Recent Propaganda Releases by ISIS and Al-Qa’ida Promote Intensified Attacks by Supporters in the West
This assessment from NYPD has information that can be used to support both the federal and New York State grant applications. We highlighted issues concerning the Jewish community.
Open Source Assessment/February 10, 2020
Two recent extremist propaganda releases disseminated by ISIS’s al-Furqan Media and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Al-Malahem Media called on Salafi-jihadist supporters to intensify attacks as part of a retaliatory campaign of violence against the West, which may resonate with homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) based in the U.S. Both media campaigns referenced a broad variety of tactics, with ISIS’s statement promoting the use of conventional and chemical weapons, and AQAP’s message promoting simple, low-tech methods, as well as cyberwarfare campaigns.
- While both propaganda statements called for an escalation in attack efforts, ISIS’s propaganda release notably emphasized a “new phase” geared specifically towards targeting Israeli and Jewish interests. ISIS previously referenced chemical weapons tactics in numerous propaganda graphics, demonstrating the group’s persistent support and interest in this attack method. While the NYPD is not aware of any credible, active, or specific threats at this time, this statement, coupled with an already heightened threat environment, may serve as a catalyst for increased violence against Jewish communities.
- Additionally, AQAP’s latest propaganda release may potentially have a stronger resonance with al-Qa’ida-aligned HVEs in the West following the recently confirmed death of Qasim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, who was killed in a targeted U.S. counterterrorism operation in Yemen.
- On January 27, 2020, ISIS’s official media apparatus published a 37-minute Arabic-language audio statement attributed to its new spokesperson, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, marking his second speech since the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir in separate U.S. counterterrorism operations. While much of the statement—titled “God Destroyed Them and a Similar Fate Awaits the Disbelievers”—revisited ISIS’s narrative of survivability and endurance despite strategic setbacks, al-Qurayshi notably declared war on Israel, and called for ISIS supporters to broadly intensify their attack efforts worldwide.
- Throughout the speech, al-Qurayshi claimed that U.S. narratives about ISIS’s defeat in the Middle East are false and that the U.S. has historically been unable to defeat its adversaries, specifically referring to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. He asserted that ISIS will persist despite al-Baghdadi’s death. The statement appears to have been recorded in recent weeks, as it also referenced the death of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in early January 2020.
- After congratulating ISIS militants for waging a retaliatory campaign of violence in response to the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir, al-Qurayshi encouraged supporters to continue the revenge efforts by increasing the frequency of attacks. This specific statement could potentially resonate with lone offenders as a call to arms from core ISIS leadership.
- Al-Qurayshi announced the beginning of a new stage for ISIS aimed at reclaiming Jerusalem. He specifically urged ISIS affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula and Syria to turn Israeli “settlements and markets into a proving ground for your rockets and chemical weapons.” He also ordered Muslims to thwart the U.S. peace plan referred to as the “Deal of the Century,” and implored Palestinians and Muslims worldwide to target Jews. While previous ISIS messaging also emphasized the targeting of Jewish and Israeli interests in an effort to inspire attacks by established ISIS affiliates and lone offender supporters, the emphasis on these targets in this audio message likely coincides with the latest proposed U.S. peace plan for the Middle East.
- On February 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Qasim al-Rimi, the emir of AQAP and potential heir to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a U.S. military counterterrorism operation. Al-Rimi was previously featured in a propaganda video disseminated by AQAP on February 2 that claimed responsibility for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, praised global al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, and emphasized the importance of continued retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests. Given al-Rimi’s death, his latest message urging lone offender attacks against the U.S. may also catalyze HVEs to conduct retaliatory attacks.
- AQAP’s propaganda video featured Qasim al-Rimi, often pairing his image with other al-Qa’ida ideologues. He declared that AQAP was responsible for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola which was conducted by Saudi aviation student Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, who he claimed was a sleeper agent for AQAP. Similar to the retaliatory narrative in past AQAP propaganda messages, he stated that the shooting was in revenge for crimes committed by the U.S. across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Additionally, on February 4, the al-Qa’ida-affiliated al-Shabaab echoed this narrative by congratulating AQAP for its role in the Pensacola attack and encouraged continued lone offender operations in the West.
- Al-Rimi connected the Pensacola shooting to other al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, stating that it was part of a series of global attacks. He compared al-Shamrani to the group’s other perceived “heroes,” such as Nidal Malik Hassan, the November 2019 Fort Hood shooter, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who orchestrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, in a likely attempt to encourage similar operations by HVEs in the West.
- Most significantly, al-Rimi explicitly called for lone offender attacks in the U.S and told supporters to make sure their “chief concern” is “America.” He urged students, journalists, doctors, engineers, merchants, workers, Arab and non-Arabs to use low-tech, simple tactics, including vehicle ramming, firearms, and explosives. He also encourages viewers to consult AQAP’s Inspire magazine for tactical guidance.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW YORK CITY
There is currently no direct, credible or specific threat to New York City following these recent propaganda releases by ISIS and AQAP media entities; however, ISIS’s calls for attacks against Jewish communities highlights the importance of vigilance for suspicious activity indicators at similar locations, houses of worship, and Jewish faith community gatherings throughout the five boroughs. In recent months, authorities have disrupted numerous plots by malicious actors from across the violent extremist ideological spectrum who espoused anti-Semitic views and targeted the Jewish community.
Security personnel are advised to be on alert for suspicious behavior that could indicate pre-operational surveillance for an attack. Such behavior could include individuals taking photographs of security procedures in place, and asking probing questions of security/law enforcement officers stationed outside such locations.
Information sharing and prompt reporting of suspicious behavior indicators between the public, private-sector security personnel, faith community leaders, and law enforcement authorities remains vital to the deterrence, detection, and disruption of terrorist activity and the prevention of attacks.
If You See Something, Say Something – 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233)
Kudos to Governor Andrew Cuomo on his milestone ‘NO HATE IN OUR STATE’ Conference and his inspirational message.
JCRC-NY Executive Vice President and CEO, Rabbi Michael Miller was honored to open the conference with an invocation and noted, “We [are] beset by a plague of dreadful violence, generated by senseless hatred of “the other.” And all [at this conference] are “the other.” . . . [As Governor Cuomo] has led with his raised voice . . . decrying the hatred, [so too] our voices need be raised.”
Governor Cuomo said that it was not enough for government to offer “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of horrible, violent hate crimes. Following his own injunction that government must not just talk, but act, he proposed as part of his FY 2021 Executive Budget an additional $25 million in security grant funding for organizations vulnerable to hate crimes. The Governor also proposed expanding eligibility for these security grants to include houses of worship.
“We are focused on protecting our institutions every day and we know that houses of worship are among the most vulnerable,” said David Pollock, JCRC-NY Associate Executive Director and Chair of the new Community Security Initiative (a joint venture of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY). We appreciate the Governor’s genuine concern, and with the enactment of the New York State 2020-2021 budget, millions of congregants will be protected. “We are especially pleased that day camps will now be eligible to apply without matching funds (see the new Request for Application).”
NY nonpublic K-12 schools, community centers, camps and museums should click to JCRC-NY’s dedicated webpage (www.jcrcny.org/securitygrants) for more information on how to apply for grant funding to protect at-risk institutions.
As we prepare to celebrate Passover we should remember that the upcoming religious holidays (not only Pesach, but Easter and Ramadan) may provide increased symbolic interest to homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) and domestic extremists—including some perpetrators of hate crimes inspired by or adhering to domestic extremist ideologies—aspiring to target faith-based communities here in the United States. While security experts are not aware of any credible threats surrounding the upcoming religious holiday season, we suggest — out of an abundance of caution — that all synagogues maintain heightened vigilance during Passover. See our suggestions below.
While there have been no recent attacks or plots in the United States specifically targeting a religious holiday celebration, there have been successful and disrupted plots targeting faith-based communities here. Most HVEs and domestic extremists attempting any near-term attacks likely would use simplistic tactics and relatively easily obtainable weapons such as firearms, knives, and vehicles—although some violent extremists have sought to use explosive devices.
Recent incidents targeting houses of worship
- On 15 March 2019, an Australian national allegedly used firearms to attack the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, resulting in 50 fatalities and at least 50 non-fatal injuries. Police also discovered two improvised explosive devices in vehicles in connection with the attack.
- On 10 December 2018, an Ohio-based individual was arrested for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) for allegedly planning a mass-casualty attack on a synagogue in Toledo, Ohio. When researching a location, time, and weapons for the attack, the individual allegedly expressed a desire to attack the greatest number of people and inflict mass casualties.
- On 27 October 2018, a Pennsylvania-based individual, who has been indicted for multiple federal charges including violations of civil rights, allegedly shot and killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wounding two other congregants and four responding law enforcement officers. He is currently awaiting trial for hate crimes and other federal charges.
- On 13 June 2018, a Wisconsin-based individual was arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. The individual allegedly used a pro-ISIS social media account to suggest potential targets for bombing attacks, including churches.
- On 22 December 2017, a California-based individual was arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS for a planned attack on a shopping center in San Francisco, California. Investigative reporting indicates the attack was intended to take place on Christmas Day and inflict mass causalities.
Recent statements and media from foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) and FTO supporters online continue calls for attacks against places of worship and specific religious groups. Although HVEs generally do not respond to specific events with violence, we remain concerned that FTO media condemning the New Zealand mosque attacks, coupled with the possibility of repeated calls from FTOs encouraging supporters to attack during Ramadan, could lead to the increased possibility of retaliatory attacks by HVEs in the United States.
Religious holiday gatherings are an attractive target for HVEs and domestic extremists because they offer an opportunity to capitalize on large crowds and increased symbolism of the target; however, most violent extremists are unlikely to act on specific days or in response to calls for action, and are instead influenced by a variety of factors to mobilize to violence.
- Report. Anyone who observes any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact law enforcement immediately at 888-NYC-SAFE. If you see something, say something.
- Overview. Look at the recent DHS publication, Mass Gatherings: Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places, can be a great template for your security planning process. Virtually every suggestion in the document can be applied to your planning process. Organizations should “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report”. Applying these four steps in advance of a possible incident or attack can help better prepare us to proactively think about the role that our whole community plays in the safety and security of our organizations.
- Connect. The first step in the process is to “Connect”. You should have an ongoing relationship with your local police precinct. They should know when your services and programs are scheduled. If you don’t know your local police officials, the JCRC can help. Click here to contact us.
- Plan. Download Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities and Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship for suggestions and ideas.
- Active Shooter response. Many of our contacts attended active shooter trainings offered in the New York area last week. If you could not attend either session or another training, click here for the JCRC-NY dedicated Active Shooter Resources webpage that includes resources from many sources. If you want to arrange a training the JCRC can help, based on available resources. Click here to contact us.
- Access control. If an attacker can walk into a building unchallenged bad things will happen. No unauthorized person should be able to enter your building at any time. The first step is to develop a feasible access control policy (see our Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures) and to keep any door that cannot be monitored and controlled locked.
- Security personnel. Guards at synagogues vary in quality, but generally, almost anything is better than nothing. Volunteers are good, trained volunteers are better. Uniformed guards (e.g., identifiable shirts, vests, blazers) can be deterrents. Guards who are off-duty or retired police or corrections officers bring experience, training and judgement. To be effective, any guard has to have clear instructions and procedures (see below). NYPD does have a Paid Detail Unit which provides officers to perform off-duty, uniformed security work within New York City for approximately $45/hour. Click here for more information and contact details. For a discussion of armed vs. unarmed guards see our post Armed or unarmed security, what’s best? and a guest post here.
Best wishes for a happy and safe Pesach.
|Quick tips: What should your guard(s) be doing?|
|Guards should not be merely uniformed potted plants adorning your lobby. Rather, they should be an important and active component of your overall security plan.If you have a single guard, his/her logical priority is access control (see our suggestions on how to develop an access control policy here). At the same time, don’t lose sight of other important functions, including:
The security management industry calls instructions for guards, “post orders” which clearly outline the duties, responsibilities, and expectations of security guards. For example, your post orders should clearly set forth your access control policies and define the areas of your property that should be included in a walk-around and their time and frequency (e.g., upon arrival and upon returning from lunch).
See the links below for information about today’s arrest of a suspect believed to be responsible for the majority of the bomb threats over the past months. Remember, another individual was already arrested and law enforcement authorities believe that there are other copycats.
- Daily Beast: The Slip-Up That Caught the Jewish Center Bomb Caller
- JTA: JCC bomb threat suspect, named Michael Kaydar, reportedly used Bitcoin, Google Voice
- JTA: Jeff Sessions: JCC bomb threat probe spanned multiple continents
- JTA: Israeli-American teen arrested in Israel for over 100 JCC bomb threats
- WCBS TV
- NY Times
- NY Daily News
- Fox News
- Washington Post
- Israeli National Police Video Statement
- JCCA Association
New York | September 18, 2014 – Over the first half of 2014, an average of eight incidents were reported to the NYPD and classified as possible hate crimes. In July and August the number more than doubled, averaging 18 incidents per month. The increase is concurrent with the Israeli “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza and the firing of over 4,382 rockets at Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.
According to the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, the number of anti-Semitic/Jewish incidents rose 39% during the first 8½ months of 2014. Most of the rise in reports occurred during July and August. So far in 2014 Jews were targets of 40% of the reported hate crimes in New York City, compared to 33% in 2013. Reported anti-Semitic/Muslim attacks also rose dramatically over the same period, which coincides with ISIS becoming a major news story during July and August. Anti-Muslim incidents made up 8% of the reported hate crimes in 2014.Deputy Chief Michael Osgood reported the figures at a NYPD High Holiday Briefing yesterday. He attributed the increase to intense media coverage leading to two factors: a person who normally would not offend becomes an offender; an people are more likely to report hate crimes during such periods.
The good news is that the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force analysis of the anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim incidents indicated that:
- The crimes were random, without a discernable pattern;
- The perpetrators did not engage in pre-planning;
- The attacks were simplistic;
- The perpetrators were not members of an organized hate group; and
- The crimes could be categorized as impulsive street thuggery.
We of the JCRC-NY conclude that the spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes is bad news and good news:
- First, the bad news is that the reported anti-Semitic incidents increased dramatically while Gaza was in the news. This pattern was not a new phenomenon; the NYPD recorded similar spikes in anti-Jewish hate crimes during previous Israeli responses to Palestinian violence. We believe that one hate crime is one too many, condemn those who commit them and urge that they be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
- Second, the good news. People are reporting hate crimes to the police. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is without peer. Their sophisticated and serious response to hate crimes of all descriptions sends a clarion-clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in New York City. We strongly urge anyone who is a victim of a hate crime to immediately report it to the police.
- Third, more good news. The number of reported anti-Jewish hate crimes is dropping over the past month. This seems to indicate that the pattern of past spikes holds.
- Finally, modified good news. The NYPD analysis of the reported possible hate crimes occurring during the spike shows them to be mostly disorganized, low-level, impulsive street thuggery; with no indication that the offenders are members of any active, organized hate group. The New York City incidents stand in stark contrast to the disturbing and violent anti-Jewish attacks in Europe.
As the Jewish High Holidays approach, we strongly recommend that Jewish organizations review their security and access control measures. We are mindful that eight of 18 plots to attack the city in the past 22 years targeted Jewish institutions or Jewish people. Whether the concern is terrorism or hate crimes we can rest assured that the NYPD is there to protect New York’s Jewish community and all New Yorkers and are deeply grateful.
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