Half of the prominent jihadists profiled in a new study by The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics had ties to supposedly non-violent Islamists prior to joining terrorist organizations.
The study's authors – Mubaraz Ahmed, Milo Comerford, and Emman El-Badawy – explore pathways to militancy among 100 prominent figures within the wider Salafi-Jihadi movement. The individuals examined derive from the Middle East and Africa, across multiple generations. Some of the findings suggest that membership or ties to non-violent Islamist organizations can be associated with an individual's trajectory towards violence and terrorism.
51 percent of the terrorists under study were previously connected to Islamist groups that claim to be non-violent, including "bodies that are not necessarily political activist organizations but form a functioning arm of existing Islamist groups, such as youth wings, student associations, and other societies." Since membership in Islamist groups is often secretive and sometimes prohibited in various Middle Eastern countries, the authors acknowledge that the proportion of jihadists with Islamist affiliations are likely higher.
Some of the case studies explored in the report include Djamel Zitouni, the leader of the Armed Islamic Group who was previously a member of an Islamist organization that supposedly eschewed violence – the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Senior Al-Qaeda leaders, including Abdullah Azzam and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, were involved with or direct members of the Muslim Brotherhood before turning to violent jihad.
One in four of the jihadists examined had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliated groups.
Another interesting finding shows that 65 percent of the sample had been imprisoned at some point throughout their lives, some of whom served time before engaging in violent jihad. There has been growing concern for years about Islamist radicalization of potential terrorist recruits in prisons worldwide.
The study shows that personal networks are critical in the formation and development of the global Salafi-jihadi movement.
"Our data links the leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS today to the forefathers of the movement through people they met in prison, at university, and on the battlefield," write the authors.
Purportedly non-violent Islamist groups not only serve as potential incubators for radicalization and violence – they also continue to engage in violent incitement, encouraging others to carry out terrorist attacks.
For example, on Wednesday, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, 'Izz Al-Din Dwedar, called for an "intifada" targeting Egyptian embassies around the world, in a Facebook post translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
In protest of death sentences handed to members of the Brotherhood in Egypt, Dwedar suggested for violent action on May 3.
Egyptians abroad should "protest [outside] Egyptian embassies and lay siege to them, and steadily escalate [their actions], up to and including raiding the embassies in some countries, disrupting their work and occupying them if possible, in order to raises awareness to our cause," wrote Dwedar.
The Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC) was launched on Thursday in an effort to revitalize U.S. engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, building on perspectives espoused by the Middle East Forum (MEF).
The caucus calls for the need to put the onus of peace on the Palestinians, to give up their rejectionist claims about Israel's right to exist as Jewish state. The initiative also calls for the U.S. to cease pressuring Israel to make major concessions that often lead to more Palestinian violence and terrorism.
Co-chairs, Reps. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, expressed strong support for Israel and its right to defend itself at Thursday's launch event, which featured several other Republican congressmen.
"Israel is not the problem in the Middle East; it is the solution to many of the problems that bedevil the region. American policy must ensure that Israel emerges victorious against those who deny or threaten her existence," DeSantis said in a statement announcing the initiative.
The caucus wants the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stop its violent incitement against Jews and Israelis. It aims to help reverse one sided, anti-Israel United Nations resolutions and oppose efforts to delegitimize Israel through initiatives such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Palestinian incitement prevents peace from materializing, Johnson said, specifically calling out the widespread practice of naming Palestinian institutions and schools after terrorists responsible for murdering innocent Israelis.
DeSantis also blasted the PA for continuing to pay terrorists' families after they committed attacks against Israelis.
"Any financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority by American taxpayers cannot continue so long as the PA continues to pay pensions and salaries for families of terrorists. It's a simply inappropriate use of taxpayer money and it's not fair to the American taxpayer," DeSantis said at Thursday's event.
The Taylor Force Act, a bill named after a 28-year-old American tourist killed by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel last year, would prohibit U.S. assistance to the PA until terrorist salaries and payments cease.
"If you die as a terrorist, as a 'martyr,' your family will get an annual stipend greater than the average Palestinian earns. In this case, the terrorist who killed Taylor Force...was hailed as a hero, was basically given a state funeral, and his family was given money by the state," says sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Iran is responsible for a significant amount of espionage activity in Germany over the past decade, and is responsible for planning terrorist attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets, the Jerusalem Post reports.
In a letter sent to a Left Party deputy from German's interior ministry, the federal government launched 22 criminal investigations concerning Iran's illegal espionage activity – more than China and Turkey who were suspected in 15 spy cases each. Only Russia, with 27 cases, is involved in more suspected espionage activity than Iran.
In one case, German prosecutors allege that Haidar Syed-Naqfi was ordered to identify Jewish and Israeli institutions in Germany and other Western European countries as potential targets for terrorist attacks. For example, he was accused of monitoring the headquarters of a Jewish newspaper in Berlin. Syed-Naqfi also identified several Israel supporters, including the former chief of the German-Israel Friendship Society and a French-Israeli business professor. German authorities believe his preparations were "a clear indication of an assassination attempt."
Between July 2015 and July 2016, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) al-Quds Force paid Syed-Naqi more than $2,200.
Half of Germany's state governments reported Iranian attempts to acquire material related to nuclear activities in 2015, the Post reports. An examination of intelligence sources in 2016 also produced new revelations surrounding Iran's chemical and biological weapons programs.
Iran pursued German businesses in the Rhineland-Palatinate state seeking dual-use goods that could be "used for atomic, biological and chemical weapons in a war," according to that state's intelligence report.
Last month, Bahrain security authorities arrested members of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist cell, accusing them of planning to assassinate senior government officials. The IRGC reportedly provided military training to several cell members.
Iran has been accused of plotting terrorist attacks in recent years – mainly through proxies like Hizballah and IRGC's Quds Force – in countries such as Egypt, Cyprus, Georgia, Thailand, India and others. In July 2012, a bus bomb widely attributed to Hizballah killed five Israeli tourists and a bus driver in Bulgaria.
In October 2011, the United Stated disrupted an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington D.C. and bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in the U.S. capital.
Correction: De Standaard is a Belgian newspaper and Antwerp a Belgian city. The original version of this story misidentified both.
A Hamas front group hosted a conference in Rotterdam on Saturday as Dutch authorities denied pro-Israel activists from protesting the event, the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reports.
The Palestinian Return Center (PRC) – banned by Israel in 2010 for alleged Hamas ties – organized the "Palestinians in Europe" conference that attracted a few hundred people. In a statement released Friday ahead of the conference, Israel's embassy in the Netherlands voiced "great concern" over the event and identified the PRC as a Hamas front organization. Israeli embassies rarely issue comments or statements concerning similar events abroad.
The PRC conference featured speakers like Dyab Abou Jahjah, who has a history of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements. He was fired by the Belgian newspaper De Standaard earlier this year after praising a truck ramming in Jerusalem that killed four soldiers.
"I know there are officers of justice in the room, waiting to write down things. Let me tell you from now on: I have no problem supporting the Palestinian resistance against occupation by any means necessary," Jahjah said at the event on Saturday.
His call for violence against Israelis generated loud applause. In the past, Jahjah has referred to the Belgian city of Antwerp as the "international capital of the Zionist lobby."
Meanwhile, officials denied a petition to protest the conference by Christians for Israel – a move condemned by some Dutch politicians.
"It defies logic that people are free to preach for subjugation, whereas a peaceful group like Christians for Israel is banned from performing a silent protest," said Dutch politician Joel Voordewind in a statement on Friday.
Rotterdam's Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb refused to prohibit the event following requests from Jewish community officials.
The German government previously referred to the PRC as an affiliate of Hamas – a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot and designated terrorist organization according to several countries and the European Union.
"Hamas does not operate openly in Europe. Instead it uses, for instance, the Palestinian Return Center in London as a forum," the German Ministry of Interior said in a 2011 report.
Additional widespread support for Islamism was expressed in Rotterdam over the weekend.
After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to emerge as the victor in that country's historic constitutional referendum on Sunday, supporters approached the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam to celebrate the Islamist leader's consolidation of power. An overwhelming majority (71 percent) of Dutch-Turks who participated in the referendum voted in favor of a stronger executive branch, which will accelerate Islamist encroachment throughout Turkey.
Two Chicago area men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of providing material support to ISIS Joseph D. Jones and Edward Schimenti, both 35, were arrested Wednesday morning. They tried to provided ISIS cellphones and personnel, an FBI affidavit alleges.
The supplies were given instead to an FBI informant. Jones, aka "Yusuf Abdulhaqq," and Schimenti, aka "Abdul Wali," thought the phones would be used to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Jones told an undercover FBI employee he declared his allegiance – or bayah – to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
They also worked to help the informant travel overseas to fight for ISIS and encouraged him to get into fighting shape, the affidavit said. Jones and Schimenti told the informant to be careful and avoid law enforcement detection.
The sting began in September 2015, when Jones met an undercover FBI employee. The meeting took place inside the Zion Police Department, where Jones was being interviewed about a friend's recent murder. Both Jones and Schimenti expressed support when the undercover later said he wanted to join ISIS.
Other undercover agents tricked Jones and Schimenti into thinking their new friend did make it to Syria.
A year ago, Jones and Schimenti posed for pictures holding an ISIS flag at the entrance to the Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Ill. Jones sent the picture to another undercover FBI agent with whom he communicated online. ISIS supporters also posted the image after a fourth undercover FBI employee asked Jones' permission to share it via social media.
Jones also made numerous statements endorsing violent jihad on his Google+ account under the name "Yusuf Abdulahad," the complaint said. Among other things, Jones called moderate Muslims "weak minded material loving sellouts." He also called jihad the "best deed" and praised martyrdom.
Schimenti made similar posts using the Google + account "Ed Schimenti." "Kuffar [unbelievers], we are coming to slay you," Schimenti wrote in an April 2015 post.
In February, Schimenti and Jones met the informant for a workout at a Zion gym. When the informant said the workout would help prepare for fighting, Schimenti responded, "Right, right, right...it's about that strength and that endurance."
Jones and Schimenti worked with the informant last month to collect cellphones. They believed the phones would be sent to ISIS and used as bomb detonators. Last week, the two drove the informant to O'Hare Airport, thinking he was traveling to Syria to fight for ISIS.
Jones said he was ashamed not to be going, too. Schimenti said he wanted the informant to "drench that land with they, they blood."
Notes left at the scene of Tuesday's bombing of a bus carrying the German Borussa Dortmund soccer team and circulated among ISIS supporters via WhatsApp suggest a connection to the terror group.
Three pipe bombs hit the bus as the team left its hotel before a Champions League match. One player and a police officer were injured and the bus's glass shattered.
A copy of the note circulated on WhatsApp claimed the attack came in reaction to Germany's participation in the fight against ISIS. It refers to the deaths of 12 "unbelievers" who were killed by "our blessed brothers in Germany." Britain's Daily Star newspaper reports this refers to the December attack on a Berlin Christmas market.
It berates German Chancellor Angela Merkel for continuing to fight ISIS.
"Your tornados (German jet fighters) are still flying over the Caliphate to murder Muslims. But we will remain steadfast because of Allah's mercy," the note said.
"Unbelieving" actors, sportsmen and celebrities from Germany and other Western nations are on ISIS's death list, the note said. If genuine, this marks the first time ISIS has publicly threatened the lives of Western celebrities.
Germany must close Ramstein Air Base used by the U.S. military and end its use of its Tornados in missions against ISIS in Syria, the note said.
The bus bombing marks the third ISIS-related terrorist attack in Europe in the past month. Last Friday an ISIS inspired attacker plowed a truck into a building in Stockholm, Sweden, killing four people and wounding 13 others. On March 22, an ISIS-inspired attacker drove a car into pedestrians near London's Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British parliament, killing five people and injuring 49 others.
Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for German federal prosecutors, said they were focusing on two suspected Islamic extremists and have searched their homes. They are also investigating the credibility of the notes, she said. One suspect was arrested.
Other motives are being investigated. The note could be "an attempt to lay a false trail," Ralf Jaeger, German Interior Minister for the North Rhine-Westphalia state, told the Associated Press.
"We are investigating in every direction, and it's really meant that way," Jaeger said. "It could be left-wing extremism or right-wing extremism. It could be the violent fan scene, it could be Islamic extremism."
Police in Paris are investigating a Muslim man for the gruesome murder of his elderly Jewish neighbor, Israel National News reports.
The unnamed assailant reportedly stabbed Sarah Halimi while she slept, then shoved the 66-year-old woman from her three-story apartment window to her death. Her body was discovered outside her apartment on Monday.
Neighbors reported hearing the assailant yell "Allahu Akbar," or God is greatest, before killing Halimi. Police say they have not confirmed this and have yet to label the attack a hate crime. They sent the suspect for a psychiatric evaluation.
"This tragedy may have been the result of a random violent crime by a thug, or maybe there was a background of racial hatred here, or hateful ideology — at this point it's not known yet," Sammy Ghozlan, president of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism told the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) Wednesday.
Ghozlan, a retired police commissioner, also revealed that a relative of the suspect previously harassed some of Halimi's relatives for being Jewish.
An Iranian supported Shi'a militia, Al-Nujaba, says it formed the "Golan Liberation Army" to fight Israel, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports.
"This army has been trained and has detailed plans. If the Syria regime asks us to, we are ready to act to liberate the Golan [from Israel] along with our allies," Al-Nujaba spokesman Hashem Al-Mousawi said in a March 8 interview with Iran's Tasnim news agency.
Al-Mousawi also admitted that the new militant group is "part of the PMU [Popular Mobilization Units]," an Iraqi-backed umbrella organization comprised of numerous Shi'a militias, including some with close ties to Iran. The Golan Liberation Army emerged from the Iranian led "resistance" axis and consists of "special forces who have received training and equipment," he said.
"Iran is the only country that has helped us," Al-Mousawi said, "and sent us its military advisors, led by Qassem Soleimani."
Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force, is tasked with advancing Iran's regional expansion and terrorist networks. Since September 2015, Iran increased its forces in Syria from hundreds to thousands to support Hizballah terrorists acting at Iran's behest in propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Despite Iran's commitment to Syria, the Islamic Republic is establishing terrorist networks in the Golan Heights, using Hizballah, Druze, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives to target Israel. The new Golan Liberation Army shows that Iran is now diverting Iraqi militia assets from fighting ISIS to confront the Jewish state.
Soleimani's Quds Force financed most of the Iraqi-Shi'ite militias and provided them with weapons specifically to target American soldiers. With Hizballah's assistance, the Quds Force supplied terrorists with powerful explosive devices that killed numerous American and coalition troops in Iraq.
Israel is very concerned with the establishment of Iranian-led terrorist bases in the Golan Heights. Hizballah openly seeks to consolidate its presence in the region and launch attacks against Israel from a new front in a future war.
Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel through "armed resistance" in a new political document intended to re-brand the terrorist organization as a more moderate group.
"Resistance to the occupation, by all means and methods, is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international norms and laws, at the heart of which is armed resistance ... Hamas refuses to infringe upon Resistance and its weapons, and emphasizes the right of our people to develop the means of Resistance and its mechanisms," according to an Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) translation of the new document obtained by Al-Quds news.
Hamas reaffirms that its objective is "the liberation of Palestine and confronting the Zionist project" and that its "reference is Islam in its principles and lofty goals."
"Palestine," according to Hamas, refers to all of Israel and the territories: "from the Jordan River eastward to the Mediterranean Sea on the West..."
While the document states that Hamas accepts a temporary Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, the group clearly proclaims that there will be "no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity...no renunciation of any part of the land of Palestine whatever the reasons, circumstances and pressures, and no matter how long the Occuption [lasts]."
Hamas seeks to project a more peaceful stance to the international community by trying to differentiate its conflict with the "Zionist entity" as opposed to the Jewish people. Nevertheless, the terrorist group goes out of its way to deny any Jewish rights to the land.
"The city of Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and has its religious, historical and civilizational status, Arab, Islamic and humane; and all its Islamic and Christian holy places, led by Holy al-Aqsa Mosque...," reads the section on Jerusalem.
More importantly, Hamas refuses to revoke its 1988 charter, which openly advocates for Israel's demise and "confronting the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews through jihad."
Earlier this month, Gaza's Hamas chief confirmed that his terrorist organization will continue its campaign to fight Israel until it secures "the liberation of all of Palestine." An in-depth analysis of Hamas' new manifesto suggests that it is symbolic sham aimed at deceiving Western governments into removing Hamas from terrorist designations.
Palestinian activist and Stanford University graduate Fadi Quran told the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) conference Friday night that "guerilla disobedience" is needed against Israel. Quran, who was arrested by Israeli security forces in 2012, told his fellow participants that activism was not enough.
They must become "freedom fighters."
"We must realize that it's not enough to be organizations, to be civil society anymore. We must cross the threshold to become resistance movements. And we must realize that it's not enough to protest anymore. We must transform the equations of power," Quran said.
"Guerilla disobedience" means copying tactics used by American anarchists to shut down traffic, Quran said. In this case, Israeli army supply chains would be targeted along with the economy in order to make occupation costly for Israel.
Quran claimed these tactics would be needed to defend Palestinians from Israeli encroachment. He claimed that the Arab Bedouin town of Jabal al Baba, located east of Jerusalem, faced destruction. Israel claims the Bedouin tribe living there illegally settled on land belonging to the city of Ma'aleh Adumim.
Israel has offered the Bedouin tribe nearby land where they can legally live, but they are reluctant to move there due to pressure from the Palestinian Authority and others.
A new Nakba, or catastrophe, is underway for the Palestinians, Quran said. As a result, Palestinians need new tactics that go beyond those used in the past.
"We're going to occupy the occupation, we're gonna build barricades; we're gonna bring thousands of people there," Quran said. "And if we manage to liberate this land, if we manage to stop the plans for going forward there, we will stop them from going forward everywhere."
What is coming ahead will be difficult, but the BDS activists can overcome the obstacles, he said.