UNKNOWN NUMBER OF “HOMEGROWN” TERRORISTS
TRAINED IN SYRIA AND IRAQ WITH ISIS OR AQAP
NYPD IN CLOSE TOUCH WITH INTERPOL & OTHER ALLIES
The Kouachi brother assassinate a French Police Officer outside the offices
of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last week
TAGS: TERRORIST ATTACKS IN FRANCE, TERRORIST TRAINING IN
IRAQ, SYRIA AND YEMEN, SMALL CELLS, LOOSE NETWORKS HALLMARKS OF
NEW GENERATION OF EXTREMISTS, EUROPEAN UNION MEMBERS
VULNERABLE, NYPD INTEL BUREAU ON HIGH ALERT
(Tuesday January 13, 2015, NY, NY) The carnage in France at the Paris office of a satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was not about an offensive cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a derogatory manner. Yes, the perpetrators may have made that absurd claim just as they have launched attacks at other publications and journalists they deemed to be “Enemies of Islam”. The brief siege and bloodshed at a Kosher market as well as the murder of four Police Officers in three separate incidents, one of whom ironically was a Muslim, were more about creating terror for terrors sake then any cartoon.
We first tasted the bitter pill of Islamic extremists here on February 26, 1993 when a small terror cell based in Brooklyn managed to park a truck loaded with an explosive device on the fourth subterranean level of the World Trade Center Plaza. The global reach of terrorism reached our shores and has been here ever since although they have not managed to perpetrate another mass casualty, mass fatality events since the attack on September 11, 2001. Very quickly we were forced to adapt to the new reality and could no longer believe the broad oceans kept us immune from jihadists and other radicals.
al QAEDA 1.0
The al Qaeda terrorist organization the world was introduced to on September 11, 2001 has essentially been significantly degraded and largely eradicated. In the wake of 9-11-01 we dispatched CIA operatives and Special Forces into their safe haven granted by the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan and quickly had those who remained trapped in the rugged Hindu Kush border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As that campaign of asymmetrical warfare and conventional United States military weaponry and tactics, particularly unrivaled air superiority, the intelligence community was beginning to piece together all of the many “dots” they had failed to connect prior to 9-11-01. Quickly the important role the exiled Saudi son of a multimillionaire, Osama bin Laden emerged as did his motivation for previous attacks on United States embassies in Africa and the US Navy ship the USS Cole as it sat docked in the Port of Oman.
Bin Laden had been issuing missives and fatwas from his safe haven scattered throughout Afghanistan for many years. he had literally “declared war” on the United States several times in recorded television interviews but he and his threats were not taken seriously in the CIA or NSC. Obviously, that was to our detriment and revelations and analysis conducted throughout the last 13 years clearly illustrates that the intelligence community and the Cheney/Bush Administration have blood, American blood, on their hands.
But the trail begins farther back to the Administration of President George H.W. Bush and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The Saudi’s fearing the Iraqi army would easily plow through Kuwait and advance into Saudi Arabia seeking help. Osama bin Laden flew to Saudi Arabia and because of his family’s close ties with the House of Saud, was granted a private meeting with top tier Saudi officials. Fresh off what he perceived as a huge military victory for his mujahedin forces who had routed the mighty Soviet Union’s military after almost 10 years of bitter combat and retreated in defeat and disgrace, bin Laden offered the services of his “troops” to defend the homeland, the sacred land that is home to the all-important cities of Mecca and Medina. Osama could not bear the thought of having an infidel army – the United States military – occupying Saudi land while they fought to repel the possible Iraqi invasion. The Saudi refusal of bin Laden’s offer enraged him and he ultimately returned to Afghanistan after being declared persona non grata in Yemen.
The US military rapidly expelled all Iraqi forces from Kuwait. They also left behind several remote military bases and this was an affront that bin Laden could not endure. The thought of Americans on sacred soil with all their sinful ways was the catalytic spark that ignited the embassy attacks and the USS Cole incident and would ultimately culminate with the attack on 9-11-01.
Over the intervening years the original al Qaeda network has been downgraded to a “brand” with small cells functioning as “franchises”. Any group that commits an act of terror on the West can claim their affiliation with al Qaeda or the upstart bastardized off-shoot mutation al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Groups such as these are decentralized, often living in member’s home countries after having traveled to and received training in Iraq or Syria; Afghanistan and Yemen are seeing a resurgence of al Qaeda 1.0 as well. There is also the huge specter of “lone wolf” operatives, “copy-cat” opportunists, and small cells very loosely connected if connected at all.
BASTARD STEPCHILDREN: AQAP AND ISIS
The emergence of the ultra-violent terrorist organization known as ISIS or ISIL was born in Syria as a force determined to oust the despotic leader of that country Bashar al-Assad. They have developed into a significant military presence equipped largely with the huge caches of weaponry the United States left behind in Iraq as well as other USA supplied munitions intended for the nascent Iraqi Defense Force and local police. Iraq is by anyone’s standards a “failed state” and ISIS rapidly capitalized on the deterioration of that country gaining substantial territorial assets largely through the unchecked use of barbarism and savagery that has earned them the reputation that strikes fear in the hearts of those unfortunate enough to have been in their path. Despite the US bombing campaign on some of their strongholds in northern Iraq and southern Syria, they continue to fight with Syrian troops still loyal to President al-Assad while simultaneously holding on to the broad swathes of territory they have seized in the oil-rich northern provinces in Iraq. They have effectively obliterated the historical border between Iraq and Syria. We have seen their brutality as they have beheaded captured hostages, raped, pillaged and destroyed the small communities of Ankawa, Iraq, the predominantly Christian suburb in the province of Erbil. In many cases the members of these ancient sects were given the ultimatum to convert to Islam or be killed.
While AQAP and ISIS share little to nothing ideologically, they both have designs to lash out on the western world and the United States. Both organizations actively recruit in European countries and the USA. Those called to jihad travel to Iraq and Syria for terrorist training and afterwards are sent back to their homelands to ply their newly acquired and honed skills in everything from assembling suicide bombs and other IED’s, and small-scale assaults such as was seen last week in France. AQAP and ISIS have proven to be particularly adept at cyber warfare and the use of the Internet and social media to attract followers as well as to orchestrate operations between small cells unknown to each other. These are classic hallmarks of the modern day version of asymmetrical warfare. They have also been able to penetrate some of our government’s databases in well executed hacking operations. In many ways it is astounding that there are individuals within AQAP and ISIS with sufficient cyber knowledge and acuity who’ve been able to pull off such hacks. Once again it seems as if the US intelligence community, military, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Cyber Warfare Command are playing catch up with these terrorist groups.
THE UNANSWERABLE QUESTIONS
That there exists an unknown number of individuals, some loosely affiliated with larger groups or terrorist networks reside in many European countries became bloodily evident with the attacks in France. Some analysts have made the point that the weapons used in those attacks are “military grade” and virtually impossible to purchase in countries in the European Union (EU). For many this indicated the presence of terrorists with connections to the war zones and the illegal market of underground arms sales. This reality poses a special threat to a country such as France with a significant Muslim population. The lax security in travelling between EU countries also allows motivated individuals to travel unimpeded; provided they are not on any country’s “watch list”, throughout the EU and to Iraq, Syria, Yemen or any other location where terrorists conduct training.
There is no way to even guess at the number of individuals who have gone abroad for terrorist training and returned to their home countries to conduct mass casualty, mass fatality events. Speaking with analysts and experts in the US intelligence community including the elite NYPD Intelligence Bureau, the CIA, FBI, and a source in the ATF, the overarching concern is that there are so many important questions being asked that are basically unanswerable or draw incomplete conclusions about the numbers of people in the US, be they part of a gauzy network, lone wolves or copy-cats,that are somewhere “out there” waiting for a signal or simply an internal urge to strike. The prospect of this unknown quantity in our midst has local authorities, especially the NYPD on a high alert status. Some Intel operations that had been temporarily halted have been reactivated.
Last Thursday NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism commented that the threat of a terrorist attack in NYC “…has never gone away”. He continued, “The new wrinkle is that groups like ISIS, while they have a less sophisticated external planning operations node, have a much more sophisticated and slick propaganda arm that is extolling people to do this without having contact with the mother ship.”
While a City such as New York will always be a highly desirable “target rich environment” for terrorists of every stripe, this new generation of terrorists are, at least for the time being, comfortable to pull off smaller scaled operations; these operations in some ways are as effective a method to achieving their means as a large scale attack: they induce fear among local populations and gain significant publicity the world over. This aides them not only in striking a fatal blow to a target by also serves as an effective recruitment tool and another venue through which they spread their propaganda to as large an audience as possible. This is the harsh fact of our times; American interests abroad are targets just as is our homeland and we have already witnessed a few isolated attacks perpetrated here by individuals claiming to be associated or at least with an affinity for groups such as AQAP and ISIS.
Our best defense is a mixture of offense, as in pro-active policing and intelligence gathering as well as maintaining the highest levels of security at prominent and notable sites not only here in NYC but all across the country.
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