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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism


Thursday, July 28, 2016
 

Al Nusra Splits From Al Qaeda: What It Means

After years of rumours, Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al Nusra is expected to sever its longstanding affiliation with al Qaeda at any moment.

As news of the impending split broke, many questions arose: Was it simply a smokescreen? Would al Qaeda still be pulling al Nusra’s strings? Won’t al Nusra still represent an extremist, violent ideology?

Healthy skepticism is definitely called for, but this extraordinary development is far from inconsequential. Even if the ideology remains the same, even if al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri continues to influence al Nusra’s ranks and its leaders, the shift in allegiance will reverberate around the globe.

The break formalises a dynamic that has been apparent for some time – al Qaeda’s affiliates have become less and less global, and more and more local. The vision of al Qaeda as one big thing has given way to the reality of multiple al Qaedas – in Syria, Yemen, Northwest Africa, East Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent. The affiliates increasingly cater to local concerns and local politics. Even before the break, al Nusra cited instructions from Zawahiri to cease any efforts to attack the West.

Of all the affiliates, al Nusra is best positioned to enjoy the benefits of independence.

Whatever skepticism and suspicions Western analysts and Syrian rebels rightly harbour about the split, some in the Middle East will be happy to take it at face value. Al Nusra functions within a highly diverse coalition fighting the Assad regime, and the separation from al Qaeda will enhance its ability to form alliances, despite lingering suspicions about its ultimate agenda. The break will also legitimise fundraising by Gulf donors and the states that regulate them, to a greater or lesser extent.

More broadly, this marks the beginning of the end for the global al Qaeda brand.

Read the full analysis at The International Centre for Counter Terrorism -- The Hague, web site
J.M. Berger is a fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism and an associate fellow with the International Centre for Counter Terrorism -- The Hague. 
Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. 
Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Friday, July 8, 2016
 

Making CVE Work

I published a major paper on countering violent extremism, including a critique of current policy assumptions and a proposal for a plan of action. 

New ICCT Paper Tackles Major CVE Challenges

One of the biggest barriers to designing a comprehensive Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program is defining its scope. This paper argues for a narrow approach, focusing on disengagement and the disruption of recruitment, a simplified model of radicalization, and concrete themes for disruptive intervention and messaging. After analyzing case studies of disengagement, a specific program of action is recommended. | Read the full paper (PDF) 

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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The Dystopian Spectacle

My most recent article, published Sunday, looks at the violent spectacle in dystopian fiction, and how it does and does not reflect the new realities of shared violence online, in the context of ISIS but also the next wave of participatory violence:
One of the most popular tropes in dystopian fiction is the “violent spectacle.” Immortalized in recent years by The Hunger Gamesseries, the concept is simple: A corrupt society uses some public display or broadcast of violence to manipulate the masses.
But it’s never been purely fiction. The concept of providing the masses with an experience of intentionally shared violence has, from time to time, also surfaced in the real world. In its heyday, the Roman Colosseum hosted mock battles and public executions that drew massive crowds. And during France’s Reign of Terror, tens of thousands were executed, many in public, with the clear intent to intimidate.
The full article is here.

I have launched a new blog, World Gone Wrong, to explore the intersection of radical politics and dystopian fiction, a topic that has long fascinated me. Here are some of my earlier writings on dystopia and radicalism:

And the latest post on World Gone Wrong: 


Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. 

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Thursday, June 2, 2016
 

Without Prejudice: What Sovereign Citizens Believe

If you've ever read a sovereign citizen court filing, you may be understandably confused about the ideology behind the movement. Members of the sovereign citizen movement are increasingly in the news for their violent confrontations with law enforcement, but their confusing ideology can be difficult to understand. My newest paper for GWU's Program on Extremism explains in simple language what sovereigns believe, and where those beliefs originated. 

Read the full paper (PDF) 

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Thursday, May 26, 2016
 

New Paper: Making CVE Work Through a Focused Approach

My latest paper, Making CVE Work: A Focused Approach Based on Process Disruption, has been published by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague. As long-time readers will know, I have long been a critic of the broad spectrum of CVE programs, based on a number of different objections. This paper is the summation of some years spent in the CVE trenches, working on programs and sitting through an endless series of planning meetings that I have come to think of as "CVE Groundhog Day." I have also done something here that I have not done in my previous writings on this subject -- offer a specific proposal for how I believe CVE can be accomplished most effectively.

The paper addresses:

  • A survey of the many flawed but seemingly unkillable assumptions about what constitutes CVE efforts, based in large part on my CVE Groundhog Day experiences. 
  • Case studies in how and why people actually disengage from violent armed movements, as opposed to theories based on the aforementioned assumptions. 
  • Based on those case studies, an updated version of my "Five Ds of CVE," in which I advocate for using negative inputs to promote disengagement from violent extremism and VE recruiting networks, as opposed to feel-good efforts to transform people vulnerable to radicalization into upstanding citizens of a pluralistic global society.  
  • A radicalization model that is practical enough to use for CVE purposes, but not wedded to any specific ideology. 
  • A proposal for how to integrate all of the above into a specific program that includes something many CVE programs lack -- a credible evaluation of the program's results.  

I still believe that CVE is a concept with some merit, if it can be stripped of its overweening ambition and factually flawed premises (prominently on display this week, unfortunately). This paper represents my best effort to contribute to a more effective model that can be evaluated on its actual merits.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Monday, February 15, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 2/15/16

ISIS: THE STATE OF TERROR

ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and INTELWIRE's J.M. Berger, is nowavailable in paperback, with a new afterword on its strategy and global terrorist attacks. The book was also selected as a February book of the month by WSJ+, as part of a special package deal which includes a 35 percent discount.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

With Friends Like These … Why Terrorist Organizations Ally
Why do terrorist organizations ally with one another? Overall, terrorist organizations tend to prefer network structures that are organized into cliques or subgroups, though with some outreach to clusters beyond their primary partners. By Victor H. Asal, Hyun Hee Park, R. Karl Rethemeyer & Gary Ackerman.

ISIS WATCH

Experts weigh in (part 3): Is ISIS good at governing?
Aaron Zelin, the Richard Borow Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to weigh in with a historical perspective on ISIS governance.

Top intelligence official: ISIS to attempt U.S. attacks this year
Top U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that ISIS was likely to attempt direct attacks on the U.S. in the coming year and that the group was infiltrating refugees escaping from Iraq and Syria to move across borders.

Wife of ISIS Figure Charged in American Woman Kayla Mueller's Death
The U.S. Department of Justice today charge the wife of a top ISIS leader today for her alleged role in a “conspiracy” that led to the death of American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was reported killed in Syria a year ago.

ISIS Used Predatory Tools And Tactics To Convince U.S. Teens To Join
It began with messages sent through an anonymous app. Slowly, the Denver-area girls were lured in, until one day they weren't at school. One girl's dad quickly realized why: They were flying to Syria.

Syrian Opposition Groups Sense U.S. Support Fading
The United States and its allies have spent many millions of dollars backing Syrian opposition fighters they deem relatively moderate and secular, and civilian groups whose work on small businesses and local councils they billed as the cornerstone of Syria’s future.

TERROR WATCH

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation Ends
After 41 days, an armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge came to a conclusion Thursday morning. The four remaining militants at the refuge surrendered to federal authorities.

Cliven Bundy Arrested, Charged in 2014 Nevada Standoff Case
The father of the jailed leader of a group that occupied an Oregon federal wildlife refuge was charged Thursday by federal authorities with leading a tense April 2014 armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents near his ranch in Nevada. A federal magistrate judge ordered Cliven Bundy to remain in custody at least until next Tuesday, and said she'll consider his request for a court-appointed attorney.

FBI Steps Up Pursuit of Terror Threats on Social Media
As the U.S. government tries to root out homegrown jihadists, the FBI’s campaign to identify budding terrorists via the Internet before they can carry out violence is playing an increasingly prominent role.

Russian Intervention in Syrian War Has Sharply Reduced U.S. Options
For months now the United States has insisted there can be no military solution to the Syrian civil war. But after days of intense bombing that could soon put the critical city of Aleppo back into the hands of Mr. Assad’s forces, the Russians may be proving the United States wrong.

Mali Islamist group Ansar Dine claims attack on U.N. base
Malian Islamist militant group Ansar Dine said it carried out a suicide and rocket attack on a U.N. base in Kidal, north Mali on Friday that killed six peacekeepers, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

Mother of Columbine Shooter Speaks Out Nearly 17 Years After Massacre
For nearly two decades, Sue Klebold has tried to wrap her head around why her son 17-year-old Dylan, along with Eric Harris, 18, killed 13 people in a mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.

PODCAST

Iraqi Military: Challenges & Opportunities
Nate Rabkin comes back on the show to discuss the Iraqi Security Forces and their ongoing efforts to retake territory that is controlled by the Islamic State. Some of the topics covered include effects of coalition efforts on the situation and places where Iraqi forces have made substantial progress. By Karl Morand with Nate Rabkin.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

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Monday, February 8, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 2/8/16

ISIS: THE STATE OF TERROR

ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and INTELWIRE's J.M. Berger, is now available in paperback, with a new afterword on its strategy and global terrorist attacks. The book was also selected as a February book of the month by WSJ+, as part of a special package deal which includes a 35 percent discount.

ISIS WATCH

Thousands Of Foreign Fighters Still Join ISIS Despite Visible Defeats
ISIS has lost a lot of territory but that hasn't translated into a loss of supporters. The reason: the group has convinced its followers that defeat is part of a larger plan.

The Battle of Aleppo Is the Center of the Syrian Chessboard
On February 2, the Syrian army and its allies succeeded in cutting the northern road between Aleppo city and Turkey, known as the Azaz corridor. Although the battle was a local affair involving a relatively small number of fighters, it may prove to be a turning point in the war.

Inside the Kurdish fighting forces: the U.S.’s proxy ground troops in the war against ISIS
With the fight against the Islamic State in its second year, American forces and their peshmerga counterparts have become deeply entwined. Both are preparing for a battle to retake the large northern city of Mosul, an Islamic State stronghold about 30 miles away. It is an operation likely to require bloody house-to-house combat.

Marketing Against ISIS: US State Department Enlists Students to Fight Terror
Last week, for the third semester in a row, the State Department hosted the P2P: Challenging Extremism finals in Washington. It's the culmination of an international "peer to peer" marketing contest that enlists students to combat extremism using the latest advertising techniques.

Experts weigh in (part 2): Is ISIS good at governing?
Aymenn al-Tamimi, a Jihad-Intel research fellow at the Middle East Forum, argues that internal documents show increasing challenges for the Islamic State.


Islamic State is no longer so formidable on the battlefield
The Islamic State’s recent defeats on the battlefield signal that its once-vaunted militia army has been hobbled by worsening money problems, desertions and a dwindling pool of fighters, analysts and monitoring groups say.


In Aleppo, underground schools face bombardments and burnout
At the unofficial schools run by Syrian activist group Kesh Malek in opposition-held districts of Aleppo, the children don't go outside to play during breaks in case a barrel bomb should drop from the sky.

Boko Haram’s Female Suicide Bombers Terrorize Nigeria
A recent attack included armed fighters, some wearing military uniforms and female suicide bombers. Nearby, Boko Haram raided a camp for internally displaced persons.

Moderate Syrian Rebel Factions Face Wipe-Out
The sweeping Russian-backed offensive in northern Syria by President Bashar al-Assad’s military and foreign fighters from Iran, Lebanon and Afghanistan is triggering a humanitarian crisis by propelling thousands of civilians to flee to the Turkish border, say political activists and rebel commanders. And the daunting offensive is altering dramatically the balance of insurgent forces in the north of the country to the benefit of al-Qaida-linked groups and the Islamic State.

Local man accused of supporting ISIS, planning terror attack at Detroit church
A local man is accused of being a supporter of ISIS and planning a terror attack against a Detroit church, according to an affidavit that has been filed in federal court.

TERROR WATCH


Al-Shabaab returns to Twitter
On Thursday 21st January 2015, al-Shabaab attacked the Lido Beach area of Mogadishu in the heart of Somalia. For those following the attacks online, it was a surprise to see the emergence of a new Twitter account claiming to be a spokesperson for the terrorist group.

Federal Government Fails to Fund Fight Against Terror Recruitment
At a time when terrorists in Syria and Somalia continue to target Minnesota as one of their most fertile recruiting grounds, the U.S. government is failing to fund youth programs in the Twin Cities that are intended to counter violent extremism

Minnesota To Award Programs $250K To Prevent Terror Recruiting
The Department of Public Safety will soon start the process of awarding $250,000 to programs designed to combat terror recruiting in Minnesota.


Robert “LaVoy” Finicum: The Making of a Martyr
The death of Finicum unfor­tu­nately pro­vided adher­ents of the so-called “Patriot” move­ment (which includes mili­tia groups, sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, and other anti-government extrem­ists) with some­thing that author­i­ties had hoped to avoid: a poten­tial mar­tyr around whom anti-government extrem­ists could rally.

White supremacist admits plotting to start 'race war' by attacking black churches and synagogues
A white supremacist has admitted to a court that he planned to “start a race war” - allegedly by attacking black churches and Jewish synagogues.

My search for Gaddafi's golden gun
When Libyan rebels celebrated the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the colonel's gold-plated pistol was held up as a symbol of their victory - I watched as they passed it among themselves. Four years on, I've been back to Libya to find the man with the golden gun.

The rise of the Sagebrush Sheriffs
How rural ‘constitutional’ peace officers are joining the war against the feds.

Somalia investigates possible bomb blast on airliner
Investigators were examining the cause of an explosion that blew a large hole in the fuselage of a commercial aircraft, forcing an emergency landing minutes after take-off in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Deadly Suicide Blast Hits Southwest Pakistan
A suspected suicide bombing in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta Saturday killed at least eight people and wounded many more, officials said.

PODCASTS


Jihadology Podcast: al-Qaeda’s Franchising Strategy
Barak Mendelsohn comes on the show to discuss his new book, The al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of al-Qaeda and Its Consequences. Some of the topics covered include how organizations expand, why AQ decided to branch out and the strategy behind that decision, and AQ’s choices on where to expand. By Aaron Zelin with Barak Mendelsohn.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

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Monday, February 1, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 2/1/15


RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

Jihadi rivalry: The Islamic State challenges al-Qaida
International jihad has undergone a wholesale internal revolution in recent years. The dramatic emergence of the Islamic State (IS) and its proclamation of a Caliphate means that the world no longer faces one Sunni jihadi threat, but two, as IS and al-Qaida compete on the global stage. By Charles Lister.

TERROR WATCH

Letters from a serial killer: Inside the Unabomber archive
It has been almost 20 years since Ted Kaczynski’s trail of terror came to an end. Now a huge trove of his personal writings has come to light, revealing the workings of his mind — and the life he leads behind bars.

Swedish neo-Nazis: Moves to de-radicalise amid far-right rise
Sweden is still home to an active and at times violent neo-Nazi movement, and there are fears that rising popularity of the Sweden Democrats will also benefit the extremists.

'Hundreds' of masked men beat refugee children in Stockholm
Hundreds of masked men marched through Stockholm's main train station on Friday evening, reportedly beating up refugees and anyone who didn't appear to be ethnically Swedish.

Syrian rebel splits deepen after failed 'merger' with al Qaeda arm
The leader of al Qaeda's Syrian wing tried unsuccessfully at a recent meeting to convince rival Islamist factions to merge into one unit, several insurgency sources have told Reuters.


FBI: Milwaukee man planned mass shooting at Masonic temple
A 23-year-old Milwaukee man charged with illegally possessing machine guns had planned a massacre at a Masonic temple in the city, federal officials said Tuesday.

Oregon standoff: Most phone and Internet service for occupiers ends, supporter says
As the anti-government standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge entered its 30th day, the remaining occupiers claimed many of their phone lines no longer worked.

ISIS WATCH

Boko Haram burns kids alive in Nigeria, 86 dead: officials
A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children burning to death, among 86 people officials say died in the latest attack by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists.

ISIS claims responsibility for deadly blasts in Damascus suburb
ISIS claimed responsibility for a triple bombing Sunday that killed at least 45 people and injured more than 100 others in a Damascus suburb, according to a statement circulating online from supporters of the terrorist group.

Experts Count Missteps in Fighting Islamic Radicalism
With the self-proclaimed Islamic State promising more carnage abroad as the Syrian conflict rages into its fifth year, the United States is grappling to understand the extent of homegrown radicalism here and how to address it.

New Photos Show 'Jihadi John' Unmasked in Warzone
“Jihadi John,” identified as British national Mohammed Emwazi, was confirmed dead by the terror group in a magazine last week, felled by a drone strike on his vehicle. U.S. officials said in November they believed Emwazi had been killed.

Experts weigh in (part 2): What is the future of al-Qaida and the Islamic State?
Clint Watts reflects on where we are in the fight against al-Qaida and its bête noire, the Islamic State.

Syria Peace Talks Inch Ahead as Bombings Near Damascus Continue
As a suicide attack killed more than 40 people near a revered shrine in Syria on Sunday and government forces pummeled a besieged town, peace talks inched forward in Geneva, where a reluctant opposition delegation met for the first time with a United Nations mediator.

PODCASTS

How the Fight Against the Islamic State Is Being Covered
Charlie Winter comes back on the show to discuss how the Islamic State, and the campaign against them, is being covered. Some of the topics discussed include how the fight against the Islamic State is covered in the media and political discourse, differences in how the Islamic State is covered and discussed in the US vs the UK, and the focus on military solutions at the expense of political and diplomatic ones. By Karl Morand with Charlie Winter.

Covert Contact: Iran’s Quest for Regional Domination
Phillip Smyth joins the show to discuss Iran's detention of 10 American sailors and the avalanche of terrible analysis that it triggered, Iran’s quest for regional domination, and its use of proxies to further those aims.

Intelligence Unclassed: Episode 2 with J.M. Berger
J.M. Berger discusses social media tactics and messaging by both foreign and domestic terrorist groups.

-- INTELWIRE Staff

NOTE FROM J.M. 

I visited the Netherlands and Denmark last week, speaking at a number of venues including the Royal Danish Defense College, top, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague (center, with Prof. Dr. Edwin Bakker, left, and director Mark Singleton, right), and the University of Utrecht, below, pictured with Dr. Beatrice de Graaf. I had a great time meeting so many people with sharp insights, and I received a ton of hospitality. Thanks to all involved!





Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

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Monday, January 25, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 1/25/16

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

Killing Range: Explaining Lethality Variance within a Terrorist Organization
This paper presents an analysis of the Provisional Irish Republican Army's (PIRA) brigade level behavior during the Northern Ireland Conflict (1970-1998) and identifies the organizational factors that impact a brigade's lethality as measured via terrorist attacks. By Victor Asal, Paul Gill, R. Karl Rethemeyer and John Horgan.

ISIS WATCH

Islamic State video purports to show Paris attackers, threatens Britain
A video published on Sunday by the media centre of Islamic State purported to show images and last statements of nine of the people who took part in the Paris attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13.

What Does It Mean If An Attack Is 'ISIS-Inspired'?
Today's violent jihadist threat is very different from those associated with al-Qaida in the past. ISIS followers appear more troubled and more confused about their intentions and motivations than their al-Qaida predecessors.

Why Al-Shabab is not joining ISIS
Despite rumors of a growing ISIS presence in Somalia, East Africa’s main militant group is sticking with Al-Qaeda.

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State benefit as Yemen war drags on
Both groups vie for recruits and territory, and their competition could also spark attacks outside of Yemen as AQAP and the Islamic State attempt to demonstrate that they, and not their rival, are at the forefront of the jihadi movement. By Gregory D. Johnson.

Escaping ISIS: How French teen got free of terrorist recruiters
Thanks to her mother's intervention, Joanna is now one of the youngest participants in France's program (Centre de Prévention contre les Dérives Sectaires liées à l'islam, translated as Prevention Center against Sectarianism related to Islam) to bring Muslims back from the brink of radicalization.

The Jakarta attack and the Islamic State threat to Indoneisa
The January 14 attack in Jakarta shows the growing military capacity of Islamic State supporters in Indonesia. It also reveals the important role played by key Indonesians in Syria as a link to militant jihadis back home providing direction, possible finance and, above all, tapping into local grievances over the actions of the Indonesian state and police. By Kirsten E. Schulze.

TERROR WATCH
The Hotel Attacks and militant realignment in the Sahara-Sahel Region
The attack on Bamako’s Radisson Blu Hotel in November 2015 shocked Mali and confirmed the reach of jihadist group al-Mourabitoun and the continued challenges to security in the region. The attack also marked the absorption of al-Mourabitoun into al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) amid tests to AQIM’s position from fighters who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. By Andrew Lebovich.

Dispute Over Opposition’s Seat at Table Threatens to Push Back Syria Peace Talks
Barely a month after the world’s most powerful countries agreed to an ambitious road map to end the five-year-old war in Syria, there is still no agreement on who, if anyone, will show up at the peace talks that are supposed to begin in Geneva Monday.

Seattle man charged in murder-terrorism case sentenced for robbery
A Seattle man – charged with a terrorism count for allegedly killing a New Jersey college student because he was angry about U.S. foreign policy – was sentenced Wednesday in an unrelated armed robbery case after refusing to take part in a court hearing.

Unfollow
How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs.

Taliban Attack at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan Renews Fears
On Wednesday, Pakistanis were drawn back into their national nightmare. At least four Taliban attackers stormed a university campus in another northwestern town, gunning down at least 20 people, most of them students and teachers.

Suicide bomber targets media bus, kills 7 in heart of Kabul
A suicide attacker on a motorcycle set off a deadly explosion near a bus carrying media professionals on Wednesday in the heart of Afghanistan's capital, officials said.

PODCAST

Jihadology Podcast: Islamic State Networks In Turkey
Aaron Stein comes on the show to talk about IS networks in Turkey. Some of the topics covered include how IS developed its network inside Turkey, recent attacks in Ankara and Istanbul and the networks behind them, and how these attacks have affected Turkish governmental policy. By Aaron Zelin with Aaron Stein.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

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Monday, January 18, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 1/18/16: New ISIS Research, AQIM, Latest Terror Attacks

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

The Islamic State’s Territorial Methodology
Since June 2014, when the Islamic State proclaimed itself a caliphate, a pattern has emerged in the way IS has attempted to expand, take over new territory, and then consolidate its control. The pattern is partly explained by IS’s systematizing, bureaucratizing, and formalizing of its governance structures, which allow it to operate consistently and in parallel across its various wilayat (provinces). By Aaron Zelin.

‘The disease is unbelief’: Boko Haram’s religious and political worldview
The Nigerian jihadi group Boko Haram has killed over 15,000 people, disrupted governance, and caused a humanitarian emergency in Nigeria and the surrounding countries. While its ideology is often described as opposition to democracy and rejection of Western-style education, its theology and politics encompass more than hatred for Western influence. By Alex Thurston.

The evolution of the ISIS’ language: a quantitative analysis of the language of the first year of Dabiq magazine
First, our analysis showed that affiliation seems to be an increasingly important psychological motive for the group. Secondly, ISIS has been increasingly using emotions, which are an important mobilizing factor in collective action literature, in a strategic manner. Thirdly, ISIS language presents an increasing concern with females. Last but not least, our analysis shows that ISIS has been increasingly using internet jargon. By Matteo Vergani and Ana-Maria Bliuc.

Internal Assessments of Terrorism Studies
Notes on the fields of terrorism studies, civil war studies, and social movement studies, looking at assessments from both people within these fields and people outside of them. By Andrew Zammit.

ISIS WATCH

Internal Documents Show ISIS Slashed Fighter Salaries
"So on account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahideen by half, and it is not allowed for anyone to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position." Obtained and translated by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.

A News Agency With Scoops Directly From ISIS, and a Veneer of Objectivity
In several terrorist attacks, an outlet called the Amaq News Agency was first with the news that the Islamic State was going to claim responsibility. The agency has been getting the scoops because it gets tips straight from ISIS. By Rukmini Callimachi.

‘I went to join Isis in Syria, taking my four-year-old. It was a journey into hell’
Sophie Kasiki is one of the few women to escape from Raqqa, the stronghold of Islamic State.

Beyond Bombings: The Islamic State in Southeast Asia
While hostage taking, executions and barricade style attacks garner less concern from security services than bombings, this is potentially an important development at both the tactical and strategic levels for Southeast Asian militants. If we are to understand the real impact of ISIL on Southeast Asian militancy, it is this.

Jakarta Attack Raises Fears of ISIS’ Spread in Southeast Asia
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in the Indonesian capital on Thursday, raising the specter of an expanded presence by the group in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia to strengthen anti-terror law following Jakarta attacks
Indonesia plans to strengthen its anti- terror law this year to give police greater powers of arrest, following last week's attack by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the capital.

In Libya, U.S. Courts Unreliable Allies to Counter ISIS
Counterterrorism officials regard the Libyan branch as the Islamic State’s most dangerous affiliate, one that is expanding its territory and continuing to mount deadly attacks, including several this month. But to stop its advance, the United States and its European allies have been forced to court unreliable allies from among a patchwork of Libyan militias that remain unaccountable, poorly organized and divided by region and tribe.

Istanbul Suicide Bomber Went From Dental School To ISIS
The man who blew himself up in Istanbul on Tuesday, killing 10 people, was a former dental student and member of ISIS who may have initially planned to carry out the attack on New Year’s Eve, sources told BuzzFeed News.

Dozens killed by Islamic State in 'massacre' in Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor
UK-based monitoring group claims 85 civilians have been killed while state media says as many as 300 died in Isis onslaught.

ISIS Militant Returned to Belgium Before Paris Attacks
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Islamic State militant who the authorities say helped plan the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people, traveled widely across Europe in the lead-up to the attacks.

Maryland Man Faces Terror Charges in New York
A Maryland man who allegedly traveled overseas to fight alongside terrorists has been flown back to New York to face terror charges. A man known as Malik Jones -- but who also has several aliases --could appear in a New York courtroom as early as Monday afternoon.

Woodbridge Men Charged with Terrorism Offenses Related to Attempting to Travel to Syria to Join ISIL
Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 28, and Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan, 25, both of Woodbridge, were charged today for criminal activity relating to Farrokh’s attempt to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

TERROR WATCH

At Least 20 Killed in Siege by Militants in Burkina Faso
Gunmen from Al Qaeda stormed a luxury hotel frequented by foreigners in Burkina Faso’s capital on Friday night, seizing hostages and killing others while fighting with dozens of security forces who began a counterattack hours later. It was Al Qaeda’s first major attack in this landlocked sub-Saharan country, a former French colony.

Egypt's parliament endorses controversial anti-terrorism law
Egypt's parliament on Sunday overwhelmingly endorsed a controversial anti-terrorism law that sets up special courts and shields its enforcers from legal ramifications.

EU plans new measures against terrorism financing by February
The European Commission will announce new measures in February to tackle terrorism financing, EU officials said, as part of wider efforts to prevent new attacks in Europe after the Nov. 13 shootings and bombings in Paris that killed 130 people.

Israel Faces New Brand of Terrorism, This Time From Young Settlers
The existence of the network, known as the Revolt for the title of its manifesto, became known about six months ago, after the arrest of several suspected members. This latest manifestation of Jewish terrorism is the creation of young extremists rebelling against what they view as the inertia of the Israeli establishment.

Deadly suicide attack targets polio centre in Pakistan
A suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a polio eradication centre in Pakistan's western city of Quetta, killing more than a dozen people in the latest deadly assault on the campaign to fight the disease in the country.

Justices seem divided over Iran terror-related appeal
More than 30 years after 241 Marines died in a terrorist attack in Beirut, the Supreme Court on Wednesday weighed putting up a new roadblock for the victims’ families who are trying to obtain nearly $2 billion in judgments against Iran.

PODCASTS

Libya's Fragile Unity Agreement
Mary Fitzgerald comes back on the show to discuss the latest attempts to bring an end to the conflict in Libya. Some of the topics we covered include background on the unity agreement that was signed in December, challenges the new unity government is already facing, and the new UN envoy's determination to make the unity agreement work. By Karl Morand with Mary Fitzgerald.

Jihadology Podcast: The Malian Jihadi Landscape
Andrew Lebovich comes on the show to discuss the various jihadi groups that have been active in Mali over the past few years. Some of the topics covered include the political process in Mali after the French intervention, why there has been a rise in violence recently, and why IS has not been able to penetrate Mali like many of the other jihadi zones. By Aaron Zelin with Andrew Lebovich.


Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

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BOOKS

"...smart, granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

"...a timely warning..."

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe

ABOUT

INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.

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