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  • Author: Aaron Edwards, Paul Cruickshank, Stephen Hummel, Douglas McNair, F. John Burpo, James Bonner, Audrey Alexander, Bennett Clifford, Caleb Weiss
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: The murder earlier this month of journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland on the night before Good Friday illustrates the fragility of peace in a region in which terrorist violence has persisted. In our cover article, Aaron Edwards writes that this was “the latest in a series of incidents that have raised the specter of a surge in terrorist violence in Northern Ireland.” In examining the evolution of the threat from militant groupings on both sides of the sectarian divide, he notes there has been a “blurring of the concepts of terrorism and criminality that challenges orthodox perspectives on the security landscape in Northern Ireland.” Our interview is with Edmund Fitton-Brown, the Coordinator of the ISIL (Daesh)/Al-Qaida/Taliban Monitoring Team at the United Nations. This issue features the concluding article of a two-article series focused on IED and WMD network convergence. The first article, published in our February 2019 issue, warned there was a high risk that profit-minded suppliers within vast, transnational IED networks may expand in the future into WMD proliferation. In the second article, Major Stephen Hummel, Lieutenant Colonel Douglas McNair, Colonel F. John Burpo, and Brigadier General James Bonner examine in greater detail the ways this could happen. Audrey Alexander and Bennett Clifford examine the threat posed by Islamic State-affiliated hackers and hacking groups. Through “analysis of several U.S. prosecutions of Islamic State-affiliated hackers and their networks, proficiencies, and activities,” they argue that “very few of these actors demonstrate advanced hacking or cyberterrorism capabilities.” Caleb Weiss examines the evolution of the threat posed by the Islamic State in Somalia, noting the group, “which is believed to only number in the low hundreds of fighters, appears to have significantly expanded its operations across Somalia, albeit from a relatively low base.” He argues the resulting reignition of tensions with the much larger al-Qa`ida affiliate al-Shabaab means “it is far from clear whether the Islamic State in Somalia will be able to sustain its operational expansion.”
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Terrorism, United Nations, Taliban, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Al Shabaab, Doxxing
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East, Ireland, Somalia
  • Author: Matt Bryden, Premdeep Bahra, Paul Cruickshank, Graham Macklin, Joana Cook, Gina Vale, Robin Simcox
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: In our cover article, Matt Bryden and Premdeep Bahra trace the evolution of the jihadi terrorist threat in East Africa over the last three decades. They argue that al-Shabaab’s January 2019 attack on the Dusit D2 luxury hotel compound in Nairobi, Kenya, “brought together three strands of al-Shabaab’s organizational DNA: its Somali provenance, its ideological affiliation with al-Qa`ida, and its growing cohort of trained, experienced East African fighters. The successful combination of these traits in a single operation suggests that al-Shabaab’s longstanding ambition to transcend its Somali origins and become a truly regional organization is becoming a reality, representing a new and dangerous phase in the group’s evolution and the threat that it poses to the region.” Our interview is with Catherine De Bolle, the Executive Director of Europol, who previously served as Commissioner General of the Belgian Federal Police between 2012 and 2018. Graham Macklin outlines what is now known about the Christchurch terrorist attacks. He writes: “In the space of 36 minutes on March 15, 2019, it is alleged that Brenton Tarrant, an Australian far-right extremist, fatally shot 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch in the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history. What was unique about Tarrant’s attack—at least insofar as extreme-right terrorism is concerned—is that he livestreamed his atrocity on Facebook and in doing so, highlighted the Achilles heel of such platforms when faced with the viral dissemination of extremely violent content.” Joana Cook and Gina Vale provide an updated assessment of the numbers of foreign men, women, and minors who traveled to or were born in the Islamic State, examine the proportion that have returned ‘home,’ and outline the continuing challenges foreign women and minors affiliated with the Islamic State pose to the international community. Robin Simcox assesses the terrorist threat from “frustrated travelers” in Europe by examining the 25 plots (eight of which resulted in attacks) by such individuals since January 2014.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Terrorism, History, Counter-terrorism, Women, Internet, Islamic State, Youth, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East, New Zealand, East Africa
  • Author: Aaron Brantly, Charlie Winter, Devorah Margolin, Michael Knights, Kristina Hummel, Raffaello Pantucci
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: After a respite from mass-casualty terrorism for more than a decade, the United Kingdom this past spring suffered three such attacks in the space of just 73 days, making clear it faces an unprecedented security challenge from jihadi terrorism. In our cover article, Raffaello Pantucci outlines what investigations have revealed so far about the March attack on Westminster Bridge, the bombing at a pop concert in Manchester in May, and the June attack on London Bridge and Borough Market. The early indications are that the Westminster attacker, Khalid Masood, had no contact with the Islamic State and the Manchester and London Bridge attackers were, at most, loosely connected to the group. The current threat environment, Pantucci writes, continues to be mostly made up of individuals and smaller scattered cells planning lower-tech attacks with very short planning and operational cycles—sometimes remotely guided by the Islamic State—rather than cells trained and dispatched by the Islamic State to launch large-scale, Paris-type attacks, but this could change as more British Islamic State recruits return home. Our interview this month is with Edward You, a Supervisory Special Agent in the Biological Countermeasures Unit in the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. While the full liberation of Mosul last month effectively ended the Islamic State’s caliphate pretensions, Michael Knights warns the Islamic State and other jihadis are already bouncing back in several parts of Iraq and more strongly and quickly in areas where the security forces are either not strong enough or not politically flexible enough to activate the population as a source of resistance. As the Islamic State transitions from administering territory to a renewed campaign of terrorism and insurgency, Charlie Winter and Devorah Margolin examine the Islamic State’s apparent lifting of its moratorium on using women as suicide bombers. In a commentary, Aaron Brantly argues that creating back-doors in encryption, or banning it, would create significant societal costs without stopping terrorists from accessing the technology.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Science and Technology, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Insurgency, Counter-terrorism, Women, Islamic State, Encryption
  • Political Geography: Iraq, United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, Global Focus
  • Author: Jason Warner, Caleb Weiss, Andrew McGregor, Daisy Muibu, Benjamin P. Nickels, Paul Cruickshank, Mohammed Hafez, Colin P. Clarke, Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: The Islamic State’s caliphate project has ended in abject failure, with the group now holding a small vanishing portion of the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq. In our cover article, Mohammed Hafez argues the Islamic State is just the latest example of a “fratricidal” jihadi group predestining its own defeat by its absolutism, over-ambition, domineering behavior, and brutality. He argues that the Islamic State’s puritanical ideology blinded it to learning lessons from the GIA’s defeat in Algeria in the 1990s and al-Qa`ida in Iraq’s near defeat in the 2000s. In all three cases, these jihadi groups “managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” because of their innate inability to show restraint and pragmatism. Our interview is with Angela Misra, the co-founder of The Unity Initiative (TUI), a British Muslim community group widely viewed as one of the most effective in countering violent extremism. Misra describes her increasingly high-stakes efforts to transform the mindset of women convicted of terrorist offenses and recent female returnees from the Islamic State. With the Islamic State recently moving toward embracing combat roles for women, she warns there could be a surge in female terrorism in Western countries. Colin Clarke and Phillip Smyth document how the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is working to transform Shi`a foreign fighter networks into transnational proxy forces capable of fighting both asymmetric and conventional wars. Andrew McGregor outlines the security challenges in Libya’s southern Fezzan region, warning it could emerge as a major new base for jihadi operations with serious implications for European security. Jason Warner and Caleb Weiss look at why the Islamic State has, so far, failed to pose a significant challenge to al-Shabaab. In the wake of a double-truck bombing last month in Mogadishu that killed over 350, Daisy Muibu and Benjamin Nickels examine the local expertise factor in al-Shabaab’s increasingly deadly IED campaign.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Jihad, Al Shabaab, Foreign Fighters, IED
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Libya, Somalia