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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

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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", 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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