything we’ve seen before,” said Comey, later adding, “We saw the future of this threat in Brussels and in Paris [terrorist attacks earlier this year].”

CNN points out, “And just not in the West. There have recently been stepped up ISIS attacks worldwide, including in countries near its home base territory that has been shrinking due to military losses in Iraq and Syria.”

In May, the FBI director told reporters that the number of Americans traveling overseas to engage in jihad on behalf of ISIS has dropped dramatically to an average of one person per month.

Nevertheless, he noted that there are “north of 1,000” cases in which FBI agents are in the process of evaluating a subject’s level of radicalization and potential for violence, of which an estimated 80 percent are linked to ISIS.

He said:

There’s still a presence online, and troubled people are still turning to this and at least being interested in it. But they’ve lost their ability to attract people to their caliphate from the United States in a material way…

There’s no doubt that something has happened that is lasting, in terms of the attractiveness of the nightmare which is the Islamic State to people from the United States.

Various Obama administration officials have predicted that ISIS is on the road to defeat in Iraq and Syria. Some American and Iraqi officials argue that the increase in attacks by the jihadist group are a sign of desperation.

“The FBI director’s warning that the collapse of the caliphate will mean increased attacks in Western Europe and the United States mirrors a consensus among intelligence officials,” reports CNN.

Emmanuel Khoshaba Youkhana, commander of the Christian Assyrian Army known as Dwekh Nawsha, recently told Breitbart News that ISIS “is losing” in Iraq and will “soon be vanquished.”

Nonetheless, he added that their ideology will remain alive and kicking, noting that there is no strategy to defeat the ideals that motivate members of the terrorist group.

The commander’s Christian forces have managed to hold territory in northern Iraq’s Nineveh plains, despite repeated attacks by ISIS.

CNN notes that Abu Mohammed al Adnani, the terrorist group’s chief spokesman and ideologue, tried to reframe how ISIS defines victory in an audio message released at the end of May.

Defeat would not result from losing control of territory but from “losing the will and the desire to fight,” he declared.

One Western counterterrorism official predicted “a metastasis of terror as it becomes increasingly difficult for ISIL to hold on to core territories,” reports the news network.

***

Gorka: Director Comey correct about ‘terrorist diaspora’

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FBI: Islamic State Jihadis Targeting Theaters, Churches, Sports Arenas

REUTERS

REUTERS

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, Sept. 9, 2016:

The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have reportedly identified restaurants, theaters, churches, and sports arenas as possible targets of Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-inspired jihadists and homegrown violent extremists, urging law enforcement to remain vigilant for potential attacks against civilian venues.

Both the FBI, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and DHS have learned that the extremists have shifted their focus from law enforcement, military, and government venues to civilian facilities, reports CBS News.

In a joint bulletin sent out to law enforcement agencies across the country on August 31, the two government agencies said that “analysis indicates that homegrown violent extremists, and ISIS inspired terrorists, appear to have shifted their focus to target attacks on civilian venues,” adding, “These sorts of venues include places like restaurants, theaters, churches, and sports arenas, with less focus on law enforcement, military and government facilities,” notes the news agency.

“The bulletin said that according to analysis, more than 75 percent of homegrown violent extremists disruptions and attacks over the last 12 months have focused on civilian targets,” it adds.

Citing an unnamed law enforcement source, CBS News points out that as less secure and easily accessible soft targets, terrorists prefer civilian facilities.

“Attackers may be more familiar and comfortable with those venues,” notes CBS, continuing, “The source said that this is an important distinction because it shows they may be altering their priorities.”

Nevertheless, the source highlighted the need for “continued vigilance of law enforcement and military,” noting that “the timing of the bulletin was not meant to coincide with the upcoming 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

The Islamic State has no qualms urging its followers to attack civilians. Some “kill lists” that were distributed by its supporters online earlier this year contain the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of ordinary American citizens.

More than 2,000 New Yorkers were mentioned in one list and about 1,500 Texans in another.

In anticipation of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic State called on its supporters to carry out violent attacks against civilian and military targets within the United States and Europe.

The Islamic State and other jihadi groups do not distinguish between combatants and civilians when they attack. The terrorist group is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in various countries.

During Ramadan this year, jihadists, the majority of them affiliated with the Islamic State, killed an estimated 421 people and wounded at least another 729 in nearly 15 countries. The majority of victims were civilians.

Parents of American Islamic State Sex Slave Kayla Mueller: Obama Failed Our Daughter

Screengrab

Screengrab

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, Aug. 26, 2016:

The parents of American hostage Kayla Mueller have shared with the public the 10 second “proof of life” video they received from her captors, the savage Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), in which their daughter proclaims, “It’s very terrifying here.”

Mueller’s parents — Carl and Marsha Mueller — believe the Obama administration failed their daughter.

“The president could have been a hero, but he chose not to,” Mr. Muller told ABC News.

Mr. and Mrs. Muller have provided a copy of the “proof of life” video to the news outlet.

“My name is Kayla Mueller. I need your help,” pleaded Mueller, the 25-year-old humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped in Syria on August 4, 2013, before ISIS had gained international notoriety.

“I’ve been here too long and I’ve been very sick,” she continued. “It’s very terrifying here.”

Mueller’s parents also received a “proof of life” audio clip from ISIS on May 29, 2014, nearly a year after she was abducted.

“Goodbye,” she abruptly said at the end. That was Mueller’s last spoken word to her parents.

In in the audio, Muller said:

Mom and Dad, I still am remaining healthy. You should have already received the three answers to the proof life questions you provided. Those detaining me are demanding an exchange of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s release for my release. If this is not achievable, they are demanding 5 million euros to ensure my release.

ABC News has learned from one of the hostages who was enslaved alongside Mueller that she bravely defended her Christian faith.

The news outlet notes:

American hostage Kayla Mueller was tortured, verbally abused, forced into slave labor for ISIS commanders in Syria and raped by the group’s top leader [Abu Bakr al Baghdadi], but her fellow hostages say she never surrendered hope, she selflessly put the welfare of fellow captives above her own and she even stood up to executioner ‘Jihadi John’ to defend her Christian faith.

A 13-year-old Yazidi girl who was also held hostage alongside Mueller has been identified by ABC News as Mueller’s closest friend while in captivity. Thousands of Yazidi girls have been forced into sex slavery by ISIS. She has asked ABC News to identify her only as “Julia.”

“She [Mueller] told the [fellow hostage] girls that part of surviving was being forced to pretend she had converted to Islam so the ISIS leader could sexually assault her, though she still clung secretly to her Christian faith,” recounted Julia.

Mueller “was praying for us to escape, to survive,” added the Yazidi girl. “I will never forget this sacrifice. She was very good to us. I will never forget.”

The ISIS terrorists charged with overseeing Mueller were led by British terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, who became known as “Jihadi John” when he carried out the beheadings and killings of 10 hostages. He was killed by a CIA armed drone in Syria last year.

Former hostage Daniel Rye Ottosen, a Danish freelance photographer, recalled how Mueller stood up to Jihadi John to defend her Christian faith. ISIS has committed genocide against Christians in the Middle East, crucifying, torturing, and enslaving thousands of Christians.

President Barack Obama has reportedly broken a promise to make a contribution to a charity foundation Mueller’s parents established in Kayla’s.

“I’m still waiting for that donation, Mr. President,” Carl Mueller told ABC  News.

In February 2015, ISIS claimed that American hostage Mueller was killed in Syria by a Jordanian airstrike.

Although the White House has denied that an airstrike killed her, it confirmed Muller’s death a few days after the ISIS claim without revealing the cause.

Mr. and Mrs. Mueller have indicated that “a series of missteps” by the Obama administration “failed their daughter,” reports ABC News.

“The Muellers say White House officials threatened them with criminal prosecution if they tried to pay the $6.2 million ransom ISIS had demanded for the release of their daughter,” points of the news outlet.

Expert Warns: Jihadists Seeking to Become Martyrs on July 4

AP File Photo: Balkis Press/Sipa USA

AP File Photo: Balkis Press/Sipa USA

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, June 21, 2016:

A Center for Security Policy expert urges Americans to maintain vigilance during the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations as the holiday falls on the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period when martyrdom and jihad are especially valued and encouraged by radical Islamic extremists.

“One thing that makes July Fourth significant… is not so much that it is an Independence Day holiday for us, but rather that there are attractive targets coming out during that period: You’ve got people getting together, you’ve got parades, you’ve got soft targets in [music] concerts,” explained Kyle Shideler, director of the Threat Information Office (TIO) at the Center for Security Policy, during a conference call seminar hosted by The Endowment for Middle East Truth.

The fact that there are “more potential targets” during the holiday makes it “attractive” to jihadists during Ramadan, he continued.

Shideler acknowledged that it “is very common” for terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) to intensify their calls for Muslims to engage in jihad and become martyrs during Ramadan.

This year is no different.

Echoing its Ramadan message from 2015, ISIS recently encouraged Muslims to carry out violent attacks against civilian and military targets in the United States “to win the great award of martyrdom” during the holy month.

“According to Islamic practice, sacrifice during Ramadan can be considered more valuable than that made at other times, so a call to martyrdom during the month may hold a special allure to some,” warned the U.S. State Department-led Overseas Security Advisory Councilfollowing ISIS’s recent call for attacks during Islam’s holy month, which lasts from June 5 to July 5 this year.

Shideler noted that terrorist attacks tend to increase during Ramadan.

During the Fourth of July holiday last year, which also fell on Ramadan, FBI Director James Comey said that the bureau thwarted various ISIS-linked terrorist plots that were intended “to kill people in the United States.”

In response to heightened concern about potential terrorist attacks, federal and state law enforcement agencies enhanced security measures and took preventive measures that day.

A wave of high-profile terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait, and France also took place following ISIS’s Ramadan message last year.

Shideler pointed that Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, on June 12 in response to the terrorist group’s most recent call to arms.

Mateen, who was killed by law enforcement, pledged allegiance to ISIS before he carried out the deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

For ISIS, the holy month may hold a significance beyond the special appeal to become a martyr during that period given that it declared its so-called caliphate on the first day of Ramadan in June 2014.

“The ISIS’ Ramadan message specifically preaches that jihad is 10 times more obligatory during Ramadan and that those who die in jihad will be rewarded by Allah ten times as much as during the rest of the year,” Ryan Mauro, national security analyst and adjunct professor of Homeland Security for the Clarion Project, told Fox News last year.

“There will be ISIS supporters who have waited to strike until now in order to get the maximum award and those who were considering an attack and will now feel more pressure to actually do it,” he added.

Islam adherents abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, having sex, and other physical needs each day during Ramadan, starting from before the break of dawn until sunset.