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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Friday, May 1, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 5/1/2015


Much has been made about the crumbling momentum of the Islamic State, aka ISIS or ISIL, on the ground in Iraq and Syria, and while it has compensated in various ways for the military challenges it faces, there has also been a shift in its public profile, sparked in part by some welcome introspection in the media about how to cover ISIS's atrocities, but also by a significant number of competing news stories and overall media fatigue -- the public, and some in the media, are starting to adapt to and push back on ISIS's strategy of escalating atrocities.

Developments relevant to al Qaeda in Yemen have also amplified interest in ISIS's primary competitor, although at a far lower level than produced by the Charlie Hebdo attack in January.

Chief among the competing stories is the unrest in Baltimore. A useful observation here is that Web searches for Baltimore on any given normal week far outstrip searches for either al Qaeda or ISIS on any given week, even when interest in ISIS was at its peak. Normal life in a major American city trumps jihadist showmanship for interest in all but the most extreme circumstances, and certainly on every day for the past year.


American Charged With Islamic State Ties Contacted Jamaica Cleric: US Official
An American woman arrested last month for trying to travel to Syria to join the militant group Islamic State was in touch with a Abdullah al Faisal, an Islamist preacher from Jamaica who has pledged loyalty to ISIS, a federal law enforcement official said. Faisal, who was the spiritual leader behind the now-defunct Revolution Muslim, is one of the important figures in English-language radicalization and specifically the radicalization of Americans, comparable in many ways to the more notorious Anwar al Awlaki.

Islamic State has killed over 2,000 off battlefield since June: monitor
Ultra-radical Islamic State insurgents have killed at least 2,154 people off the battlefield in Syria since the end of June when the group declared a caliphate in territory it controls, a Syrian human rights monitor said on Tuesday.

Where the Islamic State Gets Its Weapons
An investigator has found evidence suggesting that the Islamic State had obtained weapons flowing into Syria from East Africa.

3,000 More Foreign Jihadists Join ISIS
Foreign fighters from around the globe continue to pour into Iraq and Syria to join up with the self-proclaimed Islamic State—despite ISIS’s loss of two major cities, four U.S. and military officials told The Daily Beast.

Man ordered held after alleged threats in Islamic State case
A Minneapolis man was ordered detained Wednesday after authorities say he got angry and used his Twitter account to threaten law enforcement officers after some of his close friends were arrested for allegedly trying to join the Islamic State group in Syria.

Saudi Arabia Says It Foiled Attack on U.S. Embassy, Arrested ISIS Supporters
Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it has arrested a total of 93 people with ties to the ISIS in recent months, foiling their plans to carry out multiple terrorist attacks which included a strike on the U.S. embassy.


An ultra-nationalist Russian biker gang is invading Europe, and Poland isn’t happy
Not many motorbike groups can claim to have a head of state as a supporter, but the case of Russia's Night Wolves is an exception. President Vladimir Putin has publicly embraced the group.

German police thwart Boston-style plot to bomb cycle race
German police overnight thwarted a terrorist plot by a radicalized couple, a plan they suspect involved bombing a bicycle race near Frankfurt.

The Death of Rustum Ghazaleh
While the precise reasons and results of his demise are impossible to judge, this curious affair has been a rude shock to supporters of President Bashar al-Assad—and the mysteries of Ghazaleh’s death are sure to fuel speculation for years to come.

Chad: A precarious counterterrorism partner
The Republic of Chad is building a reputation as a leading African state in the fight against terrorism.

How Al Qaeda's Syrian Affiliate Jabhat al Nusra Is Trying To Take Northern Lebanon
As Nusra has made incursions into Lebanon, it has repeatedly asserted that its sole focus is Syria, its goal to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. But the al Qaeda affiliate's handling of Abu Omar’s death has opened a window onto a counternarrative: that Nusra may have designs on wider slices of Lebanon and ultimately seeks to create a Sunni emirate that would sprawl across Syria and reach the Mediterranean.

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

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

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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

More on Jihad Joe


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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