US extremists fail to build significant networks, act alone

A photo of Sayfullo Saipov is displayed at a news conference at One Police Plaza Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in New York. Saipov is accused of driving a truck on a bike path that killed several and injured others Tuesday near One World Trade Center. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2017
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US extremists fail to build significant networks, act alone

WASHINGTON: Sayfullo Saipov, the radicalized Uzbek who mowed down eight people on a New York bike path, apparently developed his plot in relative isolation, like most other extremist attackers in the United States.
But in Europe many have had community support, an underground network, or even a hard-line Islamist to guide them, as in the twin attacks in Spain in August.
What makes the difference?
Experts say that in part, a better rooted, more affluent US Muslim community shows no tolerance for anyone exhibiting sympathy for causes like the Daesh group or Al-Qaeda.
And tougher and expansive US laws and more aggressive law enforcement than Europe have also made a difference.
Together, they leave aspiring extremists in the United States isolated with their social media links and, at times, just a few friends in the know.
Saipov, who crashed a rented truck down a busy New York bike path Tuesday, is so far believed by investigators to have been “self-radicalized” online without any apparent support inside the United States.
Analysts say that’s because it is much harder to safely find support.
“We tend not to have large clusters in the US.... For the most part you are talking about ones and twos,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
Hughes said one fundamental reason is distance: the country is much farther away from extremist networks and it is much harder to travel to the Middle East because of official no-fly lists.
European Muslims find it much easier to travel to areas where radical groups like Daesh operate.
As a consequence, he said, “We don’t have the kind of in-person recruitment done in Europe.”
Another factor is the expansive use of the charge of “material support of terrorism,” a catch-all that “allows the FBI to interject themselves at an earlier stage than our European partners,” Hughes said.
For critics, the FBI is too aggressive and stretches the law with undercover schemes that entrap people who are not really threats. But the net effect is to prevent them from establishing connections and frightening others thinking of trying to build networks.
According to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, heavier prison sentences in terror cases in the US makes a difference.
US sentences are 15-20 years, compared to four to seven years in Europe, which releases terror convicts back into the community much more quickly. That helps sustain dangerous cells, he said.
That is not to say the United States has not had its own cells or ringleaders, Gartenstein-Ross notes.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, one of the most influential extremist thinkers and propagandists, was born and raised in the United States before he joined Al-Qaeda in Yemen and was killed in a 2011 drone strike.
And in the late 2000s a cell that involved maybe 20 people developed around the Somali community in Minneapolis that became an effective body to recruit people to join Daesh.
“That was clearly a network,” like those in Europe, he said. “They have not been prevented, they still exist.”
The Somali cell more resembled those in Europe, rooted in a more recent, less wealthy, poorly educated immigrant community.
For the most part American Muslim communities are wealthier, and better educated on average than European communities.
That makes them less alienated and better-integrated, according to Corey Saylor, an expert on Islamophobia at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
US Muslim groups will more readily chase out of the community and the mosque someone who espouses radical ideas.
“If somebody in the congregation is talking about it, they get pushed out fairly quickly. There is no hospitality” for it, he said.
While neither side talks about it much, US Muslim communities have been more willing to report possible threats to law enforcement than in Europe. That was helped by outreach programs under president Barack Obama, according to Gartenstein-Ross.
That may have ebbed under President Donald Trump, however, given his open mistrust of Muslims. “The lack of trust has impeded cooperation; suspicion has likely increased,” he said.


Daesh-aligned groups warn of more attacks in Western nations

Daesh actions also included and attack in France in 2015, where Stade de France and the Bataclan theatre were targeted. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 40 sec ago
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Daesh-aligned groups warn of more attacks in Western nations

  • “Australia, don’t think you are away from our attacks,” read one poster
  • Australia is a member of the US-led coalition that has been fighting Daesh in Syria and Iraq since 2014

SYDNEY: Groups aligned with Daesh have warned of further attacks on Australia and other Western nations in online posters featuring the deadly lone wolf stabbing rampage in Melbourne last week.

“Australia, don’t think you are away from our attacks,” read one poster, which showed a photo of a vehicle the Melbourne attacker set alight during his attack last Friday.

The SITE Intelligence Group which monitors terror threats said the graphic was issued on Wednesday by a foundation, which is aligned with the Daesh.

Another graphic posted online and distributed by SITE showed an image drawn from social media showing the Melbourne attacker, Hassan Khalid Shire Ali, trying to stab a policeman before he was fatally shot.

A text overlay on the image says: “Melbourne today — What is the next city tomorrow??!”

Shire Ali stabbed and killed one man during the incident and wounded two others before being killed by police.

Australian police characterized the attack as “terrorism” and said the 30-year-old Somali-born Shire Ali was inspired by Daesh, but acted alone and had no known ties to the group.

On the day of the attack, Daesh said via its propaganda arm that Shire Ali was a Daesh fighter and carried out the operation, but provided no evidence to back its claim.

Australia is a member of the US-led coalition that has been fighting Daesh in Syria and Iraq since 2014.

The terrorists took large swathes of Syria and Iraq that year, proclaiming a “caliphate” across land it controlled.

But the group has since lost most of that territory to multiple offensives on both sides of the border.