Lackawanna resident Arafat Nagi is the latest person among more than two dozen to be charged for trying to support ISIS in recent months. It follows Tuesday's arrest in Key West, Fla. of a man who allegedly wanted to detonate a bomb packed with nails at an area beach.
According to Nagi's complaint, the FBI was tipped to his extremist beliefs by an acquaintance who also described his propensity to get into arguments with people about violent jihad. The tipster said Nagi "was angry about the killing of rebels in Yemen, which he blamed on the United States; pledged an oath to ISIL leaders; expressed agreement with ISIL tactics, including the killing of innocent men, women and children."
Nagi allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS and the group's leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. He posted pro-ISIS comments on Twitter and urged people to support the group.
In April, for example, he posted a picture of a dead ISIS fighter with the caption, "Oh, you who are defaming the Islamic State, its soldiers shall be present at time of death. Those who have brains ought think & learn." In May, he posted a picture of someone being beheaded with the note: "Today, this filth has been killed in the state of Hums [city in Syria]. He waged a tougher war against Muslims. It is your paradise, rather, slaughter."
Nagi traveled to Turkey in October 2012 and July 2014 hoping to meet with ISIS members in Syria. Prior to traveling, he "purchased large number of military combat items, including a tactical vest, army combat shirt, body armor, a Shahada flag, combat boots, a backpack, burn kit, hunting knife, machete and night vision goggles."
In pursuit of his ultimate goal to fight alongside ISIS forces in Syria, the complaint says, Nagi borrowed several tactics from the ISIS eBook, "Hijrah to the Islamic State," a travel guide for wannabe jihadis that among other pointers includes ways on how best to reach Syria, how to pack and how to circumvent Turkish security forces to cross the border into Syria.
This is not the first time Lackawanna has been home to people accused of pursuing international terrorism. In 2002, six Yemeni-American men, known as the "Lackawanna Six," were inspired by an extremist imam to travel to an al-Qaida training camp in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to receive weapons training. The camp was visited by now-deceased al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden who gave a speech to the trainees.
If convicted Nagi faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A Canadian couple, self-described converts to Islam, who were convicted of planning to bomb the British Columbia legislature, also intended to infiltrate a synagogue and kill Jewish children, according to court documents and the Victoria Times-Colonist, reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
John Nuttall told an undercover officer that his wife, Amanda Korody, believed that "grown-up Jews" go to "eternal hell" and that she would be doing Jewish children a favor by killing them and reaching paradise, police records revealed in British Columbia's Supreme Court show.
"I asked Nuttall how he thinks he will have access to Jewish kids and he said [he and his wife] were both white and could pass for Jewish...They will be regulars in the synagogue. They will gain the trust of everybody. And once they have everything they will get enough guns and ammo to go ahead with their mission," read the March 2013 record from an undercover RCMP officer.
Nuttall admitted that Jewish children were noncombatants in his view, but believed they would grow up to hate Arabs and Muslims. However, Nuttall stated that "you never know, they may convert [to Islam] in their adulthood."
Earlier this year, Nuttall and Korody were found guilty of planning to explode homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the British Columbia legislature during Canada Day celebrations in 2013.
During the investigation, police obtained a hard drive including a "terrorist plan, as well as videos and recordings of Osama Bin Laden lectures and shortcut to Inspire magazine and the Anarchist Cookbook", according to a British Columbia Supreme Court document outlining details of the investigation and terrorist plan.
Terrorism experts often warn that converts to Islam may be more likely to embrace radical jihad. A 2004 Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS) report warned that "converts in particular are prone to extreme views because of their newfound zeal." The report, "Canadian Converts to Radical Islam," shows that al-Qaida and other jihadist terrorist groups were "aware of the usefulness of converts for a variety of purposes" including propaganda and evading Western security authorities.
Iranian leader Ali Khamanei reiterated the "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" slogans and called the United States a state sponsor of terrorism in two public addresses marking the conclusion of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, the Middle East Monitoring and Research Institute (MEMRI) reports.
"The slogans of the Iranian nation on Al-Qods Day show what its position is. The slogans 'Death to Israel' and 'Death to America' have resounded throughout the country, and are not limited to Tehran and the other large cities. The entire country is under the umbrella of this great movement [of 'Death to America']," Khamanei said while holding a rifle, during a public address broadcasted on IRINN TV and translated by MEMRI.
On the same day, Khamenei addressed diplomats and special guests, accusing the U.S. for promoting terrorism and defended Hizballah.
"What, [the American politician] are calling [Hizballah] terrorists?! They call Iran a 'defender of terrorist' because of its support for [Hizballah]. Defenders of terrorists?! It is you! You are the ones who have created ISIS! You are the ones who have been cultivating terrorism! You are the ones who have been nurturing the filthy terrorist Zionist! You are the defenders of terrorists, and you should be brought to trial for supporting and assisting terrorism," said Khamenei in a speech aired on Iranian Channel 1, according to MEMRI's translation.
Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed that the world superpowers recognized a nuclear Iran immediately after the announcement of a deal regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program. He also boasted that Iran will maintain over 6,000 centrifuges.
It is important to emphasize that issues related to Iran's human rights record and global sponsorship of terrorism were not part of the negotiations. Many experts and critics of the deal believe that sanction relief and the lifting of weapons embargoes will enable the Islamic Republic to enhance its regional hegemonic ambitions and international terrorist activity.
British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a remarkable and powerful speech Monday on combatting radical Islamist extremism, a topic many other Western leaders including President Obama avoid tackling head on.
Cameron, speaking at a Birmingham school, appropriately distinguished between "Islamist extremism" – a fundamentalist political ideology with religious underpinnings and "Islam the religion." He directly addressed moderate British Muslims, framing the struggle against radical Islam as a phenomenon that is plaguing the Muslim community.
"I know too how much you hate the extremists who are seeking to divide our communities and how you loathe that damage they do," he said.
Cameron defined what he saw as the roots of the threat. While many point to poverty or Western wars in the Middle East, Cameron explicitly called out Islamist ideology and radicalization as driving the violent threat facing British and other societies.
There is no single path to radicalization, he said, but even non-violent ideology can be a "gateway" to violence.
"It may begin with hearing about the so-called Jewish conspiracy and then develop into hostility to the West and fundamental liberal values, before finally becoming a cultish attachment to death," Cameron said.
The speech was part of a five-year plan Cameron is implementing this fall in hopes of curbing Islamist extremist influences. It calls on empowering British Iraqis, Syrians and Kurds, who can speak about the devastation ISIS is wreaking in their native countries.
Cameron also invited "some pretty uncomfortable debates – especially cultural ones. Too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence."
But a true debate would give greater influence to Muslims who oppose and challenge the radical narrative, he said. "There are so many strong, positive Muslim voices that are being drowned out. Ask yourself, how is it possible that when young teenagers leave their London homes to fight for ISIL, the debate all too often focuses on whether the security services are to blame? And how can it be that after the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, weeks were spent discussing the limits of free speech and satire, rather than whether terrorists should be executing people full stop? When we allow the extremists to set the terms of the debate in this way, is it any wonder that people are attracted to this ideology?"
He also addressed young British Muslims who might be tempted to travel to Iraq or Syria to wage jihad.
"You won't be some valued member of a movement," Cameron warned. "You are cannon fodder for them. They will use you. If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you."
The speech is significant because of Cameron's direct approach and specific references to "radical Islamist ideology." That something many other Western leaders, including President Obama, avoid as a matter of policy. The Islamic State, the president has said, "is not 'Islamic.'"
Cameron, in contrast, said it is not enough to condemn ISIS or al-Qaida.
"This means confronting groups and organizations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative," he said. "We've got to show that if you say 'yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior', or 'violence in London isn't justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter' – then you too are part of the problem. Unwittingly or not, and in a lot of cases it's not unwittingly, you are providing succor to those who want to commit, or get others to commit to, violence."
This applies directly to many Islamist groups in the United States and the West which, acting as civil liberties organizations, justify terrorism in some contexts especially against Israeli civilians.
According to Cameron, their doublespeak and double standards only serve to promote the extremist narrative.
World superpowers now recognize a nuclear Iran, the Islamic Republic's President Hassan Rouhani claimed Tuesday immediately after the announcement of an agreement over Iran's nuclear weapons program.
He also boasted that Iran will maintain over 6,000 centrifuges, according to a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translation of his speech published by Tasnim news agency.
Tuesday marked "a day when, historically, the largest countries in the world and the superpowers officially recognized Iran's nuclear activity," Rouhani said after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was released between Iran and the P5+1 in Vienna.
Iran, he said, accomplished its four main objectives from the negotiations.
"The first was to continue the nuclear capabilities, the nuclear technology, and even the nuclear activity. The second was to remove the mistaken, oppressive, and inhuman sanctions. The third was to remove the Security Council resolutions that we see as illegitimate. The fourth was to remove the nuclear dossier from Chapter VII of the UN Charter and the Security Council in general."
More importantly, Rouhani outlined specific concessions won from the P5+1 over nuclear centrifuges Iran will be allowed to retain.
"At the start of the negotiations, the other side would tell us that during the period of restrictions – which today is set at eight years – Iran could have only 100 centrifuges. After many deliberations, they arrived at 1,000. Because of great opposition [on our part], they said 4,000 and that this would not change. Today, the agreement is carried out under conditions that state that [Iran] will retain over 6,000 centrifuges, over 5,000 of which will be at Natanz and over 1,000 at Fordo. All centrifuges at Natanz will continue to enrich [uranium]."
Initially, the negotiations envisioned no centrifuges at the Fordo uranium enrichment plant, but "I will be brief and say that today, over 1,000 centrifuges will be installed at Fordo, and part of Fordo will be used for R&D on stable isotopes."
Rouhani devoted part of his address to highlighting P5+1 capitulations. For example, initial demands limited Iran for 20 years, with negotiators insisting "'we will not capitulate any more.' But in the final days of the negotiations, they went down to eight years."
Rouhani described similar success in eliminating economic sanctions against Iran and in ending arms embargoes.
According to Rouhani, it went from "'Months must pass and you must earn [our] trust so that later the sanctions can be gradually frozen – not lifted,'" to his boast that, "Today I announce to the Iranian nation that under this agreement, on the day the agreement is implemented all the sanctions – even the embargo on weapons, missiles, and proliferation – will be lifted as stated in the [Security Council] resolution. All the financial and banking sanctions, and those related to insurance, transportation, petrochemical [industries], precious metals, and all economic sanctions will be completely lifted, not frozen. Even the arms embargo will be stopped. There will be a type of restrictions for five years, and after that they will be lifted."
It is important to note that issues related to Iran's human rights record and global sponsorship of terrorism were not part of the negotiations. Many experts and critics of the deal believe that sanction relief and the lifting of weapons embargos will enable the Islamic Republic to enhance its regional hegemonic ambitions and international terrorist activity.
Rouhani concluded his address by mocking Israel's criticism of the negotiations.
Not only Iranians are happy, he said, "but also the people in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Lebanon are happy too because the hollow efforts of the oppressive Zionist regime to thwart the negotiations during the past 23 months have failed... And finally, [to the] nations of the region and neighboring countries: Do not be misled by the propaganda of the Zionist regime and the evil-mongers of this [Iranian] nation. Iran and its might are always your might. We see the security of the region as our security, and the stability of the region as our stability."
The Islamic Republic has consistently called for the destruction of the Jewish state and remains committed to "wiping Israel off the map."
Israel and most Sunni Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf, are highly skeptical of this agreement and fear a nuclear Iran will be further emboldened to increase its destabilizing presence in the region.
Read the full MEMRI report here.
The British government saw "Abdullah al Andalusi" as a trusted adviser, someone qualified to help oversee Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which supervises UK police counter-terrorism policy and reactions to attacks.
Andalusi may have enjoyed access to classified information in that role. That stopped when someone in the HMIC hierarchy recently saw Andalusi on television, defending extremist ideology offered by the Saudi-financed Muslim Debate Initiative, the Sunday Telegraph's Andrew Gilligan reported.
Andalusi's Islamist activities were done under his real name, Mouloud Farid, while government officials failed to realize he secured government work with a fake name. Farid is close with the radical Hizb ut Tahrir, a global Islamist movement that has been described as a "conveyor belt" for jihadist terror.
Andalusi, speaking under his real name Farid, preached that ISIS terrorists were "no different to Western armies," and said the British government wanted to destroy Islam.
"He despised Britain, yet worked for the British government," an unidentified associate told Gilligan. "He would talk about the right of oppressed people to take up arms against the oppressor and yet he was overseeing the police."
Within the inspectorate, Andalusi was promoted to a management position described as "at the heart of the security establishment." People in similar positions have "access to highly sensitive and classified police and intelligence information to carry out their inspections," Gilligan reported.
Andalusi has said Muslims "would be jubilant at the return of the caliphate [Islamic state], which is a vital obligation upon Muslims that has been conspicuously missing for so long."
Members of Parliament are demanding an investigation into how Andalusi's dual lives were missed by government officials. "This man's unsuitability for sensitive work should have been obvious from the start," said Labour MP Khalid Mahmood.
Read the full Telegraph story here.
Yasser Arafat was notorious for his double speech: Nice and peaceful in English, harsh and extremist in Arabic.
The tactic came to mind Friday, when the Washington Post published an opinion piece written by Labib Al Nahass, the head of the foreign bureau of Ahrar Al Sham, a group founded in Syria with the help of al-Qaida leader Ayman Al Zawahiri.
Al Nahass portrays Ahrar al Sham in a moderate light and fails to detail the group's nefarious agenda. He claims that his group was founded by Syrians and fights on their behalf. "We believe that Syria needs a national unifying project that cannot be controlled or delivered by a single party or group and should not be bound to a single ideology," he wrote. "We believe in striking a balance that respects the legitimate aspirations of the majority as well as protects minority communities and enables them to play a real and positive role in Syria's future. We believe in a moderate future for Syria that preserves the state and institutes reforms that benefit all Syrians."
The Post offers no independent verification or context, so readers would not know that Ahrar Al Sham was founded in 2011 by Abu Khaled Al Souri, who fled to Afghanistan during the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the 1980s. According to a February 2014 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Spanish court document that investigated the 2004 Madrid Train bombings identified Al Souri as an Osama bin Laden courier in Europe.
When the Al Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaida in Syria), and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had a dispute over merging of the two groups, Al Zawahiri sent a letter naming Abu Khaled Al Souri as his delegate in Syria where he assigned him to "oversee the implementation" of agreements between ISIS and Al Nusra. The Long War Journal describes Al Souri as "an influential al Qaeda ideologue whose work is regularly cited in jihadist literature, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire magazine."
Domestically Ahrar al Sham is no different than al-Qaida. In the Syrian city of Idlib, it works with Al Nusra to govern the area under Sharia law, force Druze to convert to Islam, and ban Christians from displaying the crosses on their houses of worship. A video published on YouTube by Ahrar Al Sham shows a member of Ahrar Al Sham publicly flogging two Muslim men for not participating in Jumaa (Friday) prayers.
Rasmieh Odeh's appeal of her naturalization fraud conviction, like her trial defense, was filled with emotion.
Unfortunately for her, prosecutors say, it's lacking when it comes to the law.
In a response filed Wednesday with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, lead prosecutor Jonathan Tukel said the appeal "utterly failed" to prove one of its principal arguments, came up empty on relevant, supporting case law and included at least one "strange argument."
Odeh, whose case has been championed by Palestinian and Islamist groups throughout the country, was convicted by a federal jury in Detroit last November of lying on immigration forms in 2004 in order to become a naturalized citizen. She claimed she never had been arrested, detained or convicted despite serving 10 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted in two 1969 Jerusalem bombings, one of which killed two college students at a grocery store.
She argued that rulings by U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain gutted the defense "at its core" and gave Odeh a "faux trial." He ruled that prosecutors had to prove Odeh knew her statements were false when she made them. The defense wanted a "specific intent" threshold, which would have required proof that the false statements were willful efforts to break the law.
The ruling meant it didn't matter why Odeh lied, just that she was aware she was lying in filling out the immigration forms and during her interview with an immigration officer.
Because intent was not a factor, Drain did not let Odeh testify about claims she was tortured in Israeli custody or present an expert witness who would testify that Odeh's false statements were the product of post-traumatic stress shutting out painful memories. But when she took the stand, Odeh testified that she simply misunderstood the questions about whether she had a criminal record. She thought it only applied to her time in the United States. If she understood it meant "ever," she would have disclosed her Israeli convictions, she testified.
"It is a strange argument indeed which asserts that Odeh's defense was impaired because she [was] not allowed to present an expert who would have contradicted Odeh's own testimony," Tukel wrote.
Odeh's appeal asked the appellate court to reduce her 18-month sentence to the five weeks she already spent in jail. Appellate courts simply can't do that, Tukel wrote.
The sentence was fair, especially considering Judge Drain's determination that Odeh deliberately violated orders to keep political issues out of the case, lied during her testimony, and did participate previously in a terrorist attack.
The case wasn't about politics, Drain said at the sentencing hearing, but "about honesty and being truthful and saying the right thing under oath. It's about someone coming into the country illegally and not being truthful about it."
Read the entire prosecution brief here. For more, see the Investigative Project on Terrorism's five-part video series on Odeh's case called "Spinning a Terrorist Into a Victim" and the post-conviction epilogue.
Websites affiliated with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad praised the recent spike in terrorist attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and encouraged further violence, the Middle East Monitoring and Research Service (MEMRI) reports.
The websites emphasized the connection between Ramadan and rising attacks targeting Israelis, describing a stronger motivation to sacrifice one's life during the holiday.
"During Ramadan, the Palestinians welcome resistance to the occupation and carry it out with a different flavor that reflects courage, investment [of efforts], and a natural willingness for sacrifice during this most important month for all Muslims. Ever since the first intifada, martyrdom operations, stabbing and shooting attacks have had a special character during the month of Ramadan...," an article posted on the Hamas-affiliated website Palinfo.com and translated by MEMRI said.
Muhammad Al-Qaram, who participated in a 2001 bus bombing in Haifa which killed 15 people and wounded dozens more, explained how he drove the terrorist to the attack site.
"During Ramadan there is a special air of willingness to invest effort and sacrifice in every way, based on religious and emotional influences [that affect] the Muslims and the possessors of just rights and prompt them to risk their lives," he said.
The website also featured religious clerics and experts referring to Ramadan as the month of historic Islamic military victories and jihad when fighters prepare to fight the enemy – in this context, Jews.
"In Islam, Ramadan is the month of jihad, resistance and victories. During this month, people stand ready to sacrifice, and when Muslims are zealous for their homeland, their strength and energies awaken," said Islamic law professor Maher Al-Houli. "... During this month, their resistance and faith are stronger. In the history of Palestine, many campaigns were won and many acts of sacrifice were carried out during Ramadan."
Similar sentiments were expressed on Hamas affiliated website Omamh.com in an article titled "Ramadan – The Month of Resistance In The West Bank." It glorified recent Palestinian terrorist attacks during Ramadan and encouraged further violence, characterizing the latest attacks as "quality operations carried out by fasting fighters" who derived inspiration from last summer's war in Gaza against Israel that also took place during Ramadan.
More than 100 radical Islamists are allowed to speak at universities in the United Kingdom (UK) every year, according to a Student Rights group study set for release this week as reported by the Daily Mail.
The study also reveals that more than 20 students who enrolled in UK universities have been convicted of terrorism charges or died fighting with extremists in Syria.
The Student Rights group, run by a prestigious Westminster institute, the Henry Jackson Society, outlines how numerous student organizations refuse to partake in the UK government's anti-extremism strategy called "Prevent."
The research was conducted through an extensive survey of social media and university website, in addition to other means dedicated to logging speaker events.
Last year, radical Islamists gave 123 lectures, featuring provocative topics including "the West is waging a war against Islam." That false message is considered among the most effective notions fueling radicalization among Muslims.
UK universities featured 145 and 132 radical talks in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
Some speakers supported people convicted of terrorism charges and people who promote radical Islamist agendas and oppose the views of non-Islamists. Anti-democracy, homophobic, and pro-sharia law views were also prominent among some of the lectures.
Hamza Tzortzis, from the Islamic Education and Research Academy, was among the most frequent radical university speakers. In the past, Tzortzis expressed that infidels who fight the Muslim "community...should be killed."
While prominent student groups continue to oppose the UK government's approach to countering extremism, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a multi-faceted response to "take on the radical narrative that is poisoning young minds."
"The new Prevent duty is about protecting people from the poisonous and pernicious influence of extremist ideas that are used to legitimise terrorism. Protecting those who are vulnerable and at risk of radicalisation is a job for all of us. The new duty will make sure key bodies across the country play their part," said security minister John Hayes in reference to UK institutions such as prominent schools and universities.