Anas El Abboubi

Anas El Abboubi was an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent and a U.S.-designated foreign fighter for ISIS since September 2016.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Anas El Abboubi,” U.S. Department of State, September 28, 2016, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/09/262527.htm;
“Foley, anche l’Italia ha un rapper jihadista è Anas El Abboubi, da Brescia ad Aleppo,” Il Fatto Quotidiano (Milan), August 23, 2015, http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2014/08/23/foley-anche-litalia-ha-il-suo-rapper-jihadista-anas-el-abboubi-da-brescia/1097416/.
According to the U.S. Department of State, El Abboubi had been fighting for ISIS from September 2013 until the time of his presumed death.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Anas El Abboubi,” U.S. Department of State, September 28, 2016, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/09/262527.htm. He was previously arrested by Italian counterterrorism police in June 2013 for jihadist propaganda—including his blog titled “Sharia4Italy”—and incitement to racial hatred.“Foley, anche l’Italia ha un rapper jihadista è Anas El Abboubi, da Brescia ad Aleppo,” Il Fatto Quotidiano (Milan), August 23, 2015, http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2014/08/23/foley-anche-litalia-ha-il-suo-rapper-jihadista-anas-el-abboubi-da-brescia/1097416/.

While in Italy, El Abboubi allegedly plotted to carry out acts of domestic terrorism. Police in the Italian city of Brescia stated that El Abboubi had utilized Google Maps to search for potential targets. One of his targets included the barracks in the Italian city of Goito, which houses members of the Italian military.Wilma Petenzi, “Esplora il significato del termine: Nel mirino dello studente pure questore e piazza LoggiaNel mirino dello studente pure questore e piazza Loggia,” Corriere Della Sera (Milan), June 13, 2013, http://archiviostorico.corriere.it/2013/giugno/13/Nel_mirino_dello_studente_pure_co_0_20130613_7fe5f472-d3e9-11e2-8ada-521e7e602088.shtml. Another target allegedly included the crowded Brescia train station through which thousands of commuters pass each day.“Terrorismo, voleva colpire la Stazione di Brescia e l'ex caserma Goito,” BSNews (Brescia), June 12, 2013, http://bsnews.it/notizia.php?id=25941.

El Abboubi first became known to police in September 2012, when he requested a permit from the police headquarters in Brescia to organize a protest.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. He told officials he wanted to protest the controversial movie The Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islamic film that sparked protests within Muslims communities internationally.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. He additionally informed police he planned to burn an Israeli flag and display anti-American banners.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. The Brescia police began looking into El Abboubi’s background, beginning what became known as “Operation Screen Shot.” The Brescia police monitored El Abboubi’s online activity and noted a fast progression towards increasingly radical content.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. El Abboubi began posting texts from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula radical cleric and propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki and looking at operational manuals on how to make explosives.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf.

In or around 2012, El Abboubi was featured on an MTV Italy special entitled “In the Rhythm of Allah,” in which he showcased his hip-hop and rapping skills.“MTV NEWS NEL RITMO DI ALLAH storia.mp4,” YouTube video, 9:23, posted by “metroitalia,” March 9, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EObUCoujN0o. He called himself “Mc Khalifh” and expressed his preference for “angry” music. He also discussed his love for Brescia—a city in northern Italy—and spoke with a notably Brescian accent. During the interview, El Abboubi described the racism and exclusion which he was subjected to throughout his life in Italy.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. El Abboubi said that he had “clear ideas” about his religious faith, and that “tolerance is the principal point in order to prove that you are a good Muslim.”“MTV NEWS NEL RITMO DI ALLAH storia.mp4,” YouTube video, 9:23, posted by “metroitalia,” March 9, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EObUCoujN0o. He claimed to have converted to Islam a year and a half prior to the interview and said the transition had a positive influence on his life.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. By the summer of 2012, El Abboubi stopped his rap career describing music as haram (forbidden).Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf.

El Abboubi began contacting jihadist sympathizers through Twitter and Facebook in 2012.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. He connected to Millatu Ibrahim a German-based militant Salafist group, participated in lectures by Omar Bakri Mohammad, a Lebanon-based extreme cleric, and with Anjem Choudary, an internationally designated Islamist cleric, convicted ISIS supporter, and founder of Sharia4UK.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf. El Abboubi began Sharia4Italy through a blog where he posted his writings advocating Islamic order.Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics, European Foundation for Democracy, April 2014, http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Homegrown-Jihadism-in-Italy.pdf.

It is unclear whether Sharia4Italy ever evolved beyond El Abboubi’s blog into an active organization similar to Sharia4Belgium, or whether the movement consisted primarily of the use of the hashtag #sharia4Italy. Sharia4Belgium was led by Fouad Belkacem after spending time in a London mosque and developing a relationship with Choudary, who helped Belkacem model Sharia4Belgium after the successful Sharia4UK.Vikram Dodd, “Anjem Choudary: A Hate Preacher Who Spread Terror in UK and Europe,” Guardian, August 16, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/16/anjem-choudary-hate-preacher-spread-terror-uk-europe. Although El Abboubi had contact with Choudary it is not believed that he had the same infrastructural support when attempting to set up Shaira4Italy. Postings under the hashtag #sharia4Italy have included photos supportive of ISIS as well as maps of Italy, appearing to indicate that the propagandists hope the country will one day fall under sharia law.Sharia4Italy Twitter hashtag, accessed July 27, 2015, https://twitter.com/hashtag/sharia4italy.

El Abboubi was arrested in Brescia on the morning of June 12, 2013, on charges of recruitment with the intent to commit acts of international terrorism and inciting discrimination and violence on the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion.“Terrorismo, arrestato 21enne: cercava obiettivi,” Corriere Della Sera (Brescia), June 12, 2013, http://brescia.corriere.it/brescia/notizie/cronaca/13_giugno_12/terrorismo-marocchino-arrestato-2221605936503.shtml?refresh_ce-cp. He was briefly imprisoned. Following his release, the prosecutor filed an appeal asking that he be re-incarcerated. The appeal was rejected. In October 2013, El Abboubi allegedly traveled to Syria where he reportedly joined in the fighting. El Abboubi’s father confirmed that he had left for Syria. “Foley, anche l’Italia ha un rapper jihadista è Anas El Abboubi, da Brescia ad Aleppo,” Il Fatto Quotidiano (Milan), August 23, 2015, http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2014/08/23/foley-anche-litalia-ha-il-suo-rapper-jihadista-anas-el-abboubi-da-brescia/1097416/.

One month later in November 2013, photos appeared on Facebook under a new profile name Anas Al-Italy, depicting El Abboubi holding a Kalashnikov, as well as an audio recording of El Abboubi explaining his decision to embrace Islamic law and fight alongside Syrian rebels.“Arrestato a Brescia, è in Siria a combattere per la Jihad,” Brescia Today, November 9, 2013, http://www.bresciatoday.it/cronaca/brescia-vobarno-anas-el-abboubi-jihad.html.

On January 23, 2019, El Abboubi was sentenced by the Court of Assizes of Brescia to six years in jail in absentia. Although he is formally an international fugitive, his family believes he was killed while fighting in former ISIS-Controlled Territory in Iraq/Syria.“Foreign Fighter Gets Six Years in Absentia – English,” ANSA.it, January 23, 2019, http://www.ansa.it/english/news/2019/01/23/foreign-fighter-gets-six-years-in-absentia_200288fb-87a2-480a-b180-81767c2acb5e.html; “Terrorismo: Sei Anni Al Foreign Fighter Anas El Abboubi.” Giornale Di Brescia, January 23, 2019, accessed June 25, 2019, https://www.giornaledibrescia.it/valsabbia/terrorismo-sei-anni-al-foreign-fighter-anas-el-abboubi-1.3333583.

 

United States

September 28, 2016

The U.S. Department of State designated “Anas El Abboubi” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Anas El Abboubi,” U.S. Department of State, September 28, 2016, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/09/262527.htm.

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