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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Friday, July 10, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 7/10/2015: July 4 Threats, ISIS Media Analysis and More

Every year, starting in late June, the same alarm goes out. Officials express heightened concerns about terrorist attacks on Fourth of July celebrations, but they take pains to mention the warning is not based on specific intelligence or a specific threat. This year was no different: The week leading up to Independence Day was filled with dire warnings about how this year represented the worst “threat environment” since September 11th, how, in the words of Matt Olsen, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, “this time is different.”

But every year, including “this time,” seems the same: Vigilance is urged, police are deployed, people tell an endless procession of television cameras that they’re going to the fireworks anyway, and then on July 5, everyone moves on.

Read the latest from J.M. Berger for Politico


The Virtual ‘Caliphate’: Understanding Islamic State’s Propaganda Strategy
It is not enough to understand Islamic State propaganda simply in terms of its ‘high-production value’ and ‘professionalism’. Moving beyond its eye-catching cinematography, this paper looks at the heart of the group’s media machine. Below, the organisation’s messaging operation will be dismantled into its constituent parts and assessed systematically by applying the 1958 theory of propaganda laid down by French philosopher Jacques Ellul in his book, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, to the author’s archive of Islamic State propaganda gathered between June 2014 and June 2015. By Charlie Winter.

What can we learn from the life histories of lone wolves?
Recent terrorist attacks and interrupted plots have pushed the threat of lone actor terrorism to the forefront of national security across the world. Like most terrorist tactics or strategies, lone actor terrorism diffused easily across ideological domains with many different ideological movements espousing the strategic need for operatives to act alone. By Paul Gill.

The Tunisian-Libyan Jihadi Connection
It should have come as no surprise that Seifeddine Rezgui, the individual that attacked tourists in Sousse, Tunisia more than a week ago, had trained at a camp in Libya. The attack represented the continuation of a relationship between Tunisian and Libyan militants that, having intensified since 2011, goes back to the 1980s. The events in Sousse are a stark reminder of this relationship: a connection that is set to continue should The Islamic State (IS) choose to repeat attacks in Tunisia in the coming months. By Aaron Zelin


This Is How the Islamic State Manufactures Child Militants
Ever since Islamist rebels newly in control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria declared themselves the Islamic State (IS) last year, children have featured prominently in the group's infamous propaganda. Videos like these, along with information gathered from children who have escaped IS, suggest kids are being subjected to a systematic process of indoctrination as they're trained by the group to be fully fledged militants. They are what IS calls the ashbal, or "lion cubs," and upon completion of their training, children are deployed on and off the front lines. They act as fighters and guards, recruiters and bomb makers. And if the world hopes to one day entertain the idea of rehabilitating these children, the world must first understand how they are being groomed for such horrors. By John Horgan and Mia Bloom

Man convicted of aiding Islamic State found with box cutter
A Minnesota man living at a halfway house while awaiting sentencing on a terror charge was returned to custody in April after a box cutter was found under his bed, according to a court document filed Monday.

Minnesota’s Somali-Americans Urge New Treatment for Would-Be Terrorists
The issue of how to deradicalize young people attracted to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has become increasingly important here and in many other communities where recruitment by militant Islamic groups, often done online, has led to arrests.

This Man Is The Leader In ISIS’s Recruiting War Against Al-Qaeda In Yemen
AQAP has been dodging U.S. drones for years, but the challenge from ISIS on its jihadi right is new and is being spearheaded by a man who goes by the name of Abu Bilal al-Harbi, who BuzzFeed News has identified as the top ISIS commander in Yemen. By Gregory Johnsen

The Women Who Secretly Keep ISIS Running
The U.S. military campaign against self-proclaimed Islamic State may be focused on the male fighters conducting attacks across Iraq and Syria. But the richest human intelligence source to fall into U.S. hands to date is the widow of a senior ISIS member. She is revealing details about the terror group’s inner workings—including the existence of a parallel women’s network within ISIS that’s responsible for recruitment, retention, intelligence, and sexual slavery in the so-called caliphate.

Crowdsourced Jihad: A New Framework for Understanding ISIS Plots Against the West
ISIS is taking work traditionally performed by “employees” (aka card-carrying members) and issuing an open call for individuals outside the organization to carry it out. Call it crowd-sourcing. By Mitchell Silber

'My dad doesn't want to be in Syria with Islamic State'
A grandfather - who joined Islamic State in Syria with 11 other family members of his family - is being held against his will after being "tricked" into going, his son has told ITV News.

ISIS offers a mix of brutality, charity during Ramadan
The double approach reflects the policy that the extremist group has followed ever since it overran large parts of the two countries and declared a “caliphate” in its territory last year. It has sought to build public support by providing services and acting as a functioning government, even as it imposes its strict version of Islamic law through violence.


New AQAP leader renews allegiance to the ‘beloved father,’ Ayman al Zawahiri
Qasim al Raymi has released his first audio message as the new emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al Raymi became the head of AQAP after his predecessor, Nasir al Wuhayshi, was killed in a US drone strike in mid-June.

White Supremacists Extend Their Reach Through Websites
In late June, as much of the nation mourned the killing of nine parishioners in a Charleston, S.C., church, The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, was busy posting articles on a different issue: black crime against white people.

Tenn. Political Candidate Charged in Plot to Burn N.Y. Mosque
Robert R. Doggart, a former candidate for Congress in Tennessee, was charged Tuesday with plotting to burn down a mosque in a New York town with a large Muslim population.

Islamic Battalions, Stocked With Chechens, Aid Ukraine in War With Rebels
Even for Ukrainians hardened by more than a year of war here against Russian-backed separatists, the appearance of Islamic combatants, mostly Chechens, in towns near the front lines comes as something of a surprise — and for many of the Ukrainians, a welcome one.

White Supremacists on Kik
Inside the lightning-fast, wildly absurd, occasionally terrifying world of app-based teenage white supremacy.

Before Obama: A brief, awkward history of Whac-a-Mole metaphors and the U.S. military
After delivering a statement on the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State, President Obama took two questions Monday from the press corps at the Pentagon. Asked whether he would boost the size of the U.S. force fighting the militants in Iraq to more than 3,000, he relied on an old comparison.

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
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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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