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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

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


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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", granular analysis..."

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

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

"...a timely warning..."

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

More on Jihad Joe


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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