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News, analysis and primary source documents on terrorism, extremism and national security.


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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Monday, January 11, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 1/11/2016, Misinfo, Malheur, ISIS Updates, More

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

The spreading of misinformation online
The wide availability of user-provided content in online social media facilitates the aggregation of people around common interests, worldviews, and narratives. However, the World Wide Web (WWW) also allows for the rapid dissemination of unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories that often elicit rapid, large, but naive social responses such as the recent case of Jade Helm 15––where a simple military exercise turned out to be perceived as the beginning of a new civil war in the United States. By Michela Del Vicario, Alessandro Bessi, Fabiana Zollo, Fabio Petroni, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli, H. Eugene Stanley, and Walter Quattrociocchi.

OREGON OCCUPATION 

What Do the Oregon Ranchers Really Believe?
A field guide to their radical, diverse—and often contradictory—ideologies. By J.M. Berger

Oregon Occupiers Bolster Cause Of Other Anti-Government Militants
There's growing concern among former federal land managers that the government's inaction against one Nevada rancher is helping the cause of armed anti-government militants elsewhere in the West.

Oregon standoff: Idaho group arrives to 'secure perimeter, prevent Waco-style situation'
Members of a group from outside Oregon arrived on Friday at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to "secure a perimeter" around the compound and prevent "a Waco-style situation."

ISIS WATCH

Gunmen storm Iraqi mall, killing at least 18 and wounding 50
Gunmen stormed into a Baghdad mall on Monday after setting off a car bomb and launching a suicide attack at its entrance, killing at least 18 people and wounding 50 in the city's mainly Shiite east, Iraqi officials said.
Why the U.S. Can’t Make a Magazine Like ISIS
ISIS’s propaganda success isn’t just online. Its magazine, Dabiq, is read all over the world. If only the U.S. government was so creative and effective. By Clint Watts and Will McCants

Philadelphia police probe possible extremist ties in police shooting
Philadelphia police said on Sunday they were seriously pursuing a tip that the man suspected of shooting and wounding a police officer had ties to a group with "radical beliefs."

Frenchman returning from Syria warned of attack at rock concert
Months before the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, which included a siege at the Bataclan venue, a Parisian who had returned from Syria told French intelligence that the Islamic State group was planning to attack a rock concert, according to French media.

Australian Isis sympathiser preaching online again after 2014 arrest
Musa Cerantonio participated in an online event on 25 December hosted by Abdullah el-Faisal, a Jamaican champion of Isis who served four years in a British prison for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

Militant in Islamic State video believed to be British bouncy castle salesman
The masked militant in an Islamic State video showing the killing of five men accused by the group of being Western spies is believed to be a Londoner known as Sid who once sold inflatable bouncy castles.

Obama administration plans shake-up in propaganda war against ISIS
The Obama administration is overhauling its faltering efforts to combat the online propaganda of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, U.S. officials said, reflecting rising White House frustration with largely ineffective efforts so far to cut into ISIS’s use of social media to draw recruits and incite attacks.

TERROR WATCH 

Iran’s Martyrdom Machine Springs to Life
Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shiite cleric has put the Middle East on edge — and set up Tehran for its favorite role. By Philip Smyth

Does Twitter bridge the Sunni-Shiite divide or make it worse?

From fiery sermons to diplomatic spars, Twitter is abuzz with derogatory anti-Shiite and anti-Sunni rhetoric.

America may have unlocked a key to fighting terrorism — and it doesn’t involve drones
Speaking to graduating West Point cadets in 2014, the president announced the creation of the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF).

Egypt attack: Three tourists stabbed at Hurghada hotel
Three foreign tourists have been stabbed by two suspected Islamic State militants who stormed into a hotel in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

Republican politicians jumped the gun on terrorism suspect's arrest: sources
Two Texas politicians made public details of an investigation into a terrorism suspect while it was still in progress, potentially jeopardizing the inquiry, three sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

PODCASTS

Iran-Saudi Arabia Conflict and Its Regional Effects
Phillip Smyth comes on the show to discuss many issues surrounding the current Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions, covering a variety of topics, particularly on the Iranian and Shia side of the conflict, such as: The regional reactions and effects of the current crisis, detailed background on Nimr al-Nimr, and Iran's desire to represent all Shia. By Karl Morand with Phillip Smyth.

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 4, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 12/21/15 - 1/4/15

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings
There is significant evidence that mass killings involving firearms are incented by similar events in the immediate past. On average, this temporary increase in probability lasts 13 days, and each incident incites at least 0.30 new incidents. There is also significant evidence of contagion in school shootings, for which an incident is contagious for an average of 13 days, and incites an average of at least 0.22 new incidents. By Sherry Towers, Andres Gomez-Lievano, Maryam Khan, Anuj Mubayi, and Carlos Castillo-Chavez.

Held Hostage: Analyses of Kidnapping Across Time and Among Jihadist Organizations
This report examines trends related to the kidnapping of Westerners by jihadist groups. The report relies on a newly gathered open-source dataset of the kidnapping of Westerners from 2001–2015. By Seth Loertscher and Daniel Milton.

Eyewitness Accounts from Recent Defectors from Islamic State: Why They Joined, What They Saw, Why They Quit
This Research Note reports on preliminary results of the Islamic State Interviews Project, based here on a sample of thirteen Syrian IS defectors who spoke on life inside the “Islamic State”(IS). By Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla.


The Islamic State in Southern Syria
Despite the current focus on the north and east, the southern theater could be more important to the outcome of the Syrian civil war. By Aaron Y. Zelin and Oula A. Alrifai.

Making Jihad or Making Money? Understanding the Transformation of Dagestan’s Jamaats into Organised Crime Groups
Using unique ethnographic data from Russia’s Dagestan, this article explores the causes and contexts of the gradual transformation of some of Dagestan’s jihadist units – jamaats – into organised crime groups collaborating with local authorities. By Emil Aslan Souleimanov.

ISIS WATCH

Iraqi Forces Find More IS 'Pockets of Resistance' in Ramadi
Iraqi forces trying to clear Ramadi after seizing the city from Islamic State militants are meeting with heavier resistance than first anticipated.

The Soft Power of Militant Jihad
For radical Islamists who view crying as a sign of devotion to God, communal sobbing is as common as car bombing. By Thomas Hegghammer

Behind the Black Flag: The Recruitment of an ISIS Killer
Since the Syrian rebel leader Hassan Aboud joined ISIS, taking with him fighters and weapons, he has been behind a sprawling mix of battlefield action and crime.

Suicide attacks kill dozens of troops in Iraq
ISIL bombers blamed for attacks on military base near Tikrit and in Haditha as battle for control of Ramadi continues.

Munich stations evacuated over 'IS attack threat'
Police in Munich evacuated two major railway stations after an intelligence agency warned Germany of an imminent attack, officials said.

The Beirut bombings and the Islamic State's threat to Lebanon
Although none of Lebanon’s divided communities has an interest in importing the Syrian civil war, the Islamic State is growing in strength by discarding al-Qa`ida’s rigid recruitment criteria and welcoming younger recruits attracted to its simple brand of conquest and brutality.

ISIL hits Afghan airwaves to drum up support
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has launched a radio station in Afghanistan to recruit fighters and stir up anti-government sentiment.

A Frontline Report: The ground war against the Islamic State
A recent journey through northeastern Syria and northern Iraq provided an opportunity to see the multi-faceted campaigns against the Islamic State on several fronts, the handicaps and challenges that its adversaries face, and a sense of the real progress being made in degrading the group.

San Bernardino and the Islamic State footprint in America
While still at a significantly lower level than seen in most Western European countries, the degree of recent Islamic State-related mobilization in the United States is unprecedented in this country, with more than 70 individuals arrested and 900 open investigations throughout the country.

Wilayat Sinai risks backlash after Metrojet bombing
The October 31 crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt has focused global attention on the threat posed by the Islamic State’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula, which claimed responsibility.

TERROR WATCH

Oregon militia standoff: Ranchers due at prison and what else to expect Monday
The two father and son ranchers who triggered a national cry for justice over their convictions for arson were expected today to surrender themselves to federal prison, ending efforts of militants and fellow ranchers to spare them.

Rhetoric and counterterrorism: What drives the jihadists
Anwar al-Awlaki was by far the most successful jihadi propagandist attempting to radicalize Muslims living in the West. He had many arguments to advance this mission, but central was the notion that a discriminatory crackdown against Western Muslims was coming. Awlaki hoped that fear of such a crackdown would encourage radicalization and violence. By Brian Fishman.

Violent sovereign citizen plots grow in U.S. — and now go worldwide
The sovereign citizen movement, which has emerged as a key combatant in the battle against domestic terrorism in the United States, continues to swell, with violent incidents erupting on a regular basis. But authorities and experts say the exponential growth of sovereign citizens — their numbers are now estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands — isn’t strictly a U.S. phenomenon any more. The movement’s tentacles, they say, are reaching worldwide.

As U.S. Focuses on ISIS and the Taliban, Al Qaeda Re-emerges
Even as the Obama administration scrambles to confront the Islamic State and a resurgent Taliban, an old enemy seems to be reappearing in Afghanistan: Qaeda training camps are sprouting up there, forcing the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies to assess whether they could again become a breeding ground for attacks on the United States.

The Big Business of Online Abuse
For a select few, Internet harassment isn’t just a way to bully others. It’s a way to rake in the bucks.

The Imperiled Bloggers of Bangladesh
In support of gender equality, human rights and civil liberties, a group of bloggers is doing battle with Islamists online — and paying dearly for it.

How Sunni-Shia Sectarianism Is Poisoning Yemen
A growing sectarian polarization in Yemen is relying on language borrowed from the Sunni-Shia conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Iran, rather than drawing on Yemeni religious culture.

Terror Recruitment Video Highlights ‘Minnesota Martyrs’
A new video, aimed at recruiting jihad fighters, highlights Minnesotans who have left to fight with terrorists. Al-Shabaab released the 50-minute video Friday which was similar to past propaganda videos, featuring high-quality graphics and video editing to glorify fighting overseas.

Saudi Arabia breaks off ties with Iran after al-Nimr execution
Saudi Arabia says it has broken off diplomatic ties with Iran, amid a row over the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.

FBI: 70 active terrorism investigations in Oregon
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Portland has roughly 70 active terrorism investigations in Oregon. The investigations include a broad range of cases, including Islamic State-inspired terrorism, eco-terrorism and anti-government extremists.

Jihadists Deepen Collaboration in North Africa
Analysts and military officials say there is deepening collaboration among groups using modern communications and a sophisticated system of roving trainers to share military tactics, media strategies and ways of transferring money.

Taliban Chief Rebuked by Religious Leaders in Sign of Turmoil
In a sign of deep political tension within the Taliban, a collection of religious leaders in the group’s headquarters in Pakistan issued a letter of rebuke last month to the new insurgent leader over his bloody crackdown on dissenting commanders.

Internet Firms Urged to Limit Work of Anwar al-Awlaki
In case after terrorism case, from the Fort Hood, Tex., shootings to the Boston Marathon bombing and now to the slaughter in San Bernardino, Calif., the inflammatory videos and bomb-making instructions of Anwar al-Awlaki, easily accessible on the Internet, have turned up as a powerful influence.

Crimes Against Muslim Americans and Mosques Rise Sharply
Hate crimes against Muslim Americans and mosques across the United States have tripled in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., with dozens occurring within just a month, according to new data.

Program Created in Minnesota to Help At-Risk Somali Youth
The non-profit organization "Youthprise" is in charge of distributing $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice and private groups. The goal is to stop young Somalis from going overseas to fight for terror groups.

How America’s dying white supremacist movement is seizing on Donald Trump’s appeal
Rachel Pendergraft — the national organizer for the Knights Party, a standard-bearer for the Ku Klux Klan — told The Washington Post that the KKK, for one, has a new conversation starter at its disposal. You might call it a “Trump card.”

Virginia Man With Ties to White Supremacist Group Sentenced in Murder for Hire Plot
The murder-for-hire case against Brumback came to light in late January after local and federal agents raided his Sterling home. They discovered many weapons and evidence that Dallas Brumback was a leader with a white supremacist group known as the Christian Identity movement.

NSU defendant denies providing weapons to neo-Nazis
In a statement read to a court in Munich on Wednesday, Ralf Wohlleben denied providing weapons to the National Socialist Underground (NSU) that were then used to carry out nine murders targeting people with immigrant backgrounds. A tenth murder claimed the life of a German police officer.

PODCAST

UK's Role in Syria & Recent Diplomatic Efforts
Michael Stephens comes back on the show to discuss the United Kingdom's efforts to fight the Islamic State in Syria, as well as the latest developments in the diplomatic process seeking to bring an end to the conflict. By Karl Morand with Michael Stephens.

Jihadology Podcast: A History of Lebanese Sunni Jihadism
Bernard Rougier comes on the show to discuss Lebanese Sunni jihadism. Some of the topics covered include how Lebanese first got involved in jihadism in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the role the Iraq war played in the mobilization and recruitment of a new generation. By Aaron Zelin with Bernard Rougier.

Jihadology Podcast: Reality of The Islamic State’s Finances and Economy
Aymenn al-Tamimi comes on the show for an in-depth discussion of the Islamic State’s finances and economic situation. Some of the topics covered include IS funding prior to 2013, how IS funding compares to AQ, and the evolution of IS’ economy in the past year and a half. By Aaron Zelin with Aymenn al-Tamimi.

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, December 14, 2015
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 12/14/15. ISIS in Yemen, More US Arrests, KKK's 'Slick' Propaganda and More

ISIS WATCH

Containing ISIS: What Would George Kennan Do?
Barry Posen rightly argues for a containment strategy. But just as important as what to do is what to avoid. By Jessica Stern.

Islamic State Gains Strength in Yemen, Rivaling Al Qaeda
Nine months of war between a Saudi-led military coalition and a Yemeni rebel group have left thousands of civilians dead, a nation gravely polarized and the land strewn with debris, mines and unexploded bombs.

Sophisticated IS recruitment methods lured Jordanian woman
A Jordanian woman who came close to joining the Islamic State group described a sophisticated 14-month recruitment process by the extremists that she said landed her in a secret IS compound in Turkey with dozens of other women.

What a leaked Thai police document says about ISIS in Southeast Asia
A document released in Thailand reveals a new plot by Islamic State to target Russian tourists in Thailand.

10th ISIS terror suspect a surprise to Twin Cities Somali community
To prosecutors, Abdirizak Warsame is the 10th Minnesota man to face terror charges for conspiring to join ISIS, but to people in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, he is the last person they expected to get into trouble.

Judge orders psychiatric evaluation for Cuban ISIS sympathizer
A federal magistrate judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Harlem Suárez, the second South Florida Cuban arrested by FBI agents after expressing support for the Islamic State.

SAN BERNARDINO ATTACK

San Bernardino Attackers Were Radicalized Before Meeting, FBI Director Says
The husband-and-wife team who killed 14 people during a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, Calif., had been radicalized before they "started courting or dating each other online," FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday.

San Bernardino shooter used friend to dodge gun check, may have planned larger attack, sources say
Syed Rizwan Farook asked a friend to buy two rifles used in the attack so he could dodge a federal background check and also may have been planning an even larger assault, according to government sources familiar with the ever-widening investigation.

Enrique Marquez said he and Farook built pipe bombs as hobby
Enrique Marquez, a former neighbor of Farook, told investigators he and his friend previously built pipe bombs, law enforcement officials said.

Brother of San Bernardino killer Tashfeen Malik says family in Saudi Arabia is devastated
"We don’t have any idea about what happened over there,” Saad Gulzar Malik, who lives in Riyadh, said in a phone interview Friday. “We are only learning about it from news reports.”

TERROR WATCH

Planned Parenthood suspect: 'I am a warrior for the babies'
The man accused of killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic stunned a courtroom Wednesday when he declared himself a "warrior for the babies" and said he was guilty and won't go to trial.

Riyadh, Rumeilan, and Damascus: All You Need to Know About Syria’s Opposition Conferences
It’s conference time in the Syrian opposition. All of a sudden, three rival meetings have kicked off, all claiming to represent the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

With US help, Saudi Arabia is obliterating Yemen
Airstrikes have been relentless since March, a period now of eight months. They are supposed to be targeting a local rebel group, but appear largely indiscriminate, regularly hitting civilian targets. Thousands of people have been killed. Human rights groups say some of these strikes amount to war crimes.

How the Ku Klux Klan seized cinema to become a force in America
A century on and the dark days when the Klan recruited millions of members across America to its divisive and racist creed may seem like history, but the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment around the world is a sobering reminder of how the media can be used to spread division in society.

State Department belatedly finds 1,300 emails on Anwar Al-Awlaki
The State Department has belatedly discovered about 1,300 emails relating to deceased Islamic cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in official accounts belonging to top aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

White supremacist groups see Trump bump
The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s.

Muslims report more bias cases across USA
Anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise since and recent comments by presidential candidate Donald Trump could make the situation worse, Muslim and Arab-American leaders said Tuesday.

Obama appeals to Silicon Valley to help prevent terrorist attacks
What might a new Silicon-to-Pentagon type relationship might look like, and would it be likely to protect Americans from further attacks, or further erode Americans' privacy?

PODCASTS

Jihadology Podcast: Americans in the Islamic State
Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes come on the show to talk about their new report ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa. Some of the topics covered include background on the American jihadi scene, the demographics of Americans who’ve traveled to join the Islamic State and the three roles American Islamic State supporters play on social media. By Aaron Zelin with Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes.

Tunisian Jihadism
Bridget Moreng comes on the show to discuss jihadism in Tunisia. Some of the topics covered include what factors lead to the growth of jihadism after Ben Ali and Tunisian government efforts to combat jihadist groups. By Karl Morand with Bridget Moreng.

Countering Violent Extremism: a discussion with Seamus Hughes
Seamus Hughes and Chelsea Daymon discuss all things CVE.

Counterterrorism Experts Face Challenges Recognizing 'Lone Wolf' Terrorists
NPR's Audie Cornish interviews John Horgan, a professor at Georgia State University's Global Studies Institute, who studies how ISIS inspires "lone wolf" supporters.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

Crossing the Ideological Divide? Egypt's Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood after the Arab Spring
This article examines the shifts that have occurred within these two movements in Egypt since the Arab Spring. It specifically asks whether approximations between them in terms of strategies of actions have been paralleled by ideological approximations. By Annette Ranko & Justyna Nedza.

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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Wednesday, December 9, 2015
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 12/7/15. ISIS in America, San Bernardino, Copycats, Sovereign Cop, and More

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

ISIS IN AMERICA: FROM RETWEETS TO RAQQA
The report consists of two parts. The first examines all cases of U.S. persons arrested, indicted, or convicted in the United States for ISIS-related activities. This section also looks at the cases of other Americans who, while not in the legal system, are known to have engaged in ISIS-inspired behavior. The second part of the report examines various aspects of the ISIS-related mobilization in America. It concludes with recommendations to combat ISIS recruitment. By Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes.

SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTINGS

Islamic State Says ‘Soldiers of Caliphate’ Attacked in San Bernardino
The Islamic State’s radio station released a statement on Saturday claiming that two of the group’s followers had carried out the shootings that left 14 people dead in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday.

Woman in deadly Calif. rampage had become more devout
FBI officials, family lawyers and others said they know little about the 29-year-old housewife and mother, apart from what came to light on Friday: that Tafsheen Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group on Facebook as she and her American-born husband, Syed Farook, 28, went on the rampage.

California Attack Has U.S. Rethinking Strategy on Homegrown Terror
Swift, ruthless and deadly, the attack appeared to reflect an evolution of the terrorist threat that Mr. Obama and federal officials have long dreaded: homegrown, self-radicalized individuals operating undetected before striking one of many soft targets that can never be fully protected in a country as sprawling as the United States.

Sisters of San Bernardino Shooting Suspect Say They Saw No Warning Signs
For nearly an hour, Saira Khan and Eba Farook, the two sisters of Syed Rizwan Farook, the man suspected of the mass shooting in nearby San Bernardino, expressed anguish at the tragedy that has engulfed this community. But they said they had seen no warning that Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were preparing for an assault that would leave 14 people dead and 21 injured.

TERROR WATCH

Yes, mass shootings tend to produce copycats. So do terror attacks.
Research by Arizona State University mathematics research professor Sherry Towers and colleagues suggests that like suicides and homicides, media coverage of mass shootings and school shootings tend to increase similar incidents in the surrounding community.

Link to sovereign citizen movement costly for police officer
Last spring a respected detective for the Sarasota, Fla. police department went to the local courthouse and did something stupid. What he thought he was doing, he has insisted ever since, was making a simple political statement. What he actually was doing was affiliating with an estimated 300,000 disgruntled Americans who believe the government is illegitimate.

For Robert Dear, Religion and Rage Before Planned Parenthood Attack
Court documents and interviews with people who knew Mr. Dear well, a picture emerges of an angry and occasionally violent man who seemed deeply disturbed and deeply contradictory: He was a man of religious conviction who sinned openly, a man who craved both extreme solitude and near-constant female company, a man who successfully wooed women but, some of them say, also abused them

Taliban releases audio message to show leader alive
The Taliban released an audio message on Saturday it said was from its leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour to counter widespread reports that he had been wounded or killed in a shootout in Pakistan this week.

Qaeda fighters in 'show of force' in south Yemen
Al-Qaeda fighters drove pro-government forces out of a town in southern Yemen Wednesday in a new show of strength by the jihadists, who have exploited the country's turmoil to expand their territory.

Has the U.S. had 4 mass shootings this year or 353? Estimates vary that much
Be careful when you hear reports that say how often such shootings happen. They are not well-tracked by federal agencies, and the definition of a “mass shooting” varies so widely among public researchers that the numbers can be confusing.

ISIS WATCH

The Decline in Islamic State Media Output
There was a steady rise in photos from January-March period to the June-August period, with a drop off for every three-month category since. By Aaron Zelin

Warplanes in Libyan skies may signal next major battle in fight to contain Islamic State
Jihadis in Libya are seizing control of greater chunks of the fractured nation’s territory and imposing a rule of terror. As another strategic city, Ajdabiya, comes under Isis attack, military planners across Europe are preparing the way for NATO forces to intervene

Inside The War Against Isis
In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, Western leaders ramped up airstrikes against ISIS. But the real fight is happening on the ground.

Leader of Taliban Splinter Group Allied With ISIS Is Killed
After months of Taliban infighting that has left hundreds dead, the prominent head of a splinter faction allied with the Islamic State has been killed, government officials and Taliban commanders said on Tuesday.

The Real Value of the ISIS Antiquities Trade
New findings are shedding light on the ISIS antiquities trade, but they’ve often raised more questions than they’ve answered.

Islamic State’s moneymaking streams take a hit as it loses territory
By most estimates, the Islamic State is the world’s richest terrorist organization. But it appears to be wrestling with money problems that could affect its ability to wage war while trying to govern millions of people in its self-declared caliphate.

The U.K. Launches Air Strikes Against ISIS in Syria
British warplanes carried out airstrikes in Syria early Thursday, hours after Parliament voted to authorize air attacks against Islamic State group targets there.

ISIS chief's ex-wife released in Lebanon-al Nusra prisoner swap
The Lebanese government on Tuesday released the former wife of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as part of a prisoner swap with an al Qaeda affiliate, a Lebanese security official said.

Chad Suspects Boko Haram in Island Attacks
A triple suicide bombing at a market on an island in Lake Chad killed at least 15 people and wounded 130 on Saturday, Chad’s government said. A top police official claimed that the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram was responsible.

PODCAST

Jihadology Podcast: The History, Legacy, and Relevance of Algerian Jihadism Today
Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck comes on the show to talk about jihadism in Algeria. Topics covered include the background and history of jihadism in Algeria and why there haven’t been many Algerian foreign fighters in Syria. By Aaron Zelin with Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck.


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, November 30, 2015
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 11/30/2015: Defining the Planned Parenthood attack; ISIS, Syria, Sovereigns and More

PLANNED PARENTHOOD SHOOTING 

Friday's attack on a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs has reignited a debate about the definition of terrorism. As the suspect's profile is slowly filled out, amid reports of an anti-abortion statement amid a wider rambling response to questions from authorities, much of the discussion online has focused on the perception that domestic terror suspects, usually white, are more likely to be classified as mentally ill than political.

There is merit to this complaint, particularly as it pertains to the Charleston Church shooting earlier this year, which was carried out for the explicit purpose of starting a race war after consuming and being consumed by white supremacist ideology. The problem is particularly acute during the "specunalysis" phase of breaking news coverage, in terms of when the word "terrorism" is used and how often, based on the race or religion of the offender.

What we know about the Planned Parenthood case is still evolving, but it serves to illustrate the complexities of how terrorism intersects with possible mental illness. However, there is also a growing acknowledgement that mental illness isn't just a factor for white terrorists, with ISIS's recruitment and adoption of attacks by people who are clearly on the borderline. At the same time, mental illness is not always grounds for dismissing an ideological hook. It is possible to be both mentally ill and a terrorist.

There are two separate issues here. The first is whether politicians, the media and society disproportionately focus on mental health explanations for white Christians who kill with political motives in the United States relative to other demographic groups, which I think is a clear trend and a serious problem, although some movement can be seen.

The second is how we attempt to distinguish between terrorism and mental illness overall, which I think is an equally serious problem that is obscured and complicated by the first. Both of these issues urgently deserve our attention, and we can't tackle one and not the other. Unfortunately, pent-up frustration is filling this discussion with far more heat than light in the wake of this latest attack.

Based on what we know so far, which I should stress isn't much, this looks more like a case where the question revolves around mental illness than the domestic terrorism bias. For instance, it doesn't look like the Roof case, where there is no ambiguity about its ideological basis, and the profiles below raise some obvious questions about mental health. This reading may well change in the days to come.

Nevertheless, I think it's worth noting that there has been movement on both of these issues over the last year or two. The debate is being aired more often, and while there are still embedded assumptions as events unfold, there is a nascent awareness that is working its way through our public discourse, even if the process is painful and slow.

-- JMB

Robert Dear, Suspect in Colorado Killings, ‘Preferred to Be Left Alone’
Robert L. Dear Jr. was a man who lived off the grid. On this lonely, snow-covered patch of land in a hamlet ringed by the Rocky Mountains, his home was a white trailer, with a forest-green four-wheeler by the front door and a modest black cross painted on one end. As police officers surrounded it on Saturday, looking for clues to what they said had sent its owner on a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood center that left three dead and nine wounded, neighbors said they barely knew him, beyond one man’s memory of his handing out anti-Obama political pamphlets.

Alleged Colorado gunman was adrift and alienated
Robert Lewis Dear Jr., 57, the man in custody in connection with Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, appears to have been a malcontent who drifted from place to place.

Here’s What We Know About The Suspect In The Planned Parenthood Shooting
Robert L. Dear, 57, was arrested by police following a shooting at the Colorado Springs clinic where three people, including a police officer, were killed.

TERROR WATCH

FBI warns NY police about anti-Islam Arizona man who may be headed to state to confront Muslim group
The FBI got involved after a Muslim group based near Albany notified the agency that Jon Ritzheimer, 32, of Phoenix had posted a video on Nov. 18 in which he showed a gun, made profane anti-Obama statements and said he was driving cross-country to confront them, sources and a group spokesman said.

Police Arrest 4th Suspect In Black Lives Matter Shooting, No Charges Yet Filed
Police said late Wednesday that they arrested a fourth suspect after a group of white supremacists allegedly opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters Monday night in Minneapolis. Local prosecutors have until Monday to file charges against the men being held.

Al Qaeda Executes Dozens Of Syrian Soldiers In ISIS-Style Video
Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, released an ISIS-style execution video on Wednesday, the latest sign of an ongoing rivalry between the terror groups.

Yes, there are 70,000 moderate opposition fighters in Syria. Here’s what we know about them,
David Cameron told Parliament that there are ‘about 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups’ who could help fight Islamic State. By Charles Lister.

'Sovereign citizens' want millions from Indianapolis
Brent Allen Swallers says in a lawsuit he has "no obligation from God to obey the wrongdoers' commands." The wrongdoers, he says, are Indianapolis government officials. He wants $1.5 million out of the city treasury as repayment.

The Islamic Movement Of Uzbekistan Comes Unraveled
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) now appears to have fractured into several bands.

Mali Arrests 2 Over Attack on Luxury Hotel in Bamako
Malian special forces have arrested two men over last week's attack on a luxury hotel in the capital, according to a statement distributed Friday morning, as the government provided a breakdown by nationality of the 20 people killed in the attack.

Sovereign citizens: Terrorism assessment warns of rising threat from anti-government extremists
Anti-government extremists known as "sovereign citizens" have been identified as a potential terrorism threat in Australia by a confidential NSW Police report.

Man Charged with Using Explosive Device at Falls Church Mosque
A 27-year-old man of no fixed address was charged with damaging property and using a hoax explosive device at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a Falls Church, Virginia, mosque, on Thursday, Nov. 19.

ISIS WATCH

ISIS’ Grip on Libyan City Gives It a Fallback Option
When the Libyan arm of the Islamic State first raised the group’s black flag over the coastal city of Surt almost one year ago, it was just a bunch of local militants trying to look tough. Today Surt is an actively managed colony of the central Islamic State, crowded with foreign fighters from around the region, according to residents, local militia leaders and hostages recently released from the city’s main prison.

Predatory Islamic State Wrings Money From Those It Rules
Across wide expanses of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State, with the goal of building a credible government, has set up a predatory and violent bureaucracy that wrings every last American dollar, Iraqi dinar and Syrian pound it can from those who live under its control or pass through its territory.

Paris Attacks Plot Was Hatched in Plain Sight
The ease with which the attackers moved—all while avoiding detection by France’s security apparatus—suggests the challenges in identifying would-be terrorists and preventing further attacks in the fluid, digital and transnational world of today, especially when they are European citizens.

Paris terror attack suspect believed to be in Syria
French intelligence services believe Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has escaped to Syria, according to a source close to the investigation and a counterterrorism source.

What Does ISIS Really Want Now?
In the latest issue of Dabiq, ISIS’s on-line magazine, the organization sets forth two principal but contradictory goals, which it labels “options.” By Jessica Stern.

Militants Attack Hotel in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Killing at Least 7
Islamic State militants attacked a hotel in the northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt with explosives and gunfire early on Tuesday, killing at least seven people, including a judge, according to security officials, Egyptian state media and a statement by the group.

PODCASTS

Jihadology Podcast: The Syrian Jihad: A History
Charles Lister comes back on the show for an in-depth discussion on jihadism in Syria. By Aaron Zelin with Charles Lister.

Understanding the Mali Hotel Attack
Andrew Lebovich comes on the show to discuss the recent attack in Bamako, the groups involved, the security situation in Mali, and much more. By Karl Morand 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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Sunday, November 22, 2015
 

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 11/23/15: ISIS Book Roundup, Paris, Mali and More

BOOKS ON ISIS

With ISIS now at the forefront of our national security discussion, people are seeking more information, and many are turning to the bewildering number of books available on the subject. There are several strong entries in the field, but each has its own particular focus. As first drafts of history, no single book is able to encompass the entirety of ISIS, a complicated organization and social movement with many moving parts.

Here's a look at a few of the top books on ISIS. The focus discussed here reflects the elements in each book that distinguish it from the others; all five books include some degree of overview of the history and development of ISIS. In an ideal world, you would probably read all of them. The books are listed here alphabetically, by the name of the lead author.

The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency
Charles Lister
Focus on the complex scope of the Syrian civil war, and its crucial impact on ISIS and al Qaeda, informed by extensive face-to-face interviews with participants.

The ISIS Apocalypse
William McCants
Focus on ISIS's development from the point of view of jihadist insiders, and ISIS's ideology, including its apocalyptic bent and call to religion.

ISIS: The State of Terror
Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger
Focus on ISIS's terrorist/extremist component, recruitment, propaganda and social media, psychological warfare, and competition with al Qaeda.

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
Joby Warrick
Focus on the rise of ISIS from its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, and the life of that group's founder, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror
Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
Focus on the rise of ISIS as a regional political phenomenon, with a wealth of on-the-ground reporting.

-- J.M. Berger

ISIS WATCH

ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape
Aws, 25, a former resident of Raqqa, Syria, used to be a member of the Khansaa Brigade, the Islamic State's female morality police. Her first husband was a jihadist, and when he died in a suicide operation she reluctantly agreed to marry another fighter.

Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine
The assignments arrive on slips of paper, each bearing the black flag of the Islamic State, the seal of the terrorist group’s media emir, and the site of that day’s shoot. Sometimes the job was to film prayers at a mosque, or militants exchanging fire. But, inevitably, a slip would come with the coordinates to an unfolding bloodbath.

The French female extremist’s curious path to Islamist violence
The story of Hasna Aitboulahcen is filled with jolting plot turns. Fast forward to Wednesday, and the story ends abruptly — in a nondescript apartment building with a slanted shingled roof, surrounded by police officers undertaking an anti-terrorism raid in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis.

IS group says it has killed Norwegian, Chinese captives
The Islamic State group said Wednesday that it has killed Norwegian and Chinese captives after earlier demanding ransoms for the two men.

An ISIS Militant From Belgium Whose Own Family Wanted Him Dead
When the family of Abdelhamid Abaaoud received word from Syria last fall that he had been killed fighting for the Islamic State, it rejoiced at what it took to be excellent news about a wayward son it had come to despise. He has since been linked to a string of terrorist operations that culminated with Friday’s attacks in Paris.

Frenchman identified in Islamic State audio claim of Paris attacks
The voice of a jihadist claiming Islamic State's responsibility for last week's attacks in Paris has been identified as a 36 year-old Frenchmen authorities believe is now in Syria, a source close to the investigation said on Tuesday.

New York teen accused of supporting Islamic State to be tried as adult
A New York teenager charged with conspiring to support Islamic State should be tried as an adult, despite having been only 17 at the time he allegedly committed the crime, a federal judge ruled.

Militants may have spent as little as $7,500 on Paris attacks
The militants who killed 130 people in Paris, triggering waves of air strikes on Syria and security alerts around the world, may have spent as little as around 7,000 euros ($7,500) to stage their attacks.

Dozens in U.S. monitored after Paris for fear of copycat
Following the terror attacks in Paris, the FBI is very closely monitoring dozens of people they think pose the highest threat of attempting to carry out a copycat attack in the U.S., according to FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

U.S. Investigators Struggle to Track Homegrown ISIS Suspects
At least three dozen people in the United States suspected of ties to the Islamic State were under heavy electronic or physical surveillance even before the Paris attacks, senior American officials say. But unlike the attackers in France, the officials say, the majority of those under investigation here never traveled to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State or receive training from it.

Jihadi John associate on his way to Europe was arrested in Turkey
Aine Lesley Davis was arrested after Turkish intelligence worked with British MI6 to monitor the movements of a messenger linked to Jihadi John inside the Syrian city of Raqqa and received information on Davis' plans.

ISIS’ Extortion and ‘Taxation’ Are Lucrative and Hard to Suppress
A great deal has been written about the oil resources that are supposedly ISIS' principal source of revenue, although some reports suggest that estimates of $1.5 million in daily oil income may be wildly exaggerated. But what has often been ignored is ISIS’ less conspicuous and potentially superior capacity to raise funds through a complex and tightly controlled system of "taxes" within its claimed "Caliphate."

The Islamic State Paradox
The Islamic State is partly a totalitarian state and partly a transnational terrorist organization. As a state it can be attacked and defeated, at least temporarily. And yet, paradoxically, the more we in the West attack the state, the more its appeal as a terrorist organization will grow among those who see the West as an enemy.

TERROR WATCH

Armed protesters gather outside Islamic Center of Irving
About a dozen protesters -- most carrying long guns, some masked and one with his mother -- lined up outside an Irving mosque on Saturday. They had come from as far away as Hunt County to the green-domed complex. To "Stop the Islamization of America," as the mother's hand-drawn sign urged.

Deadly hotel attack underscores Mali's worsening security situation
Since France’s military intervention in January 2013 to halt the southward movement of a coalition of armed groups who controlled much of the country’s north, the security situation has remained precarious. And in some ways, it has gotten even worse.

Hotel Attack in Mali Reverses Gains in Fight Against Extremism
The terrifying attack on the Radisson Blu here in Mali’s capital was a strike on this nation’s fragile efforts to restore peace after years of fighting. But here, as in Paris, the same fundamental question applies: How does a democratic society protect itself from a few determined extremists who can upend an entire nation with a single devastating strike?

Lebanon security forces make arrests, seize explosives after Beirut bombs
Lebanese security forces carried out a series of arrests overnight, security sources said on Friday, as part of a crackdown launched after twin suicide bomb attacks killed 44 people in Beirut last week.

Sarajevo gunman commits suicide after killing two soldiers
A gunman who shot and killed two Bosnian soldiers and wounded another committed suicide on Wednesday after police surrounded his house on the outskirts of Sarajevo, authorities said.

Explosive device goes off near Bosnian army chief's car, no one hurt
An explosive device went off in a tunnel just before an approaching vehicle carrying the Bosnian army's chief of staff but nobody was hurt, the Defence Ministry said on Saturday.

The plague of global terrorism
Last year 32,700 people were killed in attacks worldwide, nearly twice as many as in 2013.

PODCASTS

On the Media: The Language of Terror
Amid the emotion, fear, and confusion following an attack, a Breaking News Consumer's Handbook for the coverage of terrorism. Plus, the semantics surrounding acts of war and terror, and a look back at lessons learned, and forgotten, in the years since 9/11.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

The Consequences of the Internet for Politics
Political scientists are only now beginning to come to terms with the importance of the Internet to politics. By Henry Farrell.

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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Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
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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 fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism 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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