The woman, identified only as Hoda, agreed to a series of interviews with BuzzFeed from Raqqa, Syria – the de facto Islamic State capital. Her father, a Yemeni native identified as Mohammed said that his daughter was "brainwashed" by IS.
A series of Tweets from Hoda's Twitter account call for other Americans to join the Islamic State and commit terrorist attacks in the United States.
On March 19 she tweeted: "Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriot, Memorial etc Day parades..go on drive by's + spill all of their blood or rent a big truck n drive all over them. Kill them."
Even though Hoda had always practiced Islam, she grew more religious over the 18 months before her departure to Syria. She attributed her radicalization in part to scholars and Islamic interpretations that she found on the Internet, including lectures about Islam on YouTube.
"I started getting interested in my deen [religious life] around 2012," Hoda told BuzzFeed. "I felt like my life was so bland without it. Life has much more meaning when u know why ur here."
Her father said he was proud of Hoda's increased devotion to Islam, but claims that he "didn't know she's going to go that far" and join IS.
Hoda said she started planning to move to Syria around November 2013.
"I dressed and behaved more modestly…It helped me with my temper and made me a better person overall. They [her parents] liked the change until they saw me getting 'jihadi,'" said Hoda.
In a phone call, Hoda told her father she left for Syria because she believed every true Muslim had to travel to the Islamic State if they wanted to reach heaven, and she encouraged her parents to join her.
Six Somali-American men from Minnesota were charged Monday with conspiring to provide support for IS and planning to join the terrorist organization. U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said that the men devoted significant efforts in the past year to reach Syria.
"These were not confused young men, they were not easily influenced," Luger said. "These were focused young men who were intent on joining a terrorist organization."
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas awarded medals to the first male and female jailed Fatah members and the group's first "martyred" terrorist, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports.
The awards came in advance of today's "Palestinian Prisoners Day."
Fatima Bernawi was the first woman in Fatah jailed for terrorist activity, an article posted Thursday on Fatah's Egyptian website said.
According to the MEMRI translation: "Bernawi was arrested in October 1967 after she placed a bomb in the Zion Cinema in Jerusalem. She was sentenced to life in prison, but was released after ten years… Bernawi was one of the first Palestinian women to adopt [the means of] armed self-sacrifice operations after the start of the modern Palestinian revolution, which was launched by Fatah on January 1, 1965."
Abbas also issued a medal honoring Ahmad Moussa Salama, who was killed while conducting Fatah's first terrorist attack on Israel's National Water Carrier – the day Fatah considers the start of "the modern Palestinian revolution" in 1965.
That attack took place two years before Israel assumed control of the West Bank and Gaza following the Six Day War. So if it was intended as a blow against Israeli "occupation," it shows that the PLO/Fatah considered all of Israel "occupied territory" that needed to be "liberated." While the PA insists it has abandoned its goal of destroying the Jewish state, honoring terrorists who worked toward that goal calls that commitment into question.
And it comes two months after a New York jury found the PA liable for $218 million in damages for attacks which killed and wounded Americans during the second Intifada. U.S. anti-terrorism law automatically tripled that award to $655 million. Among the exhibits admitted into evidence were PA financial records showing that it continues to pay employees jailed by Israel on terror charges and continues to provide money for families of terrorists killed carrying out attacks against Israelis.
One 2002 report sent to the PA's General Intelligence Service chief praised a West Bank terror squad for its "high quality successful attacks." The squad's "men are very close to us (i.e. to the General Intelligence) and maintain with us continuous coordination and contacts," the report said.
Longtime PLO Chairman and founding PA President Yasser Arafat's handwritten consent appears on PA documents detailing the payments to the terrorists and their families that later were seized by Israeli military forces.
The Hamas leadership in Gaza has been unable to rebuild any of the homes destroyed in last summer's war with Israel, but the terrorist group has had little trouble using heavy machinery to restore its vast tunnel networks that can be used in future attacks.
Reconstruction of Gaza has "barely begun," the Associated Press reports. At least the above-ground kind.
Underground, small bulldozers are busy restoring damaged tunnels, using "whatever cement [Hamas] can get its hands on," the Times of Israel reports.
Hamas has been diverting cement and construction material intended for civilian rebuilding efforts.
Israeli security officials confirmed that the terrorist group was digging tunnels at a rapid pace and trying to produce many short-range rockets in an effort to minimize interception by the Iron Dome defense system and cause maximum destruction against Israeli communities.
Iran sent Hamas tens of millions of dollars to help reconstitute the group's terrorist infrastructure, the Telegraph reported earlier this month. As news of a framework deal concerning Iran's nuclear program emerged, the Islamic Republic reportedly increased arms shipments to its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hizballah.
A political fight with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has hindered Gaza's civilian reconstruction projects, the Times of Israel report said. Tens of thousands of Palestinians reportedly still live in tents, schools and other forms of temporary housing.
Their welfare appears to be a secondary concern, however, as available cash and supplies are steered into the Hamas terror infrastructure.
These actions are consistent with other Hamas actions and statements, all of which point more toward a build-up for another confrontation with Israel rather than any concern for improving the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) issued a report this week summarizing the multi-faceted, yet singularly focused effort to gear up for the next war. Read it here.
A year ago, he wanted to join the U.S. Army to kill his fellow soldiers. When that didn't work, 20-year-old John T. Booker repeatedly expressed his desire to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or commit a suicide attack in the United States on the terrorist group's behalf.
Booker, a convert to Islam who changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, said American soldiers are enemies to Muslims, and the Quran sanctions killing enemies anywhere.
FBI agents arrested Booker Friday morning just outside Fort Riley, a military base near Manhattan, Kan. He was driving a van loaded with what he thought was 1,000 pounds of explosives. In fact, the bomb was rendered inert by FBI agents and informants. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to blow up government property and providing material support to the Islamic State.
In conversations with an FBI informant, Booker repeatedly expressed his intent to kill. "I will kill any kuffar. I will follow any place ... if I was with [the Islamic State] and they said look, we are going to the White House right now ... I would go with them without any question," he said in November.
He was rejected by the Army in March 2014, after someone alerted authorities to Facebook posts extolling violent jihad and expressing his desire to kill American soldiers. "I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I'm going to wage jihad and hopes that I die." In another post the same month, he said: "Getting ready to be killed in jihad is a HUGE adrenaline rush!!! I am so nervous. NOT because I'm scared to die but I am eager to meet my lord."
Booker told FBI agents at that time he wanted to enlist "to commit an insider attack against American soldiers like Major Nidal Hassan had done at Fort Hood, Texas."
For reasons that aren't clear, Booker was left alone until October, when an informant started talking with him. Booker suggested several ideas for terrorist attacks, mentioning Fort Riley as an attractive target "because the post is famous and there are a lot of soldiers stationed there."
He also said "he wanted to see the fear in the kuffar's eyes as he pushed the button and they ran for their lives," the criminal complaint filed Friday said.
Last month, Booker said he wanted to emulate a suicide truck bombing by an American known as "Jihadi Joe." Booker bought supplies to make a car-bomb from a list the informants provided. He made two martyrdom videos, including one in which he gave his bayah [pledge of allegiance] to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and urged Muslims to support them.
The other video, recorded Wednesday, shows Booker describing his 1,000-pound ammonium nitrate bomb. "Inshallah, this will kill many kuffar [nonbelievers]. This message is to you America. You sit in your homes and you think that this war is just over in Iraq . . . we today we will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep. You think this is just a game ... when this bomb blows up and kills as many kuffar as possible, maybe then you'll realize it."
Agents arrested him just outside Fort Riley, at a little-used gate Booker thought would get him onto the base.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Van Haften has been in custody in Turkey since October, however, and his criminal complaint remained sealed until he was sent back to the United States.
According to an FBI affidavit, Van Haften wanted to travel to into Syria via Turkey to wage jihad with ISIL forces. Turkey's 248-mile open border with Syria provides an attractive point of entry for several jihadi wannabes seeking to join the Islamic State.
Van Haften posted and "liked" radical comments on his Facebook page, the affidavit said. While in Turkey last October, he posted, "It's calling, I can smell it's [sic] perfume! Allah!!!" The post linked to a "Tour of Jannah Paradise video" by now-deceased radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki. The video "describes what paradise looked like for worthy Muslims who went there in the afterlife." Awlaki's teachings have inspired several Westerners to wage terrorist attacks.
Van Haften was also Facebook "friends" with extremists, including Adouw At-Taghout who lived in Raqqah, Syria, an ISIL stronghold. At-Taghout posted a photo showing the Islamic State's beheading of American journalist James Foley. Haften commented on the post: "Yet, their cursed secular laws are worse than the laws of Islam, and they want to say Shari'ah is worse than their secular laws. A bunch of morons sucking on melons ... If the goddam Americans and sons of satan, Israeil [sic] wanna mutilate the dead, s*** we get an eye for an eye fool. Grow a set of nuts! Climb that f***in tree and getcha some."
Van Haften left for Turkey last August but ran out money and his jihadi handlers abandoned him before he could meet up with the Islamic State. He complained in a Facebook post: "And all the boys supposed to help me wanted money too! And I didn't have anything left as the man who was supposed to help me cross for free as he supposedly help those on the path to mujahideen wanted my last lira. So when these young brothers took me into the country dropped me off telling me someone was gonna come & I waited 3 hours with no one showing up in the middle of nowhere." Another man who was "totally against Dawlah" [a reference to the Islamic State], helped fund Haften's way back into Turkey.
If convicted, Van Haften could face a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
President Obama's view that internal strife threatens the stability of America's Persian Gulf allies more than a threat from Iran are sparking angry reactions, Gulfnews reports.
In an interview with the New York Times published Sunday, Obama said Gulf States do face external threats, but their internal problems may be more significant. They come from "populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances…I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It is going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries."
These remarks are not being well received by Gulf citizens.
"The problem with the US is that it wants to decide for us who our friend is and who our foe is … It also wants to decide when we should destroy one another and who should reconstruct what has been destroyed. We are treated like political adolescents," posted a blogger online.
Other bloggers alluded to their belief that the United States abandons its allies in the region and that the U.S. is no longer an ally of Gulf countries. One blogger went as far as to describe Obama as "an ambassador for Iran."
However, some bloggers supported the president's comments concerning societal level problems in the Gulf.Nevertheless, the strong reactions coming from active bloggers shed some important light onto the perception of U.S. Middle East policy and attitudes from key countries and strategic partners based in the Gulf
At least 100 Islamist teachers and teaching assistants implicated in last year's "Trojan Horse" teaching scandal in Birmingham, England may face lifetime teaching bans.
Last June, the U.K.'s Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) found evidence that hardline Islamists had attempted to take control of some state schools. The report found that staff and headteachers felt "intimidated," "undermined" or bullied into making changes they opposed.
Some headteachers with records of improving classroom standards were either marginalized or forced out of their jobs. In some cases, teachers faced unfair treatment due to their gender or religious beliefs.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), which oversees teachers in the U.K. and has the authority to ban them, is reviewing 30 cases, but as many as 100 teachers and assistants may be targeted.
The Sunday Times reports that NCTL obtained dossiers on some of those educators from the U.K.'s Department of Education. The dossiers reportedly contain information from the "Trojan Horse" investigation, which found a "co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action" by a number of individuals who sought to introduce an "intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos" into selected Birmingham schools.
Abusive practices, such as forcing students at Park View Academy, one of the Birmingham schools targeted by last year's inquiry, to kneel on tiles in "stress positions" were observed by British investigators. NCTL investigators also found that an IT technician at Park View used school equipment to copy a video containing "typical Al-Qaeda footage, in which the individuals had their faces obscured with scarves and were holding guns."
Students found to be dating each other were sent to an "isolation unit, where they work in individual booths of silence." Designated senior students, known as prefects, were told to report romantic relationships between students to senior staff.
More than 50 Park View teachers – called the Park View Brotherhood – exchanged as many as 3,000 messages in a WhatsApp group that included offensive comments about British soldiers and claimed that Lee Rigby's murder and the Boston bombings were hoaxes. The messages also discussed segregating boys and girls.
Britain's home minister Theresa May recently called for stronger measures against Islamic extremism in U.K. schools.
"The allegations relating to schools in Birmingham raise serious questions about the quality of school governance and oversight arrangements," May said. "How did it come to pass, for example, that one of the governors at Park View was the chairman of the educational committee of the Muslim Council of Britain? Is it true that Birmingham city council was warned about these allegations in 2008? Is it true that the Department of Education was warned in 2010? If so, why did nobody act?"
U.S. and Iranian officials have described last week's framework for a deal to slow Iran's nuclear weapons program with disturbingly different details. According to a Times of Israel report Tuesday, the U.S. account also differs significantly with a key ally – France.
The proposed deal lets Iran continue to develop use advanced centrifuges which could allow for uranium enrichment as much as 20 times faster than the Islamic Republic's current technology. After 12 years, Iran can actually resume enriching uranium, which the newspaper reported "would enable Iran to more rapidly accumulate the highly enriched uranium needed to build nuclear weapons, accelerating its breakout time to the bomb." The source is an internal French government fact-sheet which the newspaper was able to review, but which has not been released publicly.
That timeline, however, dovetails with an acknowledgment President Obama made this week in an interview with National Public Radio. Iran's "break-out" time to make a bomb could shrink "almost down to zero" by year 13 after any final deal is negotiated, Obama said.
It's a concern shared by Olli Heinonen, a former senior nuclear proliferation watchdog for the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has yet to fully acknowledge the depth of its nuclear weapons program, Heinonen told the Times of Israel. The proposed agreement leaves Iran "a threshold breakout nuclear state for the next 10 years."
That, he predicted, would trigger a regional nuclear arms race that the agreement was supposed to help avoid.
U.S. and Iranian negotiators have until the end of June to hammer out a final agreement.
Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari identified six terms in the proposed agreement in which the United States and Iran have offered different assessments. Among them: Iran believes it stands to secure immediate relief from crippling economic sanctions, while the U.S. says that relief comes in phases as various commitments are met. In addition, Iran believes it can continue to use the Fordo underground uranium enrichment plant for developing centrifuges, while the U.S. says no enrichment could take place there for 15 years.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz briefed reporters Monday on recommendations which could lead to "a more reasonable agreement." The Fordow plant must be shut down entirely, inspectors must be able to make unannounced visits "anywhere, anytime" and development of new centrifuges must be prohibited, he said.
U.S. officials expressed little interest in pushing for those recommendations. "We believe that this is the best deal that can emerge from these negotiations," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told Israeli television.
Read the full interview in which Olli Heinonen details his concerns here.
Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), a United Kingdom-based radical Islamist front organization, is openly bragging about its close relationship with both the Tory and Labour political parties, the UK's Telegraph reports. The group's chief executive, Sufyan Islamil, characterizes MEND as "kingmaker" in the May election, claiming to influence up to 30 seats.
In a speech at Bolton's Zakariyya Central Mosque, Ismail compared British Jews fighting for the Israeli military with British Muslims fighting for Syrian rebels, including the Islamic State.
"…British Muslims going to Syria fighting against Assad…will definitely face interrogation. Now do you think that if we landed those 20 seats or 30 seats he [Prime Minister Cameron] would have the audacity to say that (foreign fighters should be prosecuted] to the Muslim community? Not a chance!"
MEND has also been designated as an "official partner" by the Electoral Commission for the election, allowing the group to promise its radical and anti-democratic agenda.
Ismail also claimed that the group is in the process of negotiating with the leadership of the major parties.
"Right now, we are negotiating with the Labour leadership, we are negotiating with the Tory leadership and insh'allah [God willing] will start with the Lib Dem leadership as well, where we have a list of manifesto pledges…the Muslim vote is worth ten ordinary votes because… we are heavily concentrated in a few areas," Ismail said.
He added that "anybody who can give any one party 10, 20, 30 seats, like we can, they have to listen to you."
A prominent Muslim figure repeatedly offered a Tory candidate significant contributions if the candidate subscribed to the group's "Muslim Manifesto." At least 10 Labour and Conservative members of Parliament (MPs) attended an event commemorating the manifesto's launch.
The group's manifesto advocates for the infiltration of Islamists in the British government and calls for the criminal prohibition of "insulting" Islam.
Ismail accuses British society of anti-Muslim racism and alleges that Islamophobic attacks surpass all other hate crimes. However, anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased less than most other hate crimes, including anti-Semitic and homophobic crimes, including on per capita basis.
Azad Ali, MEND's director of engagement, has called for the death of British soldiers and praised the late American-born al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki. Ali also stated that, "Democracy, if it means that, you know, at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that."
MEND also promotes radical Islamist figures including extremist preacher Haitham al-Haddad, who calls for the implementation of sharia law and refers to democracy as "filthy."
Islamic State supporters published two English-language ebooks online last weekend, advising potential recruits how to evade detection. One, How to Survive in the West: A Mujahid Guide (2015), advises potential jihadis in Europe how to form sleeper cells. Hijrah to the Islamic State: What to Pickup, Who to Contact, Where to Go, Stories and More! targets potential recruits seeking to join them in Syria.
The foreword to How to Survive in the West promises to "teach you how to be a secret Agent who lives a double life," which it advises will be a must for Muslims in the coming years.
"The disbelievers in the West started/commenced the attacks against the masses of Muslims first, accusing us of being terrorists. Will you not fight such people?" the author of How to Survive in the West wrote. He suggests focusing attacks on those who insult Islam or Muslims because they are the "real enemies."
Muslim converts are instructed to hide their faith as much as possible and to avoid talking to people following Friday prayers at their local mosques. Cradle Muslims are told to dress in ways that blend in with their surroundings to reduce chances of landing on a terrorist watch list.
Jihadists are advised to engage in credit-card fraud or sell fake products on eBay to raise money for jihad. They should keep a low profile online by using anonymous web browsers or sites which allow for anonymous emails.
It also suggests befriending white people who are dissatisfied with their governments and recruiting white converts into undercover jihad. "A Muslim not telling the full truth (even to other Muslims) is not a lie, and this is allowed for the believer in a state of war," the book says.
Other sections contain jihadist testimonials and advice on obtaining military training, constructing bombs and improvised weapons similar to those found in Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire Magazine.
It holds up the Charlie Hebdo attack as a model for lone-wolf attacks, and suggests that symbolic places should be targeted.
How to Survive in the West envisions aligning with left-wing "anti-fascist groups" to retaliate against neo-Nazi attacks against Muslims and exploiting the resulting unrest to launch terrorist attacks.
"This is how the future Jihad in Europe will begin," the book says.
Jihadis are advised to escape to Islamic State territory following their attack. Hijrah to the Islamic State: What to Pickup, Who to Contact, Where to Go, Stories and More! goes into great detail about what to bring, how to communicate, how to travel and where to go to reach Islamic State-held territory.