The Psychology of “Neo Jihad” Radicalization
The Paradigm Pivot:
Soon after the attacks on 9/11 the US and other countries began a “War On Terror” that attempted to disrupt and destroy the Al Qaeda networks. The military and intelligence wars on AQ have been very successful in that they have splintered the group, cut its main lines of C&C, and forced them to scatter into the hills of Waziristan and other places. The intelligence war began with stepped up surveillance technically as well as, after much spin up, getting physical assets on the ground and inserted into the intelligence gathering apparatus. Once the networks were set up, and the AQ infrastructure fractured, it became apparent to the leaders of AQ that they needed to proselytize in a different way to get more “recruits” for the global jihad that they wanted.
Once the realization set in, the AQ leadership began to move online to communicate, radicalize, and recruit new jihadi’s to the cause. As time went by and more of the networks were broken, the ranks of jihad began to thin out. This became a real problem for Al Qaeda and it realized that it needed a new paradigm to reach the “Western” ummah that they could try to sway to jihad. With the creation of GIMF, and AQAP later on, the footprint of jihadi propaganda and radicalization took shape online. Since 2001, we have seen AQ and affiliates grapple with how to get their message across as well as create channels for those who are not in the 2 lands, to radicalize, and then come to jihad.
This post is about not only the means that AQ, AQAP, and others have come up with as a response to the problem, but also a profile of the GEN2 jihadi’s online that are being radicalized and who have acted in the past as well as those who may in the future.
Online Jihad: 10 Years of Internet Jihad
A plethora of sites on the internet have been set up over the years by AQ and its affiliates to propagandize and communicate. many of these sites at first were just simple file upload areas and small bulletin boards. Today we have many mass media style sites including videos, tutorials, online chat areas, and private messaging. The PHP bulletin boards set up on domain named sites or on servers (stealth) that have been hacked, have been the most popular of all. With these sites, the jihad radicalization goes on with postings within pass-worded group sites like Shamukh (AQ) or Ansar.com.
For the most part, these sites have only been partially successful in being a command and control mechanism for AQ. They have failed to gather the swelling support that they would have liked on the part of the Western ummah and it is this lack of fervor that has them vexed. I have personally seen this vexation in AQAP’s “Inspire Magazine” as they have been trying to become more “Hip and Western” to get a new audience. All of their efforts though, have had lackluster returns. This lack of response on the part of the young westernized groups that they are targeting is likely to a few factors;
- The radicalization process is not in person
- The western mindset of the targets is more secular in nature and separate from the core AQ groups experiences
- These youths are not living in lands where war is ongoing
The Psychology of Radicalization:
Radicalization: The process in which an individual changes from passiveness or activism to become more revolutionary, militant or extremist. Radicalization is often associated with youth, adversity, alienation, social exclusion, poverty, or the perception of injustice to self or others.
Much of the classic radicalizing that happens within movements such as Al Qaeda happens when the like minded get together under the penumbra of a stronger personality that leads them. In the case of Islamic Jihad, there have been many Imam’s and leaders who preach this type of thought within their right wing versions of Islam. This is the core of the idea behind raising the ummah army to fight a jihad, the radicalization of the parishioners through direct proselytizing. Since 9/11 though, much of the Muslim community has come under scrutiny from intelligence gathering groups seeking to find the next cell of terrorists being exhorted to jihad by an imam or another leader.
In other cases secular leaders may arise, this may take shape in the form of someone like Mohammad Atta, or the like who are within a circle of like minded people (What Dr. Marc Sageman calls “a group of guys” theory) who “self radicalize” and either make contact with core AQ, or, they decide to act on their own, using the internet as their guide to jihad techniques and ideals. This may happen with two or more individuals seeking like minded people, or, a leader may inculcate them into their particular brand of thought.
A third and seemingly rising type of radicalization seems to be the Lone Wolf or Loner. This is a person either seeking to belong to something greater than they are, or, someone mentally unbalanced and moving along the lines of their own particular mental illness. The Lone Wolves and the Loner’s are dangerous in that they are now one of the primary targets of AQ and their propaganda/radicalization drive other than the “group of guys” The reason for this is that all of these groups can “self radicalize” without having to step into a mosque by reading online and digitally relating with other like minded jihadi’s online. The major difference being that there is no direct contact and, for most, this method of contact and radicalizing lacks the added social element of being in person as a part of a group.
This is a key feature of radicalization that needs to be understood. Since we are social animals, we need to feel that kinship and the only real way to do this primarily is to be within a social dynamic structure that includes physically being there. Online it seems, just does not cut it for most. However, there are others, the mentally ill, and those who are so socially awkward, that online seems to be the only way that they can relate, that have become the next generation of jihobbyists. This in tandem with the fact that now it is rather hard to make contact with, and access the core AQ group physically (i.e. going to a training camp in Waziristan) has made the online radicalization process the pre-eminent way for the jihadi process to carry on.
Jihad GEN 2.0: Lone Wolves, Wolf Packs, & Loners
- Lone Wolves: Single actors who radicalize either by self or online groups but act alone
- Wolf Packs: “The Group of Guys” Who radicalize together as a unit and attempt jihad
- Loners: The single player who radicalizes online and may have contacts with some but is not a team player
Lone Wolves, or the “Lone Wolf” The most likely candidate for the lone wolf is a second generation immigrant who feels some sort of synergy with their parents homeland. There have been a spate of cases where Al Shebaab had converts sneak off from the US to Somalia to train with them. The majority of these lone wolves in this case, were kids in their teens or early twenties that took off to join the jihad there. The premise though, is that these are people who are not necessarily part of any one group but seek out the jihad on their own. They often connect with the core jihadi groups in some way (Malik Hassan and Anwar Al Awlaki) and then act on their own in a more constructed and supported way from the core AQ groups.
Wolf Packs are groups of like minded individuals who have either come together and then radicalized, or, have formed due to a strong leader. These are the most dangerous of the groups because they tend to be groomed by core AQ and, as a group, not only self radicalize, but they re-enforce their belief and action as a social dynamic. Wolf packs have been seen as the more organized and thus more dangerous element in this behavior model. An example of the wolf pack would be the Lackawana 6 or others who banded together and eventually went to an AQ training camp. Though, in the case of the Lackawanna 6, it seems as though they came back from the trip decidedly lacking the motivation to carry out a mission. This is likely because of their Westernized mind set. They did however provide material support to the jihad, and were convicted of this.
Loners are the last type of jihadi that the AQ core are seeking to incite. The loner tends to be an individual who is socially inept to the degree that some have actually been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Still others have proven to be mentally ill individuals who latch onto the jihad for whatever reasons are driving their psyche. On average, the loner can be seen as the spree killer of the group that feeds the need of the jihad in that they sow fear and confusion while potentially taking out numbers of people. An example of a loner would be Nidal Malik Hassan (Ft. Hood Shooter) who clearly was mentally unstable and went on a shooting rampage injuring 30 and killing 13.
Loners tend to be more the spree killers with guns than they are bomb makers. Another loner type would be Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to make a propane bomb alone. His training was incomplete or he was inept, because the device failed to go off. In the case of Shahzad, he also spent time in Pakistan (from where he emigrated to the US) with the Pakistani Taliban. His radicalization went on unseen by others around him and his actions became more erratic as time went on. I have not seen a psych evaluation of him, but from all that I have seen, it may well be that he too is mentally unstable.
Another couple of reasons to worry more about the “loner” type of jihadi are these:
- They are loners, thus unless someone in the family see’s whats going on, it will likely go unseen until its too late
- They are often here in the US and with guns easily available, make their spree killing scenarios most likely to work
Online Radicalization: Propaganda, Congregation, Synergy & The Online Shadow War
As mentioned above, the radicalization process online has mainly consisted of websites that cater to the newbie to the jihad up to the hard core members. Primarily though, these sites have been a means to gain new recruits for the holy war. These sites had been for a long time, rather blatantly operating online because the governments had not caught up with the technology. Recently though, there has been a change going on within the online jihad. Due to many factors including actions on the part of the hacker community, the propaganda machine that has been the jihadi bulletin board system online has begun to go underground as well as redouble its propaganda efforts.
AQAP’s “Inspire Magazine” releases also have been slowed down and the core’s processes for distribution tightened because of tampering with the files in the past and the worries that they have been compromised as a network online. Spooks and hackers have been infiltrating their networks and websites for a while now and they have caught on. Of course in some ways, the assumption should always have been so. However, attacks on the AQ propaganda sites have increased over the last couple of years to include complete take downs of certain sites through DD0S as well as compromise and destruction of their back ends. Since these occurrences, the smarter of the group have decided that it was time to create a new propaganda jihad.
Abu Hafs al-Sunni al-Sunni, is an exemplar of this mindset. He espouses that the propaganda jihad needs to be more layered and secret. His proposal is to hide the online jihad in plain sight, by making pages that have stealth links (gateway sites) that will lead the knowing, to the real sites where content can be obtained and ideas shared. His ideas were a bit ahead of the curve for most on the boards, but now, post 2011, the administrators and the core AQ I think, are taking a closer look at this model. As online sites that are non secret become more and more targeted, it is only natural that they jihad would eventually have to go underground to continue and flourish from a command and control as well as radicalization standpoint. By locking down the content with gateways to it, those who are serious could congregate behind the digital curtain and carry on, while the digital bill boards call to all those thinking about joining the fray.
As the online jihad progresses technically, so too will their followers and this is a concern. With technologies such as TOR (The Onion Router) and their “Hidden Services“ one can now easily hide all content behind a network that cannot be tracked or traced. Online chats can be had in total anonymity as well as files can be left within the confines of such networks for only those who have the right address to get them (net/net meet the new digital anonymous dead drops) and it is here that once again the pivot happens within the dynamic of online jihad. Once the technological skills of the jihadi’s come online, so too will the types of attacks online that could be carried out by them as well as the success rates of kinetic attacks because they are using solid methods to transmit and connect with each other to plan operations.
Already we have seen this movement happening on the forums and it really is only a matter of time until some of these guys read the man page on how to configure their own TOR node with hidden services turned on. It is clear that the technologies are making it easier for them to hide in plain site as well as behind the technical curtain, so, it is my proposition that the next iteration of the GWOT have a component of psychological operations more involved. Just as I have said about the Anonymous situation ongoing, the greater successes are likely to come about because we better understand the players motivations and psyche’s.
Countering The Threat:
In conclusion, I see a two pronged method of attack to fight the online jihad:
- Psyops: The idea that psychological operations has always been a part of the counter insurgency effort. However, in the digital world this has been more the spooks territory than the digital warfighter. Of course the digital war is new as is the online jihad so it is a natural progression to see this type of warfare as well as detective process being implemented.
- Technical Counter-Insurgency Operations: As the technological adroitness grows on the part of the jihadi’s so should the capabilities on the counter insurgency online. It is understood that the US has quite a bit of technical know how online so it is an easier supposition to make that we will be able to step up quickly. However, it is the melding of the two (psyops/pscyhology and technical ops) that must happen to wage this battle well.
APPENDIX A:US Cases of Terrorism since 9/11
• José Padilla. José Padilla (32), a native U.S. citizen, convert to Islam, and al Qaeda
operative, was arrested upon his return from the Middle East to the United States.
Although there is no question of his al Qaeda connection, his mission remains unclear.
He was convicted for providing material support to al Qaeda and sentenced in 2008.
A co-defendant, Kifah Wael Jayyousi (40), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Jordan, was
• The Lackawanna Six. Six Yemeni-Americans—Sahim Alwar (26), Yahya Goba (25),
Yasein Taher (24), Faysal Galab (25), Shafal Mosed (23), all born in the United States,
and Muktar al-Bakri (21), a naturalized citizen—were arrested for training at an
al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.
• The Portland Seven. Seven individuals—Patrice Lumumba Ford (31), Jeffrey Leon
Battle (31), October Martinique Laris (25), Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal (22), Ahmed
Ibrahim Bilal (24), all native U.S. citizens; Habis Abdulla al Saoub (37), a U.S. perma-
nent resident from Jordan; and Maher Hawash (38), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Jordan—were arrested for attempting to join al Qaeda and the Taliban.
• Earnest James Ujaama. Earnest James Ujaama (36), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested
for providing support to the Taliban.
• Imran Mandhai. Imran Mandhai (20), a U.S. permanent resident from Pakistan, told
an FBI informant that he wanted to wage war against the United States. He planned
to assemble an al Qaeda cell and attack various targets in Florida, including electrical
substations, Jewish businesses, a National Guard armory, and also, improbably, Mount
Rushmore. Under surveillance for a long time, Mandhai was arrested and subsequently
convicted of conspiracy to destroy property.
• Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar al-Awlaki (31), a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico, studied
engineering in college and motivation in graduate school, then became an increasingly
radical imam. After being questioned by the FBI several times, he left the United States
in 2002 and went to Yemen, where he is now a leading spokesperson for al Qaeda.
• Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah. A provisional arrest warrant was issued for Adnan
Gulshair el Shukrijumah (27), a Saudi national and legal permanent resident, who grew
up and worked in the United States. Shukrijumah was suspected of involvement in a
number of terrorist plots. In 2010, he was indicted for his involvement in the 2009 Zazi
plot to blow up New York subways.
• Iyman Faris. Iyman Faris (34), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was arrested
for reconnoitering the Brooklyn Bridge for a possible al Qaeda attack.
• The Northern Virginia Cluster. Eleven men were arrested in June 2003 for training
at a jihadist training camp abroad, intending to join Lashkar-e-Toiba, and planning
terrorist attacks: Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur Raheem (28), a native U.S. citizen; Sabri
Benkhala (27), a native U.S. citizen; Randoll Todd Royer (39), a native U.S. citizen;
Ibrahim al-Hamdi (25), a Yemeni national; Khwaja Mahmood Hasan (27), a natural-
ized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Muhammed Aatique (30), a legal permanent resident
from Pakistan; Donald T. Surratt (30), a native U.S. citizen; Masoud Ahmad Khan
(33), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Seifullah Chapman (31), a native U.S.
citizen; Hammad Abdur-Raheem (34), a U.S.-born citizen and Army veteran of the
first Gulf War; and Yong Ki Kwon (27), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Korea. Two
other individuals were also arrested in connection with the group: Ali al-Timimi (40), a
U.S.-born citizen, and Ali Asad Chandia (26), a citizen of Pakistan. Six of the accused
pleaded guilty, and another three were convicted. Benkhala was acquitted but was later
charged and convicted of making false statements to the FBI. Al-Timimi was convicted
in 2005. The case against Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur Raheem was dismissed.
• Uzair Paracha. Uzair Paracha (23), a legal permanent resident from Pakistan, was
indicted for attempting to help an al Qaeda operative enter the United States in order
to attack gas stations. He was convicted in 2005.
• Abdurahman Alamoudi. Abdurahman Alamoudi (51), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Eritrea, was indicted in the United States for plotting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s
• Ahmed Omar Abu Ali. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali (22), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested
by Saudi authorities and later extradited to the United States for providing support to
a terrorist organization and plotting to assassinate the president of the United States.
• Mohammed Abdullah Warsame. Mohammed Abdullah Warsame (31), a legal perma-
nent resident from Somalia, was arrested for conspiring to support al Qaeda. He was
found guilty and sentenced in 2009.
Chronology of the Cases
• Ilyas Ali. Ilyas Ali (55), a naturalized U.S. citizen from India, pleaded guilty to provid-
ing material support to the Taliban and al Qaeda. He attempted to sell hashish and
heroin in return for Stinger missiles, which he then planned to sell to the Taliban. Two
other defendants, Muhammed Abid Afridi and Syed Mustajab Shah, both Pakistani
nationals, were also convicted in the case.
• Amir Abdul Rashid. Ryan Gibson Anderson (26)—a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam who called himself Amir Abdul Rashid—was a soldier in the U.S. Army at Fort
Lewis, Washington, when he was arrested in February 2004 for contacting Islamic
websites related to al Qaeda and offering information about the U.S. Army.
• Mark Robert Walker. A Wyoming Technical Institute student, Mark Robert Walker
(19), a native U.S. citizen who, according to reports, became obsessed with jihad, was
charged with attempting to assist the Somali-based group, Al-Ittihad al Islami. He
planned to provide the group with night-vision devices and bulletproof vests.
• Mohammed Junaid Babar. Mohammed Junaid Babar (31), a naturalized U.S. citizen
from Pakistan, was arrested in New York for providing material support to al Qaeda.
• The Herald Square Plotters. Shahawar Martin Siraj (22), a Pakistani national, and
James Elshafy (19), a U.S.-born citizen, were arrested for plotting to carry out a terrorist
attack on New York City’s Herald Square subway station.
• The Albany Plotters. Yassin Aref (34), an Iraqi refugee in the United States, and
Mohammad Hossain (49), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bangladesh, two leaders of a
mosque in Albany, New York, were arrested for attempting to acquire weapons in order
to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat.
• Adam Yahiye Gadahn. Adam Yahiye Gadahn (26), a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam, moved to Pakistan in 1998. By 2004, he was identified as a member of al Qaeda
planning terrorist attacks in the United States, and he subsequently became one of
al Qaeda’s principal spokesmen. He was formally indicted in 2006.
• The Abdi Case. Nuradin Abdi (32), a Somali national granted asylum in the United
States, was indicted in June 2004 for plotting with Iyman Faris to blow up a Colum-
bus, Ohio, shopping mall. (He was arrested in November 2003.)
• Gale Nettles. Gale Nettles (66), a native U.S. citizen and ex-convict, was arrested in
August in an FBI sting for plotting to bomb the Dirksen Federal Building in Chi-
cago and for attempting to provide al Qaeda with explosive material. His motive was
revenge for his conviction as a counterfeiter, but he wanted to connect with al Qaeda,
which he figured would pay him for his excess explosive materials. He was convicted
on the terrorist charge in 2005.
• Carpenter and Ransom. Two New Orleans men, Cedric Carpenter (31), a convicted
felon, and Lamont Ransom (31), both native U.S. citizens, intended to sell fraudulent
identity documents to the Philippine jihadist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in return for
cash and heroin. Ransom, who had previously served in the U.S. Navy, was familiar
with the group. Both were convicted and sentenced in 2005.
• The New York Defendants. Three defendants—Mahmud Faruq Brent (32), a U.S.-
born citizen who had attended a training camp in Pakistan run by Lashkar-e-Toiba;
Rafiq Abdus Sabir (50), a U.S.-born citizen and medical doctor who volunteered to pro-
vide medical treatment to al Qaeda terrorists; and Abdulrahman Farhane (52), a natu-
ralized U.S. citizen from Morocco who agreed to assist in fundraising for the purchase
of weapons for insurgents in Chechnya and Afghanistan—were linked to defendant-
turned-informant Tarik Shah (42), a U.S.-born citizen who was arrested in May 2005
for offering to provide training to insurgents in Iraq. Shah identified his co-defendants,
and all four were convicted.
• The Lodi Case. Hamid Hayat (22), a native-born U.S. citizen, and his father, Umar
Hayat, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, were arrested in June 2005 for secretly
attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Umar Hayat ultimately pleaded guilty
of lying to federal authorities.
• The Torrance Plotters. Kevin James (29), Levar Washington (21), and Gregory
Patterson (25), all native U.S. citizens and converts to Islam, and Hammad Riaz Samana
(21), a permanent resident from Pakistan, were charged in August 2005 with planning
to carry out terrorist attacks on National Guard armories, a U.S. military recruiting
center, the Israeli consulate, and Los Angeles International airport. (This case is some-
times referred to as the Sacramento Plot.)
• Michael Reynolds. Michael Reynolds (47), a native U.S. citizen, acquired explosives
and offered them to an informant whom he believed was an al Qaeda official to blow
up the Alaska Pipeline in return for $40,000.
• Ronald Grecula. Ronald Grecula (70), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested in Texas in
May 2005 for offering to build an explosive device for informants he believed to be
al Qaeda agents. He pleaded guilty to the charge in 2006.
• The Liberty City Seven. Seven men—Narseal Batiste (32), a native U.S. citizen;
Patrick Abraham (39), a Haitian national illegally in the United States after over-
staying his visa; Stanley Grunt Phanor (31), a naturalized U.S. citizen; Naudimar
Herrera (22), a native U.S. citizen; Burson Augustin (21), a native U.S. citizen; Rothschild
Augustin (26), a native U.S. citizen; and Lyglenson Lemorin (31), a legal permanent resi-
dent from Haiti—were charged in June 2006 with plotting to blow up the FBI build-
ing in Miami and the Sears Tower in Chicago. Herrera and Lemorin were acquitted.
Chronology of the Cases
• Syed Hashmi. Syed “Fahad” Hashmi (30), a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, was arrested
in London on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda.
• Derrick Shareef. Derrick Shareef (22), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested for planning a suicide attack on an Illinois shopping mall. He intended to
place hand grenades in garbage cans, but the plot also involved handguns.
• The Fort Dix Plotters. Six men—Mohammad Ibrahim Shnewer (22), a naturalized
U.S. citizen from Jordan; Serdar Tatar (23), a legal permanent resident from Turkey;
Agron Abdullahu (24), a U.S. permanent resident from Kosovo; and Dritan Duka (28),
Shain Duka (26), and Elljvir Duka (23), three brothers from Albania living in the
United States illegally—were charged with plotting to carry out an armed attack on
soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
• The Toledo Cluster. Mohammad Zaki Amawi (26) and Marwan El-Hindi (43), both
naturalized U.S. citizens from Jordan, and Wassim Mazloum (25), a legal permanent
resident from Lebanon, were arrested in Toledo, Ohio, for plotting to build bombs to
use against American forces in Iraq. Two additional persons were also charged in this
case: Zubair Ahmed (26), a U.S.-born citizen, and his cousin Khaleel Ahmed (25), a
naturalized U.S. citizen from India.
• The Georgia Plotters. Syed Harris Ahmed (21), a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Ehsanul
Islam Sadequee (20), a U.S.-born citizen from Atlanta, Georgia, were arrested in April
2006 for discussing potential targets with terrorist organizations and receiving instruc-
tion in reconnaissance.
• Daniel Maldonado. Daniel Maldonado (27), a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam, was arrested for joining a jihadist training camp in Somalia. He was captured
by the Kenyan armed forces and returned to the United States.
• Williams and Mirza. Federal authorities charged two students at Houston Commu-
nity College—Kobie Diallo Williams (33), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam,
and Adnan Babar Mirza (29), a Pakistani national who had overstayed his student
visa—with aiding the Taliban. According to the indictment, the two planned to join
and train with the Taliban in order to fight U.S. forces in the Middle East.
• Ruben Shumpert. Ruben Shumpert (26), also known as Amir Abdul Muhaimin, a
native U.S. citizen who had been convicted for drug trafficking, converted to Islam
shortly after his release from prison. When the FBI came looking for him in 2006, he
fled to Somalia and joined al-Shabaab. He was reportedly killed in Somalia in Decem-
• Hassan Abujihaad. Hassan Abujihaad (31), formerly known as Paul R. Hall, a native
U.S. citizen and convert to Islam who had served in the U.S. Navy, was arrested in
April 2007 for giving the locations of U.S. naval vessels to an organization accused of
• The JFK Airport Plotters. Russell Defreitas (63), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Guyana; Abdul Kadir (55) a Guyanese citizen; Kareem Ibrahim (56), a Trinidadian;
and Abdal Nur (57), another Guyanese citizen, were charged in June 2007 with plot-
ting to blow up aviation fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Defreitas
was arrested in Brooklyn. The other three plotters were arrested in Trinidad and extra-
dited to the United States.
• Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed. Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed (26), a U.S.
permanent resident from Egypt, was arrested for providing material support to terror-
ists by disseminating bomb-making instructions on YouTube. He pleaded guilty to the
• Omar Hammami. Now known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, Omar Hammami
(23), a native-born U.S. citizen, left Alabama some time not later than 2007 to join
al-Shabaab in Somalia. He later appeared in the group’s recruiting videos. Hammami
was indicted in 2010 for providing support to al-Shabaab.
• Jaber Elbaneh. Jaber Elbaneh (41), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen, was con-
victed in absentia by a Yemeni court for plotting to attack oil and gas installations in
Yemen. He had previously been charged in the United States with conspiring with the
Lackawanna Six. He was one of a number of al Qaeda suspects who escaped from a
Yemeni prison in 2006. He subsequently turned himself in to Yemeni authorities.
• The Hamza Case. Federal authorities charged the owner and several officials of Hamza,
Inc., a financial institution, for money laundering and secretly providing money to
al Qaeda. Those charged included Saifullah Anjum Ranjha (43), a legal permanent U.S.
resident from Pakistan; Imdad Ullah Ranjha (32), also a legal permanent resident from
Pakistan; and Muhammed Riaz Saqi, a Pakistani national living in Washington, D.C.
Also charged in the case were three Pakistani nationals living in Canada and Spain.
• Christopher Paul. Christopher “Kenyatta” Paul (43), a native U.S. citizen and convert
to Islam living overseas, was arrested upon his return to the United States in April 2008
for having plotted terrorist attacks on various U.S. targets. He later pleaded guilty.
• Bryant Vinas. Bryant Vinas (26), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested in Pakistan and extradited to the United States for having joined al Qaeda in
Pakistan. He also provided al Qaeda with information to help plan a bombing attack
on the Long Island Rail Road.
• Somali Recruiting Case I. As many as a dozen Somalis may have been recruited in
the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area by Shirwa Ahmed (26), a naturalized U.S. citizen
Chronology of the Cases from Somalia, to fight in Somalia. Ahmed subsequently was
killed in a suicide bomb- ing in Somalia.
• Sharif Mobley. Sharif Mobley (26), a native U.S. citizen of Somali descent, moved
to Yemen in 2008, ostensibly to study Arabic and religion, but in reality, authorities
believe, to join a terrorist organization. He was later arrested by Yemeni authorities in
a roundup of al Qaeda and al-Shabaab militants. In March 2010, he killed one guard
and wounded another in an attempt to escape.
• The Riverdale Synagogue Plot. Native U.S. citizens James Cromite (55), David
Williams (28), Onta Williams (32), and Laguerre Payen (27), a Haitian national, all con-
verts to Islam, were arrested in an FBI sting in New York in May 2009 for planning to
blow up synagogues.
• Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. In June 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid
Muhammad (23), also known as Carlos Bledsoe, a native U.S. citizen and Muslim con-
vert, killed one soldier and wounded another at an Army recruiting station in Arkansas.
• The North Carolina Cluster. Daniel Boyd (39), a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, was arrested
in July 2009 along with his two sons, Zakarlya Boyd (20) and Dylan Boyd (22), also
converts to Islam, and four others, including three U.S. citizens—Anes Subasic (33), a
naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia; Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan (22), a U.S.-born
citizen; and Ziyad Yaghi (21), a naturalized U.S. citizen—and Hysen Sherifi (24), a
legal U.S. resident from Kosovo, for plotting terrorist attacks in the United States and
abroad. Jude Kenan Mohammad (20), a U.S.-born citizen, was also a member of the
group. He was arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2008. Boyd reportedly reconnoi-
tered the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia.
• Betim Kaziu. Betim Kaziu (21), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested in September
2009 for traveling overseas to join al-Shabaab or to attend a terrorist training camp in
• Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (38), a U.S. permanent resi-
dent and dual national of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, was charged with attending an
al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. He pleaded guilty to providing material support
to a terrorist group.
• Michael Finton. Michael Finton (29), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested in September 2009 in an FBI sting for planning to blow up a federal court-
house in Springfield, Illinois.
• Hosam Maher Smadi. Hosam Maher Smadi (19), a Jordanian citizen living in the
United States, was arrested in September 2009 in an FBI sting for planning to blow up
an office building in Dallas, Texas.
• Najibullah Zazi. Najibullah Zazi (25), a permanent U.S. resident from Afghanistan,
was arrested in September 2009 for receiving training in explosives at a terrorist train-
ing camp in Pakistan and buying ingredients for explosives in preparation for a ter-
rorist attack in the United States. Indicted with Zazi were his father, Mohammed Zazi
(53), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, and Ahmad Afzali (38), a U.S. per-
manent resident from Afghanistan, both for making false statements to federal inves-
tigators; neither was involved in the terrorist plot. In January 2010, authorities arrested
Adis Medunjanin (24), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia, and Zarein Ahmedzay
(25), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, and charged them with participat-
ing in the plot.
• Tarek Mehana. In October 2009, federal authorities in Massachusetts arrested Tarek
Mehana (27), a dual citizen of the United States and Egypt, for conspiring over a seven-
year period to kill U.S. politicians, attack American troops in Iraq, and target shopping
malls in the United States. Two other individuals, including Ahmad Abousamra (27), a
U.S. citizen, were allegedly part of the conspiracy. Abousamra remains at large.
• David Headley. In an increasingly complicated case, David Headley (49), a U.S.-born
citizen of Pakistani descent and resident of Chicago, was arrested in October 2009
along with Tahawar Rana (48), a native of Pakistan and a Canadian citizen, for plan-
ning terrorist attacks abroad. Headley was subsequently discovered to have partici-
pated in the reconnaissance of Mumbai prior to the November 2008 attack by the ter-
rorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba. He pleaded guilty in March 2010.
• Colleen Renee LaRose. Calling herself “Jihad Jane” on the Internet, Colleen Renee
LaRose (46), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was arrested in October 2009
for plotting to kill a Swedish artist whose drawings of Muhammad had enraged Mus-
lims and for attempting to recruit others to terrorism. Her arrest was concealed until
March 2010. LaRose pleaded guilty to the charges.
• Nidal Hasan. In November 2009, Nidal Hasan (38), a native U.S. citizen and Army
major, opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 31.
• The Pakistan Five. In November 2009, five Muslim Americans from Virginia—
Umar Farooq (25), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Ramy Zamzam (22), who
was born in Egypt, immigrated to the United States at the age of two, and became a
citizen by virtue of his parents becoming citizens; Waqar Hassan Khan (22), a natu-
ralized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Ahmad Abdullah Mimi (20), a naturalized U.S.
citizen from Eritrea; and Aman Hassan Yemer (18), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Ethiopia—were arrested in Pakistan for attempting to obtain training as jihadist guer-
rillas. Khalid Farooq, Umar Farooq’s father, was also taken into custody but was later
released. The five were charged by Pakistani authorities with planning terrorist attacks.
• Somali Recruiting Case II. In November 2009, federal authorities indicted eight
men for recruiting at least 20 young men in Minnesota for jihad in Somalia and rais-
ing funds on behalf of al-Shabaab. By the end of 2009, a total of 14 indictments had
been handed down as a result of the ongoing investigation. Those indicted, all but
one of whom are Somalis, were Abdow Munye Abdow, a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Somalia; Khalid Abshir; Salah Osman Ahmad; Adarus Abdulle Ali; Cabdulaahi Ahmed
Faarax; Kamal Hassan; Mohamed Hassan; Abdifatah Yusef Isse; Abdiweli Yassin Isse;
Zakaria Maruf; Omer Abdi Mohamed, a legal permanent resident from Somalia; Ahmed
Ali Omar; Mahanud Said Omar; and Mustafa Salat. No age information is available.
• Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari. Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari (53), also known as
Michael Mixon, a native U.S. citizen, was indicted and pleaded guilty to attempting to
provide financing for terrorist training in Afghanistan.
• Raja Lahrasib Khan. Raja Lahrasib Khan (57), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Paki-
stan, was charged with sending money to Ilyas Kashmiri, an al Qaeda operative in
Pakistan, and for discussing blowing up an unidentified stadium in the United States.
• Times Square Bomber. Faisal Shazad (30), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan,
had studied and worked in the United States since 1999. In 2009, he traveled to Paki-
stan and contacted the TTP (Pakistan Taliban), who gave him instruction in bomb-
building. Upon his return to the United States, he built a large incendiary device
in a sport utility vehicle (SUV) and attempted unsuccessfully to detonate it in New
York City’s Times Square. He was arrested in May 2010. Three other individuals were
arrested in the investigation but were never charged with criminal involvement in the
• Jamie Paulin-Ramirez. The arrest of Colleen R. LaRose (“Jihad Jane”) in 2009 led to
further investigations and the indictment of Jamie Paulin-Ramirez (31), also known as
“Jihad Jamie.” Paulin-Ramirez, a native-born U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, alleg-
edly accepted an invitation from LaRose to join her in Europe in order to attend a
training camp there. According to the indictment, she flew to Europe with “the intent
to live and train with jihadists.” She was detained in Ireland and subsequently returned
to the United States, where she was arraigned in April 2010.
Wesam el-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff. Wesam el-Hanafi (33), also known
as “Khaled,” a native-born U.S. citizen, and Sabirhan Hasanoff (34), also known as
“Tareq,” a dual U.S.-Australian citizen, were indicted for allegedly providing material
In September 2010, Sami Samir Hassoun (22), was arrested in an FBI sting in Chicago
for attempting to carry out a ter-rorist bombing. Hassoun expressed anger at Chicago
Mayor Richard Daley. It is not clear that the case is jihadist-related.
In December 2010, Awais Younis (26), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, was
arrested for threatening to bomb the Washington, D.C., Metro system. He made the threat on
Facebook, and it was reported to the authorities. Neither of these cases is included in the chronology.
support to a terrorist group. The two men, one of whom traveled to Yemen in 2008,
provided al Qaeda with computer advice and assistance, along with other forms of aid.
• Khalid Ouazzani. Khalid Ouazzani (32) pleaded guilty in May to providing material
support to a terrorist group. Ouazzani, a Moroccan-born U.S. citizen, admitted to rais-
ing money for al Qaeda through fraudulent loans, as well as performing other tasks at
the request of the terrorist organization between 2007 and 2008.
• Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte. Two New Jersey men,
Mohamed Mahmood Alessa (20), a native U.S. citizen, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte
(24), a naturalized citizen from the Dominican Republic and convert to Islam, were
arrested in June at New York’s JFK Airport for conspiring to kill persons outside the
United States. The two were on their way to join al-Shabaab in Somalia.
• Barry Walter Bujol, Jr. Barry Walter Bujol, Jr. (29), a native U.S. citizen and convert
to Islam, was arrested as he attempted to leave the United States to join al Qaeda in
Yemen. He had been under investigation for two years and was in contact with an
undercover agent he believed to be an al Qaeda operative.
• Samir Khan. In June 2010, the Yemen-based affiliate of al Qaeda began publishing
Inspire, a slick, English-language online magazine devoted to recruiting Western youth
to violent jihad. The man behind the new publication was Samir Khan (24), a Saudi-
born naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to the United States with his parents when
he was seven years old. He began his own journey to violent jihad when he was 15. He
reportedly left the United States in late 2009, resurfacing in Yemen in 2010.
• Rockwood’s Hitlist. Paul Rockwood (35), a U.S. citizen who served in the U.S. Navy
and converted to Islam while living in Alaska, was convicted in July 2010 for lying
to federal authorities about drawing up a list of 15 targets for assassination; they were
targeted because, in his view, they offended Islam. He was also accused of research-
ing how to build the explosive devices that would be used in the killings. His wife,
Nadia Rockwood (36), who has dual UK-U.S. citizenship, was convicted of lying to
• Zachary Chesser. Zachary Chesser (20), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested for supporting a terrorist group in July as he attempted to board an airplane to
fly to Somalia and join al-Shabaab. Chesser had earlier threatened the creators of the
television show South Park for insulting Islam in one of its episodes.
• Shaker Masri. A U.S. citizen by birth, Shaker Masri (26) was arrested in August 2010,
allegedly just before he planned to depart for Afghanistan to join al Qaeda or Somalia
to join al-Shabaab.
• Somali Recruiting Case III. As part of a continuing investigation of recruiting and
funding for al Qaeda ally al-Shabaab, the U.S. Department of Justice announced four
indictments charging 14 persons with providing money, personnel, and services to the
terrorist organization. In Minnesota, 10 men were charged with terrorism offenses for
leaving the United States to join al-Shabaab: Ahmed Ali Omar (27), a legal permanent
resident; Khalid Mohamud Abshir (27); Zakaria Maruf (31), a legal permanent resident;
Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan (22), a legal permanent resident; Mustafa Ali Salat (20), a
legal permanent resident; Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax (33), a U.S. citizen; and Abdiweli
Yassin Isse (26). Three were new on the list and had been the subject of previous indict-
ments: Abdikadir Ali Abdi (19), a U.S. citizen; Abdisalan Hussein Ali (21), a U.S. citi-
zen; and Farah Mohamed Beledi (26). A separate indictment named Amina Farah Ali
(33) and Hawo Mohamed Hassan (63), both naturalized U.S. citizens, for fundraising
on behalf of al-Shabaab. A fourth indictment charged Omar Shafik Hammami (26),
a U.S. citizen from Alabama, and Jehad Sherwan Mostafa (28) of San Diego, Califor-
nia, with providing material support to al-Shabaab. (Hammami’s involvement is listed
in this chronology under the year 2007, when he first left the United States to join
al-Shabaab; Mostafa is listed separately in the next entry.)
• Jehad Serwan Mostafa. In August 2010, Jehad Serwan Mostafa (28), a native U.S.
citizen, was indicted for allegedly joining al-Shabaab in Somalia. He reportedly left
the United States in December 2005 and was with al-Shabaab between March 2008
and June 2009.
• Abdel Hameed Shehadeh. Abdel Hameed Shehadeh (21), a U.S.-born citizen of Pal-
estinian origin, was arrested in October for traveling to Pakistan to join the Taliban
or another group to wage jihad against U.S. forces. Denied entry to Pakistan, then
Jordan, Shehadeh returned to the United States and subsequently attempted to join
the U.S. Army. He allegedly hoped to deploy to Iraq, where he planned to desert and
join the insurgents. When that did not work out, he tried again to leave the country
to join the Taliban.
• Farooque Ahmed. Farooque Ahmed (34), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was
arrested in October for allegedly plotting to bomb Metro stations in Washington, D.C.
FBI undercover agents learned of Ahmed’s intentions by posing as al Qaeda operatives.
• Shabaab Support Network in San Diego. Saeed Moalin (33), a naturalized U.S. cit-
izen from Somalia, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud (38), born in Somalia, and Issa
Doreh (54), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, all residents of San Diego, were
arrested for allegedly providing material support to al-Shabaab. The investigation of
this network is continuing, and a fourth man from Southern California, Ahmed Nasir
Taalil Mohamud (35), was subsequently indicted.
• Al-Shabaab Fundraising II. In November, federal authorities arrested Mohamud
Abdi Yusuf (24), a St. Louis resident, and Abdi Mahdi Hussein (35) of Minneapolis,
both immigrants from Somalia. The two are accused of sending money to al-Shabaab
in Somalia. A third person, Duane Mohamed Diriye, believed to be in Africa, was also
• Nima Ali Yusuf. Nima Ali Yusuf (24), a legal permanent resident originally from Soma-
lia, was arrested in November for allegedly providing material support to a terrorist
group. She was accused of attempting to recruit fighters and raise funds for al-Shabaab.
• Mohamed Osman Mohamud. Mohamed Osman Mohamud (19), a naturalized U.S.
citizen originally from Somalia, was arrested in December for attempting to detonate
what he believed to be a truck bomb at an outdoor Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony
in Portland, Oregon. He reportedly had wanted to carry out some act of violent jihad
since the age of 15. His bomb was, in fact, an inert device given to him by the FBI,
which set up the sting after it became aware of his extremism through a tip and subse-
quent monitoring of his correspondence on the Internet.
• Antonio Martinez. Antonio Martinez (21), also known as Muhaamed Hussain, a nat-
uralized U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was arrested in December for allegedly plot-
ting to blow up the Armed Forces Career Center in Catonsville, Maryland. The car
bomb he used to carry out the attack was a fake device provided to him by the FBI,
which had been communicating with him for two months.