For immediate release | Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CEP Profiles 24 New American Foreign Fighters, Financiers, and Supporters of Extremist Groups

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Media at CEP

 New reports add to database of 66 U.S.-based extremists, financiers, and propagandists released in September

 

(New York, NY)The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today is releasing 24 new profiles of Americans who have fought with, allegedly attempted to join, or who stand accused of providing material or financial support to extremist groups like ISIS, the Nusra Front, and al-Shabab. These profiles add to the existing database of 66 American extremists, which are part of CEP’s comprehensive Global Extremist Registry.

“American families have not been spared the tragedy of discovering that their children have been radicalized by extremists who prowl social media platforms, freely propagandizing and spreading hate and violent messages,” said CEP CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace. “Too many of America’s sons and daughters have left the country to join more than 30,000 other foreign fighters lured to Syria and Iraq from all parts of the world. CEP has now documented the cases of 90 Americans who have sadly died fighting for extremist groups, or who stand accused of attempting to join extremist groups overseas, supporting extremist groups financially or encouraging others to carry out attacks here at home.”

To view the 24 most recent additions to the list of American foreign fighters and homegrown extremists, as well as the 66 American extremists profiled in September, click here.

The profiles of all the American foreign fighters and homegrown extremists are accompanied by a data sidebar containing pertinent reference information such as date of birth, place of residence, education, date of arrest and the charges, and use of social media.

All 90 profiles can also be found on the Global Extremist Registry, a searchable database and interactive map containing profiles of the world’s most notorious extremist leaders, propagandists, financiers, and their organizations. The information on extremist leaders is presented in both list form and graphically on a world map. In either format, users can search by name, by political leader, by financial leader or filter by extremist groups, such as: ISIS; al-Qaeda; Boko Haram; Golden Dawn; Hezbollah; the Nusra Front; Muslim Brotherhood; and others.

Following is a sampling of the new American profiles featured on the Global Extremist Registry:

Moner Mohammad Abusalha of Vero Beach, Florida, became the first known U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide attack in Syria. The son of a Palestinian father and an American mother, Abusalha graduated from high school in the United States, then moved to Jordan where his father had lined up work for him. Initially, he worked in a hospital, then joined the Nusra Front in Syria. On May 25, 2014, Abusalha detonated 16 tons of explosives hidden inside the truck he drove to a mountaintop restaurant where Syrian government forces often gathered. An online statement from the Nusra Front said Abusalha was one of four suicide bombers sent to carry out an assault on government forces near the city of Ariha in northern Syria. The Nusra Front released a video Abusalha recorded before his death entitled “The Story of the American Muhajir,” in which he is shown tearing, biting, and burning his American passport.

Hoda Muthana, a 20-year-old college student, left her Hoover, Alabama, home in November 2014 to join ISIS in Syria. She has since become a bride and a widow of a jihadist fighter, and continues to praise ISIS’s goals in her online postings. Muthana’s parents fled Yemen for the United States and Muthana and her siblings were all born in America. When Muthana graduated from high school in 2013, she received a cell phone for a graduation present. In the fall of 2013, Muthana secretly created a Twitter account, through which she met ISIS supporters, and began planning her trip to Syria. In November 2014, she went to Atlanta on a fictitious school trip and then flew to Turkey. When she spoke with her father the next day, Muthana had already crossed into Syria. In early December 2014, Muthana posted a group photo on Twitter of four women holding foreign passports and announcing their intention to burn the documents.

Terrence J. McNeil is an alleged ISIS supporter from Akron, Ohio, who was arrested in 2015 and charged with one count of solicitation of a crime of violence. He reportedly encouraged the murder of U.S. military personnel via social media by posting names, addresses, and pictures of approximately 100 members of the U.S. armed forces. Along with the names and addresses, prosecutors say that some of McNeil’s postings read: “Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe.” Although McNeil was not charged with attempting to kill members of the military, the Justice Department and FBI asserted that the social media posts, allegedly inciting murder, were enough to trigger an indictment. The case may represent the U.S. government's first attempt to prosecute an individual for inciting violence online. In previous cases, material support for terror groups has been defined as money or expertise, or planning to travel overseas to join their cause. According to court documents, McNeil has no criminal record, but has a history of issuing threats through his Twitter and Facebook accounts, some of which have been removed.

Zachary Chesser is a homegrown extremist and would-be foreign fighter who attempted to travel to Somalia to fight alongside al-Shabab. Chesser is also known for urging U.S.-based extremists to attack the writers of South Park, a television show that, in one episode, depicted Islam’s prophet Muhammad in a bear costume. Chesser was indicted at age 20, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a federal court. In December 2009, Chesser created the blog “themujahidblog.com” to “[spread] knowledge regarding Jihad and the Mujahideen.” In June 2010, he posted his nearly 7,000-word manifesto titled “Raising Al Qaa’ida” to several jihadist websites. Approximately two weeks later, he was stopped from boarding a flight with his infant son to Uganda. He was arrested and pleaded guilty in October 2010 to charges of “communicating threats against the writers of the South Park television show, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement, and attempting to provide material support to al Shabaab,” according to the FBI. Chesser’s wife, a Ugandan national facing deportation, fled to Jordan.

Abdullah Ramo Pazara is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia believed to be currently fighting for ISIS in Syria. Pazara left the United States in May 2013 and traveled to Zagreb, Bosnia and Herzegovina, before joining ISIS in Syria. In 2014, Pazara facilitated money transfers between individuals in the United States and jihadist organizations in the Middle East. Six other Bosnian-Americans—Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, Sedina Unkic Hodzic, Medy Salkicevic, Jasminka Ramic, Armin Harcevic, and Nihad Rosic—were indicted and charged with providing material support to terrorists. The support consisted of sending money to foreign fighters such as Pazara in amounts ranging from $150 to $1,850 and supplies such as U.S. military uniforms, tactical clothes and gear, and combat boots. In 2014, NBC News reported that Pazara may have been killed.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, an American who fought with the Nusra Front in 2012 and returned home to California, was arrested while attempting to travel to Syria for a second time. Nguyen converted to Islam in 2011 and, in December 2012, traveled to Syria with a passport under the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum and spent five months fighting alongside the Nusra Front. Nguyen documented his trip and battles on his Facebook account, bragging in February 2013, “I got my first confirmed kill about two weeks ago. So pumped to get more.” After he returned home to California, Nguyen used the same social media account to post his promise to return to Syria. Nguyen contacted who he thought was an al-Qaeda recruiter, but it turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. When Nguyen attempted to fly from Mexico to Pakistan, he was arrested. Nguyen pleaded guilty and in July 2014 was sentenced to 13 years in prison and an additional 10 years of supervised release for attempting to assist a terrorist organization and lying on a U.S. passport application to aid international terrorism.

Sultane Room Salim is a U.S. citizen who, between 2005 and 2012, allegedly conspired to send money and equipment to now-deceased AQAP terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. Salim allegedly acted in concert with his brother Asif Ahmed Salim, as well as Indian brothers Yahya Farooq Mohammad and Ibrahim Zubair Mohammad. In July 2009, Farooq Mohammad allegedly traveled to Yemen and presented $22,000 to one of al-Awlaki’s associates. According to the indictment, the four men “agreed to provide and did provide funds, equipment, and expert advice and assistance to Anwar Al-Awlaki to be used in furtherance of ‘violent jihad’ against the United States and the United States military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the world.” Salim was arrested in November 2015 in Ohio. He has pleaded not guilty.

Nicole Mansfield was killed on May 29, 2013, during a confrontation in Idlib, Syria. Mansfield allegedly threw a grenade at Syrian government forces who began shooting at her car, killing all three passengers inside. Mansfield was 33 at the time and became the first known American woman to be killed in Syria. A Syrian government television station reported that Mansfield was part of the Nusra Front while another Sunni Islamist group, Ahrar Al-Sham, claimed she was fighting for them. Mansfield converted to Islam in 2007 while working as a home health aide.

Douglas McCain was a convert to Islam and foreign fighter for ISIS, one of a number of Minneapolis men who joined extremists overseas. McCain was reportedly killed in late August 2014. McCain was the best friend of Troy Kastigar, an American who died fighting for al-Shabab in Somalia in 2009. Federal authorities began monitoring McCain in the early 2000s as part of a larger investigation of potentially radicalized Somalis in Minneapolis. McCain reportedly converted to Islam in 2004 following a conviction for marijuana possession and other non-violent crimes. A Twitter account allegedly operated by McCain tweeted on June 9, 2014, “I will be joining you guys soon.” He followed up the next day, “I’m with the brothers now.” On June 26, 2014, he tweeted, “It takes a warrior to understand a warrior,” and “Pray for ISIS.”