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Sunday, November 22, 2015

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


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 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.


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.


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.


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


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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Monday, November 16, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 11/16/15, Paris Attacks and More


Latest updates via The New York Times

From the New York Times:
-- A manhunt is underway for Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to have helped carry out the attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people.
-- Two more attackers have been identified, according to the Paris prosecutor, François Molins.
-- One, a suicide bomber who tried to enter the Stade de France, came to Europe through Greece on a Syrian passport last month in the name of Ahmad al-Mohammad. It was not clear whether that passport was in fact the attacker’s.
-- The other is Samy Amimour, 28, who lived in a Paris suburb. He was one of the bombers at the Bataclan concert hall and had previously been charged with terrorist conspiracy.
-- France conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.
The Capabilities Fallacy 
Over the course of the past year, many analysts and policymakers have struggled to pin down the terrorist capabilities of the Islamic State. As an insurgency, it had proved resilient. As a terrorist actor, projecting a threat outside its borders, it was unproven.

Several phases of denial have played out. Initially, some experts speculated that ISIL had no particular aspirations to execute spectacular attacks outside its borders. Then, some argued that Al Qaeda was more sophisticated than ISIL, and therefore posed the greater threat. Finally, the focus shifted to so-called lone wolf attacks, an area in which everyone eventually could agree ISIL excels.

All of these hedged assertions looked reasonable when compared with vague and irresponsible alarms from some quarters about the existential threat ISIL allegedly posed to the American homeland and the West in general. But in a few short weeks, ISIL has flexed its terrorist muscles in an unambiguous manner. By J.M. Berger.

Jihadology Podcast Emergency Pod: Background on The Paris Attacks
In light of the recent attacks in Paris, Timothy Holman comes on the show to discuss the history of French and Belgian jihadi networks. By Aaron Zelin with Timothy Holman.

What Paris taught us about the Islamic State
Many forces currently conspire to generate the Islamic State’s current wave of terrorism, and we should expect more violence. By Clint Watts.

Paris Terror Attacks May Prompt More Aggressive U.S. Strategy on ISIS
The seemingly synchronized assaults that turned Paris into a war zone on Friday came just days after a bombing targeted a Shiite district of Beirut controlled by Iran’s ally, Hezbollah, and a Russian passenger jet was downed over Egypt. For President Obama and American allies, the attacks are almost certain to force a reassessment of the threat and may prompt a more aggressive strategy against the Islamic State

Police Raids in France and Belgium Seek Paris Attack Suspects
Heavily armed police officers wearing balaclavas descended on a Brussels neighborhood on Monday as the authorities intensified their manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to have helped carry out the Paris terrorist attacks on Friday. Meanwhile, the authorities in France announced that they had conducted sweeping police raids around the country overnight, detaining 104 people.

Editorial: What Will Come After Paris
The challenge for threatened countries is huge. The sort of attacks the Islamic State has launched are hard to anticipate or prevent, yet in Europe each one intensifies the raucous xenophobia of far-right nationalists ever ready to demonize Muslim citizens, immigrants and refugees, and shut down Europe’s open internal borders.


Wilayat Twitter and the battle against Islamic State's Twitter jihad
In the past two years, the so-called Islamic State (IS) has made Twitter its own, many of its supporters even describing the social media forum as an IS ‘wilayat’ or ‘province.' By Elizabeth Pearson.

Confessions of an ISIS Spy
He joined the self-proclaimed Islamic State, trained jihadist infantry, and groomed foreign operatives—including a pair of Frenchmen. And now, Abu Khaled says he is ready to talk.

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Blasts That Killed Dozens in Beirut
 A fiery double suicide bombing terrorized a mostly Shiite residential area of southern Beirut on Thursday, ripping through a busy shopping district at rush hour. The Lebanese Health Ministry said at least 43 people had been killed and more than 200 wounded in the worst attack to strike the city in years.

Sinjar Victory Bolsters Kurds, but Could Further Alienate U.S. From Iraq
Now, with Kurdish forces backed by American air power driving jihadist fighters out of Sinjar on Friday, the United States-led coalition appears to have a new and important victory against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. But it may come with a cost: the further undermining of the Iraqi government’s authority, and intensified concern about the Kurds’ desire for independence.

Obama’s ‘Sunni Awakening’ strategy flops as Iran’s Shias gain upper hand
Critics say the strategy so far hasn’t come close to replicating the success of the first awakening, which roughly coincided with President George W. Bush’s “surge” in early 2007.

Akron man accused of supporting ISIL, threatening U.S. military members
An Akron man was arrested Thursday morning after federal authorities say he posted messages supporting a terrorist organization on social media.

U.S. 'reasonably certain' drone strike killed ISIS mouthpiece 'Jihadi John'
U.S. Army Col. Steven Warren said Friday that a drone strike the previous night killed everyone in the targeted vehicle, with Mohammed Emwazi -- a.k.a. "Jihadi John" -- likely among them.


On the Road in Syria, Struggle All Around
The police are gone, and militias have flourished, snarling traffic with checkpoints and covering lampposts with pictures of dead fighters. Shuttered gas stations stand near shacks where fuel is sold in plastic jugs. And abandoned government offices house ad hoc administrations that struggle to keep the lights on. By Ben Hubbard.

Coordinated European Raids Target Ring Supporting Terrorist Groups
The authorities arrested 15 people in four European countries on Thursday, breaking up what officials called a terrorist network that sought to overthrow the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and to recruit militants to fight in Iraq and Syria.

Men suspected in white supremacist plot deemed danger to the community
Two of the three men accused in a plot to bomb black churches and synagogues, rob an armored car and kill a jewelry dealer were denied bond Thursday.

Kansas white supremacist sentenced to death for three murders
A judge on Tuesday issued the death penalty for the white supremacist convicted of shooting to death three people at two Jewish centers in Kansas last year. Johnson County District Court Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan sentenced Frazier Glenn Cross, 74, to die by lethal injection.

Facebook reports spike in government requests for data

Facebook Inc (FB.O) said in a report on Wednesday that government demands for its user data surged in the first half of 2015, taking a trend that began at least two years ago when the company started revealing such requests to new heights.

Breakaway Faction Challenges New Taliban Leadership
In the week following its announcement that it was splitting from the Taliban, the High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has borrowed from the militant group's formal name, chosen a leader, and rallied support in Afghanistan's west. Now it is directly taking on Taliban fighters in Zabul Province, in the south of the country, in what are seen as the first major fighting between rival Taliban factions.

Computer intrusion inflicts massive damage on German steel factory
A German steel factory suffered significant damage after attackers gained unauthorized access to computerized systems that help control its blast furnace. The incident is notable because it's one of the few computer intrusions to cause physical damage.


Reintegrating jihadist extremists: evaluating a Dutch initiative, 2013–2014
In 2012, the Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism and the Dutch Probation Service launched a reintegration project for offenders on probation or parole who were (suspected to be) involved in jihadist extremism or terrorism. The initiative's primary goal was to reduce the chance of recidivism among this target group. By Bart Schuurman and Edwin Bakker.


Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: Then & Now
C. Christine Fair comes on the show to talk about Islamism in Bangladesh. Topics include the history of Islamism in Bangladesh and its intersection with mainstream politics and what we know about recent Islamic State attacks in Bangladesh. By Aaron Zelin with C. Christine Fair.

ISIS Oil Operations
Matthew Reed comes back on the show to discuss ISIS oil operations. Topics include how analysts track ISIS oil operations, how much oil ISIS is producing, and what it would take to eliminate ISIS' ability to profit from oil production. By Karl Morand with Matthew Reed.

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


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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Monday, November 9, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 11/9/15: CVE Process, Assessing Foreign Fighter Counts, ISIS Allies Slip Away, and More


Step-by-step Online CVE
The world continues to deal with the offline consequences of how ISIS works online, hunting among the fringes of society for those rare individuals who can be convinced to act on its behalf. Its success comes in part from volume -- social media makes it possible to sift efficiently through more potential recruits than ever before. But while the process ISIS employs to achieve its goals contributes to its relative success, it also opens windows for disruption.


Foreign (Terrorist) Fighter Estimates: Conceptual and Data Issues
This Policy Brief - a short version of a larger Research Paper to be released by ICCT in late 2015 - focuses on the phenomenon of foreign (terrorist) fighters (FTFs) as it relates to Syria and Iraq. It concentrates on recruits to jihad and the astonishing growth in numbers from less than 1,000 in 2011 to more than 3,500 in 2012, 8,500+ in 2013, 18,000+ in 2014 to more than 25,000 by fall 2015. By October 2015, nearly 30,000 militants from more than 100 countries had become foreign fighters with the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) in Syria and Iraq and other militant groups. By Alex P. Schmid.

“New terrorism” = higher brutality? An empirical test of the “brutalization thesis”
This article focuses on the so-called “brutalization” of terrorism. The brutalization thesis as part of the larger theoretical concept of “new terrorism” argues that “new terrorism” is more brutal than “old terrorism.” Many scholars claim that the 9/11 attacks mark the beginning of a new era of terrorism that has lifted international as well as domestic terrorism to a new level of violent brutality. Others argue that this process had already started in the early 1990s.By Sebastian Jäckle and Marcel Baumann.


ISIS at the Gyro King
When two young men were arrested en route to Syria, the Uzbeks of Brooklyn felt upset, maligned, and only a little sympathetic. By Mark Jacobson.

As U.S. Escalates Air War on ISIS, Allies Slip Away
As the United States prepares to intensify airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, the Arab allies who with great fanfare sent warplanes on the initial missions there a year ago have largely vanished from the campaign.

ISIL and the Taliban
Raising its black flag over the rugged mountainous regions of Afghanistan, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has emerged as a new threat to the war-ravaged country as it battles the Taliban for supremacy. By Najibullah Quraishi and Jamie Doran.

F.B.I. to Help Russia Investigate Plane Crash in Egypt
The F.B.I. has agreed to help the Russian government with its investigation into the deadly crash of a Russian charter plane in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, senior American officials said on Saturday.

U.S. Troops in Syria: A Quick Assessment Of The U.S. Strategy To Combat The Islamic State
It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. convened its “Counter ISIL Coalition” and in short, when all was said and done, more has been said than done. By Clint Watts.

Russia halts Egypt flights amid widening probes into Sinai crash
Reversing its earlier position, the Kremlin on Friday announced that it would suspend flights to Egypt in a growing consensus with Western officials that a bomb may have caused a Russian passenger jet to crash over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last weekend.

France to authorise 'military intervention against Isil' on home soil
French prime minister could push through new rules to authorise "army intervention in France against Isil" by early next year, say reports.

U.S. Cut Cash to Iraq on Iran, ISIS Fears
The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department temporarily shut off the flow of billions of dollars to Iraq’s central bank this summer as concerns mounted that the currency was ending up at Iranian banks and possibly being funneled to Islamic State militants.


Anonymous leaks identities of 350 alleged Ku Klux Klan members
List of names and social media accounts mentioned alleged FBI informants and those who already publicly identify as members of white supremacist group.

What happens when an online ‘leak’ says you’re a Ku Klux Klan member
Although Anonymous has often said that it believes doxxing represents a powerful tool for transparency in the name of the greater good, the vigilante activists don’t always get their information right (the same can be said, often, of the Internet shame cycle in general), and mistakes that can lead to nightmares for those who are incorrectly identified.

Two Americans and South African killed at police training centre in Jordan
Jordanian police officer kills three people and injures four others in shooting spree on outskirts of Amman.

Boston Men Accused of Hate Crimes; Police Say They Cited Trump
Two Boston brothers accused of urinating on and beating a homeless Mexican man have been charged with hate crimes after being quoted by police as saying, "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported."

Yemen: 'The children have a game called airstrike in which they fall to the ground'
MSF emergency coordinator Karline Kleijer reports on three weeks in Taiz, a city on the frontline of the seven-month-long conflict.

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


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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Monday, November 2, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 11/2/15: ISIS and Telegram, Shabab Split, and More


Islamist militants turn to less-governed social-media platform
The Islamic State and other terror groups are flocking to a Berlin-based social-media service that imposes few barriers on the distribution of violent content or recruiting propaganda, according to a new report.

The growing consensus in Washington holds that President Obama’s current path is unlikely to defeat ISIL any time soon. This view is warranted, but as pressure mounts to “do more” against the group, we should be very wary of a course of action that asks American men and women to take risks with their lives while members of Congress refuse even to risk a debate and vote about using force against the group. By Brian Fishman

From al-Shabab to the Islamic State: The Bay‘a of ‘Abd al-Qadir Mu’min and Its Implications
Mu’min, a longtime Al-Shabab preacher, ideologue, and leader, created a stir among jihadis and jihadi supporters online, particularly those supportive of IS, as well as analysts. By Christopher Anzalone

Lights Off in the Islamic State
Electricity production in ISIS-held regions of Iraq fell precipitously following the organization’s spread into the country last year and, until March, remained abysmally low. By Andrew Shaver and David Ensign

Syria: Obama authorizes boots on ground to fight ISIS
The United States is set to deploy troops on the ground in Syria for the first time to advise and assist rebel forces combating ISIS, the White House said Friday.

New Jersey Man Admits Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIL
Alaa Saadeh, 24, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton of the District of New Jersey to an information charging him with one count of conspiring with others to provide material support to ISIL. He remains detained without bail.

ISIS Assassinates Prominent Syrian Activists in Turkey
The men who formed Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently were gunned down inside what should’ve been a safe place by an Islamic State thug.

ISIS Is Target of Turkish Bombing Raids
Turkish jets on Saturday launched bombing raids against Islamic State targets in Syria, one day before Turks are set to vote in parliamentary elections, a senior government official said.


The critical role of friends in networks for countering violent extremism: toward a theory of vicarious help-seeking
Who would be the first to notice, and able to intervene, with individuals considering acts of violent extremism?  Also available in a shorter version with no paywall as part of this collectionBy Michael J. Williams, John G. Horgan and William P. Evans. 


Russia returns as al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s ‘Far Enemy’
Jihad’s real ‘Far Enemy’ in Syria for many years has been Iran and now Russia. By Clint Watts

Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility for Attack on Mogadishu Hotel
The Somali militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a hotel in Mogadishu Sunday, leaving at least 12 people dead, including the owner of the hotel, a military commander and two lawmakers.

Violence in Syria Spurs a Huge Surge in Civilian Flight
The intensity of the fighting, they say, is fueling increased desperation as a growing number of Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries and, especially, to Europe. More than 9,000 migrants a day crossed into Greece last week, according to the International Organization for Migration, the most since the beginning of the year.

Secular publisher hacked to death in latest Bangladesh attacks
A publisher of secular books has been hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital, police have said. In a separate attack in Dhaka, police said two other writers and a publisher were stabbed and shot at a publishing house.

Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Attacks on 2 Publishers in Bangladesh
Statements attributed to a regional division of Al Qaeda late on Saturday claimed responsibility for attacks on two publishers in Bangladesh who put out works critical of fundamentalist Islam, according to SITE.

Inside the CIA Red Cell
How an experimental unit transformed the intelligence community. By Micah Zenko.


Jihadism in the Land of the Pharaohs
Mokhtar Awad comes on the show to discuss jihadism in Egypt, including Jama’at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) and how ABM has changed since it became Wilayat Sinai of the Islamic State. By Aaron Zelin with Mokhtar Awad

India's Relations with Israel & Palestine
Nicolas Blarel comes on the show to discuss India's relationship with Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the topics covered include: controversies related to recent UN votes by India dealing with Israel-Palestine issues and how India's relationship with Israel and Palestine are viewed domestically in India. By Karl Morand with Nicolas Blarel

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


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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Monday, October 26, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 10/26/15: New Tech, Bad Actors; Iran in Syria; Swedish Extremist Attack and More


Tailored Online Interventions: The Islamic State's recruitment strategy
The Islamic State has devoted significant resources to implementing a distinct online recruitment strategy, which follows targets from their introduction to the organization’s message, through a careful pruning of their social networks, before culminating in a call to action. The strategy relies on scores of users who maintain a high level of availability online, allowing them to lavish attention on potential recruits, and who provide a drumbeat of incitement to action, such as social media activism, migration to Islamic State territories, or the commission of terrorist attacks.

J.M. Berger also took part in an Atlantic Council panel on how new technologies empower bad actors. The video can be seen below:


The First Defector: Abu Sulayman al-Utaybi, the Islamic State, and al-Qa`ida
Tensions between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida have been in the headlines since the Islamic State’s feud with its one-time Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, became public in 2013, and particularly since the Islamic State declared itself a caliphate in 2014. The Islamic State’s leaders see al-Qa`ida as irrelevant meddlers, while al-Qa`ida’s commanders believe their Islamic State counterparts to be so ideologically extreme that they cannot cobble together a coherent strategic plan. Al-Qa`ida’s concerns about the Islamic State were heightened in 2007 when a defector disclosed that the Islamic State of Iraq’s leaders had declared a state in 2006 because of apocalyptic premonitions. Nearly a decade later the defector’s accusations remain part of the war of words between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida. By Brian Fishman.

The Identity-Extremism Nexus: Countering Islamist Extremism in the West
This essay provides an overview of how identity relates to Islamist-inspired radicalization. The aim here is twofold. First, the essay highlights issues relevant to the identity-radicalization debate, and their relation to extremism. Then, drawing from this discussion, it develops a number of points to consider for those considering developing community-based rehabilitation and de-radicalization initiatives. By Dina Al Raffie.

The Ankara Bombings and the Islamic State's Turkey strategy
Although the investigation is in its early stages, Turkish authorities suspect the Islamic State was responsible for the October 10, 2015 attack in Ankara that killed more than 100 people. The two suicide bombers are believed to be part of a cell responsible for two attacks in Turkey this year. Turkey’s decision to join the anti-Islamic State coalition has exposed it to a growing threat from the group because of its significant presence inside the country, its large number of Turkish recruits, and its growing attractiveness to Turkish Islamist extremists of Kurdish descent. By Metin Gurcan.

The Islamic State Digs In
Russia’s recent intervention in Syria will generate more opportunities for the Islamic State than it quells. If the Islamic State’s core defenses around major cities in Iraq and Syria hold, the Islamic State will weather Russia’s intervention and likely emerge stronger. The Islamic State has an effective defensive strategy, which it employed in the summer and early autumn of 2015. By Jessica Lewis McFate.

One Year of the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai militancy changed over 2015, following the decision of the peninsula’s main violent jihadi group – Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State organization and become Wilayat Sinai. The developments have created challenges for Egypt and for Israel, but they also provide an opening to weaken the group’s entrenchment in North Sinai. By Zack Gold.


Iran's Proxies in Syria
Phillip Smyth comes on the show to discuss recent news and issues related to Iranian proxy groups fighting in Syria. By Karl Morand with Phillip Smyth.

Lawfare: Joby Warrick and William McCants at the Hoover Book Soiree
Joby Warrick, author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, and William McCants, author of The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State, discuss their recent books. By Benjamin Wittes with Will McCants and Joby Warrick.


What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters
They’re drawn to the movement for reasons that have little to do with belief in extremist Islam. By Lydia Wilson.

What analysis of the Islamic State’s messaging keeps missing
Countering Islamic State “strategic communications” is one of the most pressing national security concerns facing Western governments. Developing more nuanced understanding of the organization’s communications strategy will be crucial to devising effective counter-narrative strategies. By Haroro Ingram.

ISIS Releases First Propaganda Video in Hebrew
The Islamic State (ISIS) has released its first-ever Hebrew-language video, featuring a masked militant speaking the language fluently and warning that the extremist group will "eradicate" Israel and "no Jew will be left" alive.

French jihadists reveal what life is like in ISIS
The document, named Recruitment, Itinerary and Activities of French Fighters was sent to every magistrate investigating terrorism in the country at the beginning of October.

FBI director: Fewer Americans trying to join Islamic State abroad
FBI Director James Comey says federal law enforcement has seen far fewer Americans try to travel abroad to join the Islamic State in recent months.

Islamic State Ramps up Attacks, But Not Capturing New Ground
Islamic State fighters launched 1,086 attacks between July and September, according to the study by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. That is a 42 percent increase from violence between April and June. However, the attacks haven’t done much to win new territory for the extremists.

Al-Shabaab faction pledges allegiance to ISIS
A high-ranking member and spiritual leader of Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to ISIS, a move that further fractures the Somali-based jihadi group and spreads the reach of ISIS farther into Africa.

Nine killed in shootout between Turkish police and IS suspects
Seven suspected Islamic State jihadists and two Turkish policemen were killed in a gun battle in the Kurdish-majority southeast on Monday, adding to tensions as the deeply divided country goes to the polls at the weekend.


Sweden school attack: police treat killing of pupil and teacher as racist hate crime
Suspect chose his victims at Kronan school in Trollhättan based on the colour of their skin, say police.

13 in Custody in Germany in Possible Plot to Attack Refugees
The police in Bavaria picked up 13 people and seized a cache of weapons, including detonators, in a series of raids that may have disrupted a suspected plot by right-wing extremists to attack some of the refugees now pouring into Germany, the authorities said on Thursday.

Major al Qaeda camp was unknown to U.S. for months
An al Qaeda training camp in southern Afghanistan that was the target of a major raid two weeks ago had been operating since last November -- and the U.S. didn't learn the full details about the site until July, coalition forces said in an email Wednesday.

Hatchet-wielding minor arrested in second attack on NH Planned Parenthood clinic this month
A minor was arrested early on Wednesday after allegedly vandalizing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Claremont, New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

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, October 19, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 10/19/15, ISIS in Afghanistan, Sanafi al Nasr, ISIS Hacker, More


GWU's Project on Extremism will soon launch its massive data-driven study of ISIS in America, an increasingly important topic. Follow them on Twitter, where you can get previews like this:


Afghan ISIS Branch Makes Inroads in Battle Against Taliban
Even as the Taliban are winning major victories against the government this year, including a 15-day takeover of Kunduz, they are not exerting monolithic control.

Malaysia Arrests a Kosovo Hacker Linked to ISIS
The Malaysian authorities have arrested a 20-year-old man who the Justice Department said Thursday ran an Internet hacking ring in Kosovo that provided stolen personal information of more than 1,300 American service members to the Islamic State.

Al-Adnani's paradox: Projecting strength while feeling fear
On October 13, 2015, Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani released a nearly 41-minute audio message. For those who had waited four months to hear the power of his words, al-Adnani’s message was most likely underwhelming. By Daniel Milton and Muhammad al-`Ubaydi.

Religious Scholars Use Social Media To Counter ISIS Interpretation Of Koran
As the military response to the Islamic State heats up, an ideological front is opening against the group. They're using social media to explain why ISIS' interpretation of the Koran is wrong.

More than just beheadings: How the Islamic State sells itself
The Islamic State’s brutality plays derails mainstream understanding of the group and promotes damaging misconceptions in the discourse on radicalization and recruitment. By Charlie Winter.

Iraqi Forces and Shiite Militias Retake Oil Refinery From ISIS
Iraqi forces and the Shiite militias fighting alongside them announced Friday that they had retaken the oil refinery at Baiji from Islamic State militants, in some of the first significant progress against the extremist group after months of stalled efforts.


Iran's Iraqi Shiite Proxies Increase Their Deployment to Syria
Recent online activities show that various Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias have greatly expanded their recruitment efforts in support of the Assad regime, including numerous reports of significant battlefield action. By Phillip Smyth.

Endgames: Improving Our Understanding of Homegrown Terrorism
This article examines how the phenomenon of homegrown terrorism has evolved over the past decade. It argues that there have been significant developments that impact how we conceptualize and study it and offers two suggestions moving forward. By Michael Zekulin.

Each terrorist organization faces a critical tradeoff between effectively managing the organization's violent behavior while remaining secure from counterterrorism efforts. By Brecht Volders.


Leader of Qaeda Cell Killed in Airstrike in Syria, Pentagon Says
A military airstrike in northwest Syria has killed Sanafi al Nasr, the leader of a shadowy Qaeda cell that American officials say has been plotting attacks against the United States and Europe, the Pentagon announced on Sunday.

There’s Just One Problem with Those Bin Laden Conspiracy Theories
They have no factual basis, despite what you may have read in ​​The New York Times Magazine,​ argues the reporter who pieced together the story from dozens of on-the-record interviews. By Mark Bowden.

What the Ankara bombing means for Turkish politics and the West
These explosions arrive on the heels of the ones in Suruç, on the Syrian border across from Kobani in July, and in Diyarbakir just before the general elections in June. What is driving this violence? What are the implications for the West? And, will Turkey be able to come out of it? By Kemal Kirişci.

Care about refugees? Listen to them.
Syrian refugees don’t want to stay in Europe. But unless politicians start listening to why they’re fleeing and what needs to happen for them to go home, many more will come.

Jaish al-Sham: An Ahrar al-Sham Offshoot or Something More?

On October 9, Jaish al-Sham—which is Arabic for the Levant Army, but can also be understood to mean the Syrian Army or the Damascus Army—announced its existence. The name has been used by other groups before it, including one whose leaders eventually slid into the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but they are not related. By Aron Lund.

Anger Spreads With 5 Attacks on Israelis
After a turbulent two weeks, the roiling violence was showing no signs of abating. Seven Israelis have been killed this month by assailants using mostly kitchen knives, but also guns. At least 16 suspected assailants have been shot dead, and more than 20 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.


The Loopcast: Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate’
Charlie Winter continues his research on Islamic State (IS/ISIS) propaganda and discusses his newest paper Documenting the Virtual 'Caliphate'. With Charlie Winter.

Jihadology Podcast: Jihadi Governance 101
Will McCants comes on the show to talk about jihadi governance. The conversation is based on a chapter in his new book The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State.  By Aaron Zelin with Will McCants.

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, October 12, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 10/12/15, ISIS Propaganda, Media and Mass Shooters, and More


Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate’ 
This report illuminates the strategic thinking behind Islamic State’s propaganda machine by examining the content of one full month of its prodigious output. Recommended. By Charlie Winter.

Fishing and ultraviolence
So-called Islamic State is known for its brutality. But it's also hooking people in far subtler ways. By Charlie Winter.


Islamic State molds children into new generation of militants
France's first air strike targeting Islamic State (IS) in Syria is reported to have killed 12 children recruited by the jihadist group. Their deaths have highlighted how the young populations of Syria and Iraq are being moulded into a new generation of militants. By Jessica Stern.

Terrorist Tug-of-War: ISIS and al Qaeda Struggle for al Shabab's Soul
Without a doubt, the self-proclaimed Islamic State is currently the most preeminent global jihadist group in the world. Yet al Qaeda is still fighting for influence, in both the Middle East and Africa. In recent months, the showdown between the two groups has been most apparent in East Africa, where ISIS has attempted, but thus far failed, to convince the al Qaeda–linked Somali militia al Shabab to switch allegiances. By Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens.

The Cyber Activists Who Want to Shut Down ISIS
In August 2014, a Twitter account affiliated with Anonymous, the hacker-crusader collective, declared “full-scale cyber war” against ISIS: “Welcome to Operation Ice #ISIS, where #Anonymous will do it’s [sic] part in combating #ISIS’s influence in social media and shut them down.” By Simon Cottee.

ISIS: Paganism with an Islamic Face?
However effective the group's circus of horrors has been at daunting their enemies and attracting the allegiance of “zealous young men” to ISIS, it reveals an atavistic impulse at play that no amount of Quranic hand-waving can paper over and conceal. By Mark Safranski.

AP Investigation: Nuclear black market seeks IS extremists
At least four times in five years, which criminal networks with suspected Russian ties sought to sell radioactive material to extremists through Moldova, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. One investigation uncovered an attempt to sell bomb-grade uranium to a real buyer from the Middle East, the first known case of its kind.

Family Of French ISIS Fighters Try To Stop Young People From Going To Syria
In a bid to deter young people from traveling to fight in Syria and Iraq, the French government has released interviews detailing the experiences of relatives who have lost loved ones.

Why Is Money Still Flowing to ISIS?
Videos of Islamic State fighters driving brand-name S.U.V.s and pickup trucks in Syria, Iraq and Libya are graphic proof that efforts to squeeze the group financially have not done nearly enough.

Obama Administration Ends Effort to Train Syrians to Combat ISIS
The Obama administration on Friday abandoned its efforts to build up a new rebel force inside Syria to combat the Islamic State, acknowledging the failure of its $500 million campaign to train thousands of fighters and announcing that it will instead use the money to provide ammunition and some weapons for groups already engaged in the battle.

IS exploits Telegram mobile app to spread propaganda
So-called Islamic State group (IS) has shifted its propaganda distribution to the secure mobile messaging app Telegram from Twitter, where its accounts have been repeatedly shut down over the past year.

Islamic State closes in on Syrian city of Aleppo
Islamic State fighters have seized villages close to the northern city of Aleppo from rival insurgents, a monitoring group said on Friday, despite an intensifying Russian air-and-sea campaign that Moscow says has targeted the militant group.

ISIS Takes Responsibility for Bombings in Yemen
The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in Yemen’s two largest cities on Tuesday that killed at least 25 people, including troops from the Persian Gulf who are fighting Yemeni rebels.

Tunisia busts ISIS recruitment cells, arrests 11 suspected recruits
The Tunisian police has broken up three "cells" that were recruiting fighters for ISIS and arrested 11 people suspected of trying to join the militant group in Libya, the Tunisian Ministry of Interior said.

Men arrested in San Diego accused of trying to join Islamic State
A San Diego federal judge Monday ordered two men who were arrested on terrorism charges to be held without bail.

US Officials Ask How ISIS Got So Many Toyota Trucks
U.S. counter-terror officials have asked Toyota, the world’s second largest auto maker, to help them determine how ISIS has managed to acquire the large number of Toyota pick-up trucks and SUVs seen prominently in the terror group’s propaganda videos in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Islamic State figures killed in air strike; Baghdadi not believed among them
Eight senior figures from Islamic State were killed in an air strike while meeting in a town in western Iraq, but the group's reclusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not appear to be among them, residents of the town and hospital sources said.


Turkish Capital Ankara Hit by Explosions, Killing at Least 95
At least 95 people were killed in twin blasts in the Turkish capital on Saturday, as the deadliest terror attack in the country’s modern history laid bare the precarious security environment just three weeks before snap elections.

How the media inspires mass shooters
There is growing evidence that the copycat problem is far more serious than is generally understood. By Mark Follman.

Egypt Begins Surveillance Of Facebook, Twitter, And Skype On Unprecedented Scale
Egyptians’ online communications are now being monitored by the sister company of an American cybersecurity firm, giving the Egyptian government an unprecedented ability to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others.

Intelligence gaps pose challenge for Syrian refugee screening
Top U.S. national security officials said Thursday there are gaps in data available to screen Syrian refugees seeking to come to the U.S.

Baptist Pastor in Bangladesh Survives Knife Attack
A Baptist pastor in Bangladesh has survived a knife attack by three men who had been invited to his home to discuss religion, the police said on Tuesday.


Jihadology Podcast: The Khurasan Group: Myth and Reality
Thomas Joscelyn comes on the show to talk about the so-called “Khurasan group.” Some of the topics covered include: Why the group came into being and when its members arrived in Syria; Who are the key players and what are their backgrounds; What they’ve been up to in Syria and how they relate to Jabhat al-Nusra; and what this group of individuals can tell us about al-Qaeda’s strategy. By Aaron Zelin with Thomas Joscelyn.

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, October 5, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, Double-Issue, 9/25/15 - 10/5/15, Featuring The ISIS Apocalypse


A new book out last week by Brookings Institute scholar William McCants explores how religious fervor, strategic calculation, and doomsday prophecy shaped the Islamic State's past and foreshadow its dark future. Below are a collection of conversations about and excerpts from "The ISIS Apocalypse." We're fired up about this book—get yours here.

How ISIS Got Its Flag
The centuries-old apocalyptic prophecies behind a new symbol of global jihad.

Pay attention when ISIS members call themselves ‘Strangers’—it is meaningful
Jihadists, especially foreigners who travel to fight in distant lands, call themselves “strangers.”

Navigating the Islamic State challenge
William McCants and David Ignatius, of The Washington Post, sat down with Ryan Evans to discuss the origins of the Islamic State and the storm of violence that covers so much of the Middle East today.

Video: The ISIS apocalypse
On September 22, McCants discussed ISIS’ strategy and the future of jihadi terrorism. NPR Counterterrorism Correspondent Dina Temple-Raston moderated the discussion, after which McCants took audience questions.


Syrian Diaspora in the Gulf
Elizabeth Dickinson comes back on the show to discuss the Syrian diaspora in the Gulf. We also talked about the current refugee crisis, and accusations that Gulf states aren't helping as much as they could. By Karl Morand, with Elizabeth Dickinson.

Don't call it a comeback, AQAP's been here for years
Katherine Zimmerman comes on the show to discuss AQAP, from the death of Anwar al-Awlaqi to the implications of Islamic State activity in Yemen on AQAP. By Aaron Zelin, with Katherine Zimmerman.


Fighting ISIS Online
The Islamic State is an Internet phenomenon as much as a military one. Counteracting it will require better tactics on the battlefield of social media. By David Talbot.

Victims, Perpetrators, Assets: The Narratives of Islamic State Defectors
Much has been written about the young men and women who join the Islamic State. We are familiar with their biographies and pathways, backgrounds and motivations. But virtually nothing is known about those who quit: the ‘defectors’ who didn’t like what they saw, abandoned their comrades, and fled the Islamic State. Yet their stories could be key to stopping the flow of foreign fighters, countering the group’s propaganda, and exposing its lies and hypocrisy. By Peter R. Neumann.

Does CVE Work? Lessons Learned from the Global Effort to Counter Violent Extremism
This report provides a brief primer on CVE, which is often criticized for lacking coherence as a field. It reviews publicly available evaluation research on CVE to derive lessons from the past, which pertain to government efforts to engage communities for the purpose of CVE. It then analyses how those evaluations, and related efforts to learn from experience, have impacted the evolution of CVE. By Peter Romaniuk.

Countering Jihadi Radicals and Foreign Fighters in the United States and France: Très Similaire
This article analyzes and compares French and U.S. domestic responses to Jihadi radicalization, placing particular attention on the similarities between the two. By Dorle Hellmuth.


‘Till martyrdom do us part’ 
In Islamic State propaganda, life for women in the self-declared caliphate is filled with love, children and the joys of domestic life, such as an Oreo dessert. But the reality is often far more harsh for women who have moved there from the Arab world, Europe or the United States, according to specialists who monitor Islamic State social media postings. By Kevin Sullivan.

From the Heartland to jihad
How a group of young men from Minnesota were drawn into ISIL’s campaign of terror. By Paul McEnroe, Abby Simons, and Libor Jany.

ISIS Defectors Reveal Disillusionment
A small but growing number of defectors from the Islamic State are risking reprisals and imprisonment to speak out about their disillusionment with the extremist group.

Thousands Enter Syria to Join ISIS Despite Global Efforts
Nearly 30,000 foreign recruits have now poured into Syria, many to join the Islamic State, a doubling of volunteers in just the past 12 months and stark evidence that an international effort to tighten borders, share intelligence and enforce antiterrorism laws is not diminishing the ranks of new militant fighters.

Al-Qaida or Islamic State? Issue Simmers Within Al-Shabab
Somalia's Al-Shabab militants have moved to silence members suspected of pushing the group to switch its main alliance from al-Qaida to the Islamic State extremist group.

Mosul's Vigilante Brigades Risk It All To Take On IS
Their identities are secret. They work after sundown, preferring deserted areas of the city. No one knows where they will strike next. They target different neighborhoods each time. Their mission is simple: to kill Islamic State (IS) militants.

ISIS claims responsibility for killing of Japanese man in Bangladesh
The Islamist extremist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the killing of a Japanese man in Bangladesh, the second fatal attack on a foreign citizen in the South Asian nation in less than a week.

Bangladesh Skeptical of Claims That ISIS Was Behind Shootings of Foreigners
Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Sunday dismissed claims that the Islamic State was behind the fatal shootings of two foreign citizens last week, instead suggesting that the killings may have been the work of homegrown militants aligned with her political opponents in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or B.N.P.

U.S. Aims to Put More Pressure on ISIS in Syria
The American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State has begun preparing to open a major front in northeastern Syria, aiming to put pressure on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s de facto capital, according to military and administration officials.

British Islamic State members facing UN sanctions – profiles
The group includes a 46-year-old former punk musician mother of two, and a former medical student who appeared in Isis propaganda video.

This Is the ISIS Intel the U.S. Military Dumbed Down
The intelligence pros said killing certain ISIS leaders might not diminish the group and that airstrikes might not be working. The bosses didn’t like those answers—not at all.

U.S. Point Man for Global Effort to Defeat the Islamic State Heads for Exit
The Obama administration’s top strategy man for defeating the Islamic State is handing off his duties after an agonizing year of some successes and even more setbacks against the Sunni extremist group that has terrorized much of Iraq and Syria, according to three U.S. officials.


Mass Murderers Fit Profile, as Do Many Others Who Don’t Kill
Weaving a profile of the public mass murderer, drawing on threads that have been identified, can reveal the broad contours of a certain type of individual. But those contours are indistinct enough to apply to countless others — the recluse next door with poor hygiene who never speaks — who will never pick up a gun and go out and murder.

A Look at the Army of Conquest, a Prominent Rebel Alliance in Syria
In the notoriously fluid Syrian conflict, a host of rebel groups are fighting the government and competing for resources, forming and dissolving tactical alliances but rarely making major gains. Against this fractured backdrop, though, a new name — the Army of Conquest — has emerged this year, first with victories on the battlefield and now as a target of Russian intervention.

Viewpoint: West 'walking into abyss' on Syria
Once again, Syria is making the headlines. As tens of thousands of desperate Syrians embark on their perilous journeys towards Europe, policymakers in the West are faced with yet another unintended consequence of their failure to resolutely end a conflict that has now killed more than 250,000 people and displaced 11 million others. By Charles Lister.

Blackfoot man faces terrorism charges after multiple explosive devices found in home
On September 24, 2015 Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland began an investigation of Matthew Burgett based on information obtained through an investigation that this individual was a specific threat to the community and specific religious groups.

4 Students Arrested in Northern California, Suspected of Plotting Killings in High School
Four Northern California high school students have been arrested in connection with what law enforcement officials called a highly detailed plan to shoot and kill fellow students and teachers, just days after a mass shooting on a community college campus in rural Oregon.

Taliban’s New Leader Strengthens His Hold With Intrigue and Battlefield Victory
As acting leader of the Taliban over the past few years, Mullah Mansour closely kept the secret that Mullah Omar had been dead since 2013. And he wielded that edge powerfully, issuing orders in Mullah Omar’s name, moving against rival Taliban commanders and steadily consolidating power, according to Afghan and Taliban officials.

Did a U.S.-Trained Syrian Rebel Commander Defect to al Qaeda?
He says he’s left the Pentagon’s program. His comrades confirm he’s been missing. Al Qaeda says he was theirs all along.

Jihad in the Workplace: Looking back on the Fort Hood Shooting
The November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood remains the most egregious example of homegrown jihadist terrorism in the United States. His attack continues to feed controversy to this day.

Militant group publishes global hitlist of bloggers, activists and writers
The targets in the list include nine bloggers based in the UK, seven in Germany, two in the US, one in Canada and one in Sweden. Some are Bangladeshi citizens living overseas. Others are dual nationals or citizens of the western nations.

Student accused of being a terrorist for reading book on terrorism
A postgraduate student of counter-terrorism was falsely accused of being a terrorist after an official at Staffordshire University had spotted him reading a textbook entitled Terrorism Studies in the college library.

Circuit court remands terrorism case on grounds FBI withheld info of al-Awlaki investigation
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has remanded a post 9/11 terrorism case on the grounds that the FBI withheld evidence of its 2002 investigation into the first American on the CIA's kill or capture list, Anwar al-Awlaki, as well as into a northern Virginia Islamic scholar, according to recently released federal court document.

US judge dismisses 9/11 case against Saudi Arabia
A US judge has dismissed claims against Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks, who accused the country of providing material support to al-Qaeda.

Deadly Car Bombing at Somalia’s Presidential Palace Is Claimed by Shabab
A car loaded with explosives was detonated Monday at the gate of the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing at least four people and wounding a dozen others, witnesses and officials said.

Australian Police Probing Terror Links in Sydney Police Headquarter Shooting
Australian police said on Saturday they believe the shooting of a police worker by a 15-year-old boy in Sydney on Friday was politically motivated and linked to "terrorism".

Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan
A crowded hospital in the embattled city of Kunduz that treats war wounded came under attack on Saturday and the American military acknowledged that it may have killed 19 patients, staff members and others at the facility while firing on insurgents nearby.

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, September 20, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 9/18/15


Jihadology Podcast: Saddam's Regime, From Ba'athism to Salafism
Kyle Orton joins the show to discuss Islam in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, including Salafism in Iraq in the 1990’s and its impact on security, the rise of sectarianism, and more. By Aaron Zelin with Kyle Orton.


Why ISIS fights
Jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria reveal the apocalyptic motivations of the militant movement that has hijacked the Syrian uprising – and transformed the Middle East. By Martin Chulov.

Don’t (Completely) Blame America for Baghdadi
The Western press usually portrays the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as a religious scholar who was radicalized by the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and his later detention in an American prison camp in 2004. That portrayal is wrong. By Will McCants.

Why Putin Wants To Tar IS And All Assad's Enemies With The Same Brush
Russia's conflation of all armed opposition groups with extremist Islamist militants is an integral part of a narrative that has evolved during the Syrian conflict. Its goals are to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power, counter the United States, and maintain influence in the Middle East. By Joanna Paraszczuk.

What a British jihadist's anti-Arab rant tells us about life in the so-called Islamic State
A British fighter for so-called Islamic State has penned what seems to be a racially charged rant against Arabs - providing a surprising glimpse into tensions inside IS-held areas of Syria.

Analysts Detail Claims That Reports on ISIS Were Distorted
A group of intelligence analysts have provided investigators with documents they say show that senior military officers manipulated the conclusions of reports on the war against the Islamic State, according to several government officials, as lawmakers from both parties voiced growing anger that they may have received a distorted picture about the military campaign’s progress.


Al-Qa`ida plays a long game in Syria
Jabhat al-Nusra is currently one of the most powerful and influential armed actors in Syria. Ultimately, however, the group is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It aims to establish durable roots in an unstable environment from which al-Qa`ida’s transnational ambitions may one day be launched. By Charles Lister.

Drone Strike That Killed Awlaki 'Did Not Silence Him,' Journalist Says
After his death, Awlaki's Internet publications were said to have inspired the perpetrators of the Fort Hood shooting, the Boston Marathon bombings and the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris. Featuring Scott Shane. 

Iran Released Top Members of Al Qaeda in a Trade
The government of Iran released five senior members of Al Qaeda earlier this year, including the man who stepped in to serve as the terrorist group’s interim leader immediately after Osama bin Laden’s death, and who is the subject of a $5 million bounty, according to an American official who had been briefed on the matter.

Feds name Dylann Roof's friend as target in Charleston investigation
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbia has notified an associate of Dylann Roof that he is a “potential target” of a federal criminal investigation concerning the June killings of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church.

MI5 chief calls for more up-to-date surveillance powers
The head of MI5, Andrew Parker, has called for more up-to-date surveillance powers and said tech companies had an ethical responsibility to provide more help in monitoring the communications of suspected terrorists and paedophiles.


Assessing Al-Qa`ida Central's resilience
Al-Qa`ida “Central” in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region is not yet dead, although its reclusiveness in the face of losses since late 2014 complicates assessment of its remaining strength and capabilities, particularly the leadership structure under Ayman al-Zawahiri. By Barbara Sude.

Online terrorism and online laws
Terrorist and extremist movements have long exploited mass communications technology in pursuit of their political ends. This paper will analyse the responses to extremist uses of the internet, with an emphasis upon legal responses – “online laws”. By Clive Walker & Maura Conway.

AQAP: A Resurgent Threat
Al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is one of the few beneficiaries of Yemen’s collapse into civil war. It now governs one of the country’s three major ports and has expanded its operations in Yemen, benefiting from a larger recruiting pool. The affiliate remains al-Qa`ida’s greatest direct threat to the United States and it is growing stronger. By Katherine Zimmerman.

Political radicalization on the Internet: Extremist content, government control, and the power of victim and jihad videos
The role of the internet in radicalizing individuals to extremist action is much discussed but remains conceptually and empirically unclear.  By Tom Holt, Joshua D. Freilich, Steven Chermak & Clark McCauley.

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, September 13, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief 9/12/15, Zawahiri, New Research, and More

Zawahiri Re-emerges, With a Fatally Flawed Message 

Zawahiri: ISIS Is Illegitimate But Let's Cooperate

Zawahiri urges jihadists to unite, confront West

Al Qaeda released two new audio recordings of its leader, Ayman al Zawahiri. Both were months old and urged jihadis to reject the legitimacy of the Islamic State based on the binding nature of their previous pledge of allegiance to Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban.

Unfortunately, for Zawahiri, in between the time these messages were recorded and their release, the Taliban revealed that Mullah Omar had been dead for three years, fatally undercutting the primary logic of this argument. Al Qaeda's decision to release these messages in light of subsequent developments is baffling, especially considering Zawahiri had in the interim release a message acknowledging Omar's death.

Although the call to Mullah Omar's authority was the dominant message in the releases, the audio could easily have been edited to remove references that make Zawahiri look either clueless (if he didn't know Omar was dead) or complicit in the Taliban's three-year lie. More importantly, the invocation of Omar was the lynchpin of Zawahiri's argument against the Islamic State, and almost its entirety. Given that Omar was dead when Baghdadi claimed the title of caliph, it is clear that the main thrust of Zawahiri's case for al Qaeda is null and void. Jihadis can continue to stay with al Qaeda out of preference, and some certainly will, but preference is fickle, and it is not currently trending in al Qaeda's favor. If the global competition over the direction of the jihadi movement will now boil down to a popularity contest, al Qaeda needs a new public face, and fast.

None of this reflects particularly well on either Zawahiri or his underlings who published the message, and it is increasingly difficult to see how the al Qaeda emir can maintain his status as purported leader of a global jihadist movement that is either rejecting him, in the case of the Islamic State, or rendering him irrelevant, as in the case of al Qaeda's more successful affiliates in Yemen and Syria, which are far more robust and relevant than their parent organization.

-- J.M. Berger


The Road to Representivity
While social media platforms offer powerful new ways of understanding society, they are often researched poorly, with little examination of the extent to which insights are representative of social media users or wider society. By Carl Miller, Steve Ginnis, Rowena Stobart, Alex Krasodomski-Jones, and Michael Clemence.

One to One Online Interventions: A pilot CVE methodology
This project was carried out in order to assess the viability of a methodology for direct intervention with those at risk of falling into the orbit of violent extremist organizations. By Ross Frenett and Moli Dow.

A logic-based approach to understanding lone-actor terrorism
This paper proposes a method based on transforming characteristic and behavioural codes into a logic program and applying inductive logic programming to learn hypotheses about potentially relevant factors associated with terrorist behaviour, as well as the influence of specific factors on such behaviour. By Dalal Alrajeh and Paul Gill.


An American family saved their son from joining the Islamic State. Now he might go to prison.
Fifteen months after Asher Abid Khan turned back from joining the group, in May 2015, the FBI charged Khan with conspiracy and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. Instead of life inside the caliphate, Khan, now faces up to 30 years in prison. By Adam Goldman.

Can the Islamic State hijack September 11 from Zawahiri’s al Qaeda?
What better way to snub Zawahiri than to hijack ownership of the group’s most celebrated attack?  The Islamic State might do this in two ways. By Clint Watts.

U.S. Revamping Rebel Force Fighting ISIS in Syria
In an acknowledgment of severe shortcomings in its effort to create a force of moderate rebels to battle the Islamic State in Syria, the Pentagon is drawing up plans to significantly revamp the program by dropping larger numbers of fighters into safer zones as well as providing better intelligence and improving their combat skills.

Florida man accused of bomb plot at 9/11 memorial, FBI says
Joshua Ryne Goldberg of Orange Park, Florida, has been charged with distribution of information relating to explosive, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida said Thursday in a news release.

Youth arrested on terrorism charges had cell number for Couture-Rouleau
The teenager from western Montreal currently on trial for allegedly preparing to leave Canada to take part in terrorist activity abroad communicated with Martin Couture-Rouleau dozens of times before the latter killed a Canadian soldier in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu last year.

The battle to retake Ramadi is going nowhere
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces­ are struggling to make headway in their battle to retake the western city of Ramadi, highlighting shortcomings in Washington’s strategy to counter Islamic State militants.

Islamic State conflict: Two Britons killed in RAF Syria strike
Two British Islamic State jihadists who died in Syria were killed by an RAF drone strike, David Cameron has said.

Turned in by mother, 21-year-old pleads guilty to ISIS charges
The 21-year-old was arrested by the FBI in June with several friends—including a former classmate from Fort Lee High School who had converted him from Judaism to Islam.


Extremism Grows in Yemen’s Civil War
In mid-June, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced the assassination of its leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi in a drone strike on the city of al-Mukalla. This is the most severe blow suffered by AQAP since its establishment by Wuhayshi and Saudi member Said al-Shahri in 2009. By Farea Al-Muslimi.

Minneapolis Fighting Terror Recruitment
Federal prosecutors and some leaders among the region’s large Somali population announced about $1 million in funding for programs meant to combat just that type of radicalization.

Taliban’s New Leader in Afghanistan Moves to Quash Dissent
In one of the first tests of his leadership, the head of Afghanistan’s Taliban militants is moving aggressively against a breakaway faction in the south of the country, according to Afghan and Taliban officials.

Russian hacker group exploits satellites to steal data, hide tracks
A group of sophisticated Russian-speaking hackers is exploiting commercial satellites to siphon sensitive data from diplomatic and military agencies in the United States and in Europe as well as to mask their location, a security firm said in a new report.

In Britain, teachers learn how to tackle extremists
As teachers in Britain return to school this month, they have a new legal obligation to keep an eye out for potential extremists.

Extremist Zack Davies jailed after trying to behead Asian dentist in Tesco as 'revenge for Lee Rigby'
Zack Davies, 26, shouted, "White power", "This is revenge" and "This is for Lee Rigby", as he launched the savage attack on 24-year-old Sikh Dr Sarandev Bhambra.

Russia Said to Get Iran's Clearance for Syria-Bound Flights
Iran has granted permission for Russian planes to fly over its territory en route to Syria, Russian news agencies said Wednesday, a bypass needed after Bulgaria refused overflights amid signs of a Russian military buildup in Syria that has concerned the U.S. and NATO.

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


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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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

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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

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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 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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