American families are under assault from an Islamic extremist group that is quietly turning young minds against their parents, against their religious faith, and against their country.
The group, the self-proclaimed Islamic State in occupied sections of Syria and Iraq, is using social media and the worldwide reach of the Internet in a sophisticated recruitment campaign that is making some families feel helpless to stop a slow-motion kidnapping of their children.
So far this year, 58 Americans – more than half under 25 – have been arrested for attempting to travel to Syria or for plotting violence in the US. That is more than twice the number of similar arrests for the entire year in 2014, and more than twice the number for all of 2013, as well.
“It is psychological warfare,” says Daniel Koehler, director of the Berlin-based German Institute on Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies (GIRDS). – “They work like headhunters,” he says of the recruiters. “They have studied everything we know in our Western research about the psychology of radicalization, or social isolation, or the development and influence of politics.” – He stresses: “They have studied us.”
To parents and observers, the group’s success is baffling, given its …
View More ISIS in America: How Doomsday Muslim Cult is Turning Kids against Parents
A journalist working under the pseudonym “Mélodie” received a private message on social media from Abou-Bilel, a senior commander of ISIS in Raqqa. The journalist, Anna Erelle, had spent over a year writing about jihadis fighting for ISIS. She had created social media profiles under the name “Mélodie” to investigate why teenagers might leave the West to fight for the Islamic State.
“Mélodie” had only been online for a few days, but she had already attracted a wide circle of friends who fought for or sympathized with the Islamic State. “Mélodie” shared videos and posts about jihad, including a video Bilel had made urging true believers to emigrate to areas controlled by ISIS.
Erelle was stunned at how easily she had made contact with a top commander in the terrorist organization. Over the next month, “Mélodie” spoke often with Bilel, via social media, text message, and Skype. Bilel proposed marriage and provided instructions for “Mélodie” to join him in Syria.
Erelle’s fictitious “Mélodie” is eerily similar to hundreds of Western girls who have fled their homes to join ISIS. A recent report from New America, a nonpartisan think-tank in Washington, D.C., estimates that 4,500 Westerners have left home for ISIS or other jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. Of those 4,500, one in seven are women, and of the 250 Americans who have attempted to join ISIS, one in six are women. A disproportionate number are teenagers.
Most women who choose to join ISIS or other jihadist groups are the victims of aggressive and deliberate propaganda campaigns. ISIS’s alleged goal is to build a lasting Islamist utopia, and women are essential for the creation of such a society. It is this vision of a utopia that appeals to many young Western women. A small but active group of women on social media who claim to be living in the Islamic State market ideas of sisterhood and …
View More Who ISIS Really Wants: How the Islamic State Lures Women Over the Internet
An undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation official monitoring communications on social media discovered someone making supportive comments about the Islamic State organization.
Further communications revealed that Jaelyn Young, 20, and her fiancé, Mohammad Oda Dakhalla, 22, both of Starkville, Miss., were saving money to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
The FBI brought in a second undercover operative, a woman, to pose on social media as a member of the Islamic State group to further probe Ms. Young’s level of commitment. Both Young and Mr. Dakhlalla are United States citizens. Young revealed on social media that Dakhlalla’s family and members of their community do not support the Syria-based group. But she and Dakhlalla support the organization and believe that it has established a genuine caliphate that Muslims must support.
She told the FBI operative that she had a talent for math and chemistry and that Dakhlalla had computer science/media skills. She suggested that they could work for the Islamic State in Syria by rendering medical assistance to the injured.
Another FBI undercover operative then made contact with Dakhlalla on social media to confirm his support for the militant group. In reaching out to the two young Americans, the FBI essentially followed the same approach that real Islamic State recruiters use with social media, befriending potential supporters, building a relationship of trust, and then convincing them to join the group. Except instead of resulting in new recruits arriving in Turkey and crossing the border into Syria, the FBI plan was designed to build a criminal case against the would-be recruits and send them to prison.
An FBI affidavit filed in the Young/Dakhlalla case does not discuss how …
View More The New Faces of ISIS in America
They connect via online services — especially Twitter — and in everyday life. Their ages range from 15 to 47, and their roles range from cheering attacks to plotting violence. And curbing their growth is a dynamic challenge without a simple solution: There are currently 900 active investigations into ISIS sympathizers in every American state.
Those are some of the findings of a new study that glimpses life “inside the bubble of American ISIS sympathizers, a diverse and diffuse scene that the FBI estimates include hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals.”
Titled “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa,” the report by Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes focuses on around 300 people who have been identified as American recruits or supporters of ISIS.
While it's not new for Americans to join jihadist groups, Vidino, who directs the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, says, “the size of the ISIS-related radicalization and mobilization is unprecedented.”
NPR's Carrie Johnson reports:
View More 'Unprecedented': What ISIS Looks Like In America
“The report reviewed social media accounts and legal cases against Islamic State recruits. The study says the highest number of recruits have been charged in New York and Minnesota, though the FBI has open investigations in all 50 states.
“The report's authors say the average age of the ISIS sympathizers is 26 — and more than half have traveled or tried to travel abroad.
“About 40 percent of the cases George Washington reviewed involved converts to Islam, and a small fraction, about 1 in 10, are women.”
There are 300 Islamic State sympathizers based in the United States who are active on social media, according to a new report by the Program on Extremism, at George Washington University.
The groundbreaking report, by Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes, identifies 250 Americans who have attempted to join the Islamic State and 900 open FBI investigations relating to ISIS.
It analyzes the Islamic State’s presence in the United States, monitoring both online and offline activity and details case studies of individuals who have joined the Islamic State. It’s broken down into two parts. The first exhaustively pulls together available information on all U.S. citizens who have been arrested for Islamic-State-related activity. The second examines motivations, including the role of social media.
“While jihadist causes have lured American recruits for several decades, the surge spurred by the rise of ISIS and its sophisticated marketing of its counter-culture to impressionable Americans is unprecedented” the report concludes. – “The data and vignettes provided in this report illuminate the complexity of the threat and caution against simple solutions. In their response to this challenge, American political and civic leaders will need to be bold, experimental, and receptive to novel policies and initiatives in order to defeat ISIS and protect some of our fellow citizens from falling into its clutches.”
Download and read the full report: ISIS in America – From Retweets to Raqqa
View More GROUNDBREAKING REPORT TRACKS ISIS SUPPORT IN AMERICA
Against a backdrop of heightened security and of resistance to a potential massive influx of Muslim refugees into the United States, ISIS has issued guidance in a little-noticed manual for the so-called “lone wolves” who have become a major concern of U.S. law-enforcement officials.
The 63-page, English-language manual, “Safety and Security Guidelines for Lone Wolf Mujahideen,” said to have been authored by three former members of the intelligence service of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who now work with ISIS in its self-proclaimed caliphate capital of Raqqa, Syria. The manual, adapted from an older al-Qaida online Arabic language course, gives lessons to clandestine small-cell and individual jihadist. It was first revealed by in October by the Middle East Research Institute, which said it came from a top ISIS disseminator on Twitter named Abu Naseeha.
Middle East security expert Michael W.S. Ryan said the manual’s publication demonstrates ISIS intends “to create a new hybrid war weapon in its arsenal against the United States, a hidden weapon designed to …
View More ISIS EQUIPS 'LONE WOLVES' IN U.S. WITH HOW-TO MANUAL
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