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memri
July 3, 2018 No.
1406

Washington, DC – DMV (District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia) As Jihadi Terrorist Targets

Introduction

On April 11, 2018, on Capitol Hill, the chief of the U.S Capitol Police testified in a hearing that provided insight into terrorist threats to Washington, D.C. The locations and institutions threatened have included areas around Capitol Hill not far from the White House, as well as many important government agencies which over the past few years leading terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda and their followers have called for targeting.

Chief Matthew R. Verderosa told the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations that his department "has investigated numerous, credible threats made against members of Congress or the U.S. Capitol [itself.]" According to his prepared testimony, he said: "The reality is that the Capitol Complex remains an attractive target to foreign and domestic terrorists, homegrown violent extremists, other lone offenders, and political extremists. These threats could take the form of an active shooter, vehicle ramming, improvised explosive devices, drones, chemical or biological substance releases, or any combination of these tactics..." 

Chief Verderosa added that, "Based on this increase in terrorist and domestic mass casualty events and upon studying the tactics displayed by known assailants, the U.S. Capitol Police continuously reviews our operational and tactical postures to ensure that we are taking every measure possible to maintain the security of the Capitol Complex, while allowing the legislative process to continue to function in an open environment, and protecting individuals' First Amendment rights. While we do not know of any imminent threat on the U.S. Capitol or the legislative process, we must be prepared to respond effectively to any threat that may present itself."[1]

Chief Verderosa's statements highlight the fact that in the D.C. metropolitan area (DMV – District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia) there has been an ongoing dangerous mix of jihadi activity, including individuals arrested in various stages of planning attacks or attempting to join terrorist groups, threats issued against individuals and targets in the area, and targets appearing in the propaganda of jihadi groups. 

Jihadi Arrests in the DMV

Over the past few years, there have been arrests of pro-jihadi individuals in the DMV area, as well as arrests of individuals who were planning attacks in the DMV. They included people of diverse races, education, religious backgrounds, and more.

A former police officer for the D.C. Metro system, Nicholas Young, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to help ISIS.[2] Farooque Ahmed, a Pakistani-American from Ashburn, VA, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for plotting attacks involving multiple bombings that could have led to mass casualties on D.C.-area Metro stations.[3] Christopher Lee Cornell was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges including attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama as he gave his State of the Union address in Congress.[4] Maryland resident Mohamed Elshinawy was sentenced to 20 years for accepting thousands of dollars from ISIS members overseas in 2015 as prepayment for carrying out an attack in the U.S.[5]

Another Maryland resident, Nelash Mohamed Das, was charged with plotting to attack a member of the U.S. military on behalf of ISIS.[6] Sean Andrew Duncan of Virginia, who pleaded guilty to obstructing a counterterrorism investigation, had a lengthy history of links to terrorism;[7] convicted felon Casey Charles Spain, also of Virginia, went to prison for 10 years for possession of a firearm; he had been radicalized in prison, had expressed support for ISIS, and had been under intense FBI surveillance.[8] Virginian Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, a former Army National Guard member, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years supervised release for attempting to provide material support to ISIS,[9] and Lionel Williams, also of Virginia, was sentenced to 20 years and lifetime supervision once released after pleading guilty to trying to help ISIS.[10]

Jihadi Cyber Hacks Connected To DMV

ISIS Cyber Wing, ISIS Supporters Online Threaten Government and Military Officials In DMV

ISIS's cyber wing and ISIS supporters posted online personal information, obtained by hacking beginning in 2014, of Members of Congress and of personnel, as well as senior officials of the FBI, CIA, U.S. Armed Forces, and others. Some posts have included addresses and photos of their homes, who live in the DMV area.[11] It should be noted that these hackers were successful in causing counterterrorism officials to invest tremendous resources in ensuring the safety of the individuals on the list. Also, following these hacks, Russian cyber ops utilized the method of posing as ISIS hackers to terrorize spouses of U.S. military officers.[12]  

Tweets And Posts Of Home Addresses Of NSA, CENTCOM, And Other U.S. Officials

In November 2015, the Twitter account "Cyber_Caliphate_" published details of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) employees in the DMV.

On July 13, 2016, the pro-ISIS hacking group United Cyber Caliphate (UCC) released a "kill list" featuring the names of 22 U.S. State Department employees. The employees on the list include many who are D.C.-connected. The UCC also posted a message mocking and threatening the FBI. The message to the FBI reads: "And with all the fake power and technology you pretend to have you couldn't catch 3 and you know why! Cause we are using your own technology against you just like the soldiers on the ground killing u with ur own weapons. We thought you were a little bit smarter than this but hey don't worry we made they whole world as joke as you are. We will remain and expand just like our Dawlah [ISIS] and keep your fail system to the idiots on ur level..c ya in another database."[13]

MEMRI JTTM Research On Jihadis Living In And Visiting Washington, D.C. Area

MEMRI's team of researchers focused on jihadis in the U.S. is continuously monitoring individuals who live in the DMV area and who have expressed support for terrorist organizations, and even for carrying out attacks inside the country. Many of the posts include similar threats and content such as praise for and quotes by Al-Qaeda American leader Anwar Al-Awlaki and ISIS, as the following examples suggest:

Jihadi Residents Of Washington, D.C. Area

ISIS Sympathizer Located In Washington, D.C. Tweeted About Fellow ISIS Sympathizer's Arrests, Death Of ISIS Spokesman

ISIS sympathizer "Abu Dujana al Amrik," active on Twitter since July 2016, claims to have attended the same mosque as Nicholas Young, the former Washington D.C. Metro police officer sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 2018 for trying to help ISIS.


Abu Dujana al Amrik's Twitter account

On August 13, 2017, al Amrik tweeted a Washington Post report  on Young's arrest. He wrote, "I remember this brother from the masjid [mosque]. May Allah SWT make his release swift inshallah."

In August 2016, he tweeted numerous times about arrests of "ikhwa [brothers]." On August 6, he noted: "The number of ikhwa [brothers] arrested in U.S. is on the rise esp in DC. Be careful everyone." Also on August 6, he noted that post-sermon discussions at his mosque centered on the arrests of congregants: "So sad when discussion at masjid [mosque] after jummah is about Muslims you know arrested by kufar daily. We are all a target. #Trustinallah." On August 10, he tweeted, "So many righteous ikhwa [brothers] gone. Too many friends entrapped by the kuffar [infidels]. These have been a difficult few months for me. May Allah protect us."

On August 30, al Amrik tweeted about the reaction in the West to the death of ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al- 'Adnani: "Overreaction by the West after Sheikh Adnani (RA) was granted shaheed [martyr] is predictable. He was key to dawlah [Islamic State] but do you really think he will not have capable successor? Using this logic, there would be no IS[IS] after death of Zarqawi (RA). The fire of jihad will not be extinguished that easily inshaAllah."[14]

Virginia-Based ISIS Supporter Spreads Propaganda, Interacts With ISIS Fighters On Facebook

A Virginia-based man who is still currently active online and a member of a large pro-ISIS clique and closed pro-ISIS groups on Facebook, interacts with ISIS supporters and fighters on the platform. He wrote on his Facebook page on December 27, 2015 that he supports ISIS, posting in response to a comment on his question "Who here supports Dawla [ISIS] & why?" that included a pledge to ISIS in Arabic, "I pledged last year." One user commented, "Not good idea to ask such questions that if seen can be used against us all and we all locked up... so don't ask... don't tell lol."


Photos posted by Amriki on his Facebook page. The one on the left was posted February 10, 2016.

On June 26, 2016, he changed his cover photo to a well-known ISIS poster stating "Soon Very Soon The Blood Will Spill Like An Ocean."

Jihadi Visitors To Washington, D.C. Area

ISIS Supporter On Instagram Posts Photo Of ISIS Flag In Front Of U.S. Capitol, Other D.C. Photos

An Instagram user, who writes in English, frequently expresses his support for ISIS. He posted on his account three photos taken in Washington D.C. At the time MEMRI discovered his account, he was following 216 Instagram accounts and had 76 followers.

On March 18, 2018, he uploaded a photo he took of the U.S. Capitol, writing: "Qu'ran is my constitution. I declare kufr bit taghut [rejection of idols] on this establishment. It the man made factory of kufr [unbelief] law that declares war on Muslims."

Earlier, on March 5, he posted a photo with the U.S. Capitol in the background and an ISIS flag in the foreground, and added the ISIS slogan "Baqiyah [remaining]!!"

On March 15, Muhajir posted a photo of a Bar Louie restaurant, labeling it "The slogan of dar al kuffar." The sign on the restaurant proclaims the restaurant chain's motto, "Eat. Drink. Be Happy."  The only Bar Louie in Washington, D.C. is located a few blocks from the White House and next to a Lucky Strike bowling alley; a Lucky Strike sign can be seen in the top right corner of the photo that Muhajir posted.[15]

ISIS Supporter On Instagram, Possibly Of Turkish Descent, Posts Live Video Overlooking The White House

On October 11, 2017, an Instagram user posted an Instagram "story" video, tagging it at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., and taken from a vantage point overlooking the White House. The individual's byline reads: "Kazehaya. Love of meme. Jobless. One way ticket to darul islam [land of Islam]." There are currently four posts on the account; three of them are ISIS videos showing combat footage. He also follows numerous pro-ISIS accounts on Instagram.

Pro-ISIS Colorado Truck Driver Posts On Facebook About His DC Visit

A truck driver from Aurora, Colorado who is part of a large pro-ISIS community on Facebook[16] posted photos of himself in Washington, D.C., on March 4, 2018.[17]

A New York ISIS supporter wrote in the comments: "May the flag of Sharia fly soon from that White House."

ISIS Indoctrination Showing Targets In Washington, D.C.

In Video, ISIS Threatens To Blow Up White House, "Which We Shall Render Black With Our Fire"

In a video posted on the Internet on November 19, 2015, ISIS threatened to blow up the White House, and to carry out more attacks in France. "Allah willing, we shall roast them with explosive belts and car bombs," an ISIS fighter declared in the video." A second fighter stated: "Oh Crusader France, Allah willing, we shall pulverize your palaces. Allah willing, you shall know no happiness, and will not live for long. We started with you, and we shall finish with the false White House, which we shall render black with our fire, Allah willing. We shall blow it up like we blew up the false idols in this good land. Oh Crusaders everywhere, know that you are under threat, and that Allah has ordered us to fight you."[18]

ISIS Supporter On Telegram Shares Poster Showing ISIS Fighter At Washington National Cathedral, Threatens Christmas Attacks

On December 14, 2017, Battar Al-Iraqi, a Telegram user who supports the Islamic State (ISIS), shared a poster showing an ISIS fighter looking at the Washington National Cathedral, depicted in flames. In the poster, Al-Iraqi wrote: "Wait for us. We meet in Christmas in New York soon." Under the hashtags "new design" and "for publishing," he added a comment to the post stating: "Wait for us. We will meet in Christmas soon."[19]

Following Attempted December 2017 Manhattan Suicide Attack, Pro-ISIS Telegram Channels Share Posters Threatening Washington, DC

Following the failed December 11, 2017 attempted suicide attack in a Manhattan subway corridor, pro-ISIS Telegram channels celebrated the attack and expressed threats of terror attacks against New York, Washington, D.C., and other major cities, and calling on Muslims in the West to carry out such attacks. A poster showing an ISIS militant in front of a bombed-out Capitol building reads: "America we will make your safety a mirage and your blood will be rivers, and your countries ruins, so wait for what is coming is more greater and bitter."

A poster threatening Washington D.C. shows parts of the White House in flames, surrounded by ISIS militants. The graphic reads: "Soon O worshippers of the cross of your country."

Another poster showed a fighter against the backdrop of a burning Capitol building.

Pro-ISIS Telegram Channel Calls For Assassination Of Barron Trump, Shares Name, Address Of His School

Supporter on Telegram called for the assassination of President Trump's son Barron, and shared the name of his school along with a Google map pinpointing its location. The post was shared and forwarded by several pro-ISIS Telegram channels.[20] This case is similar to the October 2017 case of the threat against Britain's Prince George that was posted on Telegram; this threat followed a post about the school the boy attended and showed its location.[21] The suspect arrested in that case, Husnain Rashid, pleaded guilty in late May 2018 to disseminating this threat and also to other terrorism offenses.[22]  

Jihadi Poster On Telegram Shows Capitol Under Attack

A poster disseminated on Telegram on June 6, 2017 showed the U.S. Capitol under attack by ISIS fighters. The poster stated, "We will terrify you until death." The poster was originally circulated by the "Baqiyya Wa Tatamaddad" (“Remains and Expanding," the ISIS motto) group.

ISIS Video Urges Western ISIS Fighters to Attack Major U.S. Cities

On May 17, 2017, the media office of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Ninawa province, Iraq released a video titled "We Will Surely Guide Them To Our Ways." The video featured fighters from the U.S., Canada, Europe urging Muslims  to attack U.S landmarks and institutions. Included in the video were still images of Washington D.C institutions such as the Bank of America building and the PNC Bank.[23]


Bank of America building in Washington, D.C.; PNC Bank, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

ISIS Supporters Circulate Posters Highlighting Impact Of Attack Drones, Threatening Attacks In New York, Washington D.C.

On February 1, 2017, the pro-ISIS Sawa'eq media group released a poster showing ISIS attack drones attacking and destroying U.S. landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty in New York and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. At the same time, pro-ISIS channels on Telegram and other social networks distributed additional visual content featuring attack drones. The posters below are examples of this content released by various pro-ISIS sources on Telegram:[24]

Following June 2016 Orlando Shooting, ISIS Supporters Gloat, Threaten Further Attacks On U.S.

Shortly after the June 12, 2016 shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, ISIS supporters on Telegram began posting messages that included gloating, praise for the shooter, and banners and images promising further attacks on America and its symbols. The banners and images posted by ISIS supporters depicted direct threats to the White House and to Washington, D.C.[25]

Issue  XII Of Al-Qaeda's "Inspire" Magazine Includes Tutorial On Building Car Bombs, Lists As Targets "Restaurants And Bars" In "M Street, Washington," "Federal Agencies In Northern Virginia"


Cover of Issue XII of Inspire

Issue XII of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) online English-language magazine Inspire, published March 15, 2014, included, in its "Open Source Jihad" section, an article on how to assemble a car bomb, complete with detailed technical instructions and a list of suggested targets in the U.S., U.K., and France. Among these targets are "restaurants and bars in the M street, [in] Washington [DC]" and "federal agencies in Northern Virginia." The following are excerpts from the article:[26]

Under the section heading "Specific States and Cities in the United States":  

"General Targets: Washington [DC] is the capital, and New York is the former capital. Both have symbolic importance to the American people and government. Moreover, the White House is in Washington, and DC has about 347,000 federal government employees, and many important figures in the government live there...

"Northern Virginia: It has a big military presence, almost all the military bases are based in this state, apart from the Air Force which is based in Chicago. There are federal agencies in Northern Virginia, including the headquarters of the Department of Defense and CIA; and military facilities in Hampton Roads, the site of the region's main seaport. Virginia in general attracts a load of tourists."

Under the section heading "Specific Targets":

"Areas and Restaurants with high profile personalities – Usually these people visit the restaurants during the weekend: Arlington, Alexandria, Restaurants and Bars in the M street, [in] Washington [DC]...

ISIS Supporters Publish Poster Threatening London, Washington D.C.

On June 12, 2107, the Rad' Al-Sahawat Foundation, a group of pro-ISIS media activists, published on Telegram a poster showing an ISIS fighter looking at London Bridge and also at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. with an ISIS banner flying over it.[27]

Book By Al-Qaeda Supporter Suggests Attacking Financial Institutions, Global Maritime Transport In Order To Topple U.S.

A book by an unknown Al-Qaeda supporter "Suleiman Al-'Ali," published in October 2016 and shared via Telegram, encouraged Muslims to carry out attacks on strategic economic targets in the U.S. and the West, either as part of planned organizational activity or in lone-wolf attacks, with the aim of bringing down the U.S. The book, which was not widely publicized, is titled "The Collapse of the Idols: Operational Activity Abroad and Individual Jihadi Action – Importance, Targets, Operational Mechanisms, and Means" and includes among the proposed targets financial institutions in D.C., such as:[28]

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Building – Washington, DC: The book stated that this institution was originally intended to preserve the stability of the global economy and supervise currency, but that it now serves as "an instrument of Jewish control over the global economy." It added that that the IMF is striving to bring the global economy under U.S. control and open global markets to American products.


From the book: The address and coordinates (inaccurate) of the IMF building, along with a photo of it, as provided by the book.

The World Bank Building – Washington, D.C.: According to the book, while the World Bank provides loans to developing countries, it does so to increase its control of them, and most of its administrators are Jewish. The bank is located one block away from the IMF building.

Federal Reserve – Washington, D.C: The book stated that the Federal Reserve controls the global economy, and that all its chairs have been Jewish – from founder Charles Hamlin to then-current chair Janet Yellen. It added that the institution's main offices are in Washington, D.C. and that it has 12 branches throughout the U.S. It underlines the New York branch as an important target.

From the book: Aerial photo of Federal Reserve building, Washington, D.C.

Al-Qaeda Suggests Targeting Washington-Boston Acela Express Train

Terrorist organizations' focus this year on railway stations and entire systems – and on Amtrak in particular – has been well documented. An issue of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP's) English-language Inspire magazine, released in August 2017, was devoted entirely to targeting railways.[29] The magazine's editor noted that this 100-page issue had been researched for over a year. One article, complete with maps, suggested railway lines across the U.S. to target; one of these was the Washington-Boston Acela Express. Calling on Al-Qaeda supporters in the West, particularly in the U.S., to carry out attacks on railways, the magazine stated: "O Mujahideen, it is time we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as we did with their air transportation... we can make their economy bleed and wage a physiological warfare by breaching vulnerabilities in their security…"[30]

Pro-ISIS Media Outlet Disseminates Poster Depicting ISIS Attack On White House

On July 1, 2018, a poster released by the pro-ISIS Ashhad media organization threatening an attack on the White House was shared by numerous pro-ISIS Telegram channels. Titled "White House Down Soon!" it showed the White House in flames with gunmen on the roof as it is bombed by an airplane with the ISIS slogan on it. Apparently referencing the 2013 film White House Down, about a paramilitary group's attack on the White House, the caption reads: "White House Down Soon Ansha'allah. This is not a movie! This is really happening!" The poster was released with the hashtags #just_terror and #Hunt_Them_O_Muahhid ("monotheist").[31]

 

* Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

 


[1] Docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP24/20180411/108102/HHRG-115-AP24-Wstate-VerderosaM-20180411.pdf, April 11, 2018.

[2] Washingtonpost.com, December 18, 2017; February 23, 2018. 

[3] Justice.gov/opa/pr/virginia-man-sentenced-23-years-prison-plotting-attacks-dc-area-metro-stations-people-he Theguardian.com, October 27, 2010.

[4] BBC.com, December 5, 2016.

[5] Baltimoresun.com, March 31, 2018.

[6] Baltimoresun.com, October 4, 2016.

[7] Loudontimes.com, April 1, 2018; NBCwashington.com, December 31, 2017.

[8] Washingtonpost.com, September 1, 2017; Richmond.com, February 12, 2018.

[9] Justice.gov/opa/pr/former-army-national-guardsman-sentenced-11-years-attempting-provide-material-support-isil, February 10, 2017.

[10] WTKR.com, December 20, 2017.  

[12] Military.com, May 8, 2018.

[14] See MEMRI JTTM report ISIS Sympathizer In Washington DC Active On Twitter, August 30, 2016.

[17] Facebook.com, March 4, 2018.

[22] The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, May 31, 2018.