Thursday, March 26, 2009
Terrorism and Internet: Al-Qaeda and the global jihad continue to recruit Palestinian operatives on the Internet
1. As part of a plea bargain, the military court in Samaria sentenced Amjad Najeh Daoud Qadri, a 40-year-old merchant from Nablus , to 14 months in prison and a fine. Qadri was charged with being a moderator 1 on a closed online forum belonging to the global jihad networks. 2. It is the first time an Israeli court convicts a person for virtual activity taking place solely on the Internet, without being accompanied by any activities on the ground. In the verdict, the judge stressed the threat posed by such offenses, considering them to be contact with a foreign agent which may fuel terrorism and compromise state security.
3. Within this context, it should be mentioned that, starting early 2008, a number of terrorist operatives who had been recruited to Al-Qaeda through Internet websites were exposed in Judea and Samaria and also among Israeli Arabs. In some cases, the recruits underwent a process of embracing the jihadist ideology of radical Islam, which was translated also into terrorist activities against Israel .
Amjad Qadri's conviction 2
4. According to the indictment, in March 2006 Amjad Qadri browsed the web and entered the forum of Al-Hisbah, a website which belongs to the global jihad networks. Upon trying to read the contents of the website, he realized that it was a closed website where only registered members are allowed to participate. At that time, he was engaged in online correspondence with a person known as Al-Asif, who told him he was willing to give him a username and a password provided he only browsed the website without trying to upload contents of his own. After he agreed, Amjad Qadri received a username (Nur al-Din) and a password. For the next three months, he logged into the website as a regular registered member.
5. After three months of site membership, in one of the conversations he held on Al-Firdaws, a global jihad forum website, Amjad Qadri was offered to receive a new username and a password, which would allow him to access the Al-Hisbah website as a special member with moderation privileges. This would allow him to change the texts appearing on the website, sort the contents, and classify them on the website. It should be noted that the website's contents include video clips documenting terrorist attacks and regular news updates about the activities of global jihad networks. From that day until his arrest, for about two years, Amjad Qadri accessed the website and on several occasions exercised his moderator privileges, influenced the website's contents, and thus in practice served the global jihad.
6. As part of a plea bargain, the military court in Samaria sentenced Amjad Najeh Daoud Qadri to 14 months in prison and an ILS 2,000 fine (about USD 490). In the verdict, the judge explained the reasoning behind the punishment, saying that the service done by the defendant for a terrorist organization should be viewed with the utmost gravity, particularly when that terrorist organization is Al-Qaeda, “a part of what is known as ‘global jihad', which has made violence against the State of Israel and its citizens its trademark.” The judge further noted, “It is worth mentioning that the Internet can play a significant role in fueling terrorism by delivering the dangerous messages of those terrorist organizations to worldwide target audiences.”
The Al-Hisbah website
7. Al-Hisbah (http://www.hisbah.net) is one of the oldest, most important websites associated with Al-Qaeda and global jihad. It is not an online community open to all web surfers but rather a members-only Internet group. Those who want to join the website must undergo a screening process.
8. The website features technical information about the Internet (including information published by hackers working for Al-Qaeda), a wealth of information about radical Islamic literature and ideology, news, updates, as well as audio and video clips inciting to terrorism and violence. In addition, Al-Qaeda and global jihad use the website to recruit new members and handle terrorist squads.
The Al-Hisbah website
Religious Q&A on the Al-Hisbah website: a web surfer inquires about the standing of an Islamic operative killed while trying to infiltrate into “the lands of jihad in Afghanistan , Palestine , Kashmir , Chechnya , the Philippines , and other places” (updated on the website on July 14, 2008)
The Path to Thwarting the Schemes
A transcript of Osama Bin Laden's tape titled “The Path to Thwarting the Schemes”,
dated December 29, 2007, on the Al-Hisbah website
The Internet as an operative and propaganda tool of Al-Qaeda and global jihad networks
9. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in Internet usage among Al-Qaeda and the global jihad. Global Islamic jihad networks make extensive use of the Internet for indoctrination and for operative activities, including the recruitment and handling of terrorist operatives worldwide. Global jihad websites such as Al-Hisbah, Al-Ekhlas, and Al-Nusra have created a globe-spanning virtual community of global jihad operatives constantly in touch with each other.
10. The forums that appear on those websites are an important tool for the propaganda and terrorist activities of global jihad networks, including Al-Qaeda. Through the forums, the web surfer is exposed to information published by the networks for their operatives and supporters, which includes information clearly pertaining to operative issues, such as manufacturing explosives, establishing terrorist networks, maintaining the groups' security against intelligence infiltrations, transferring instructions, and so forth.
11. From the ideological point of view, the online forums let the participants become part of social networks based on the common ideological denominator of global jihad, and are therefore a source of attraction for Muslim teenagers. The forum participants are affected by the contents to which they are exposed, radicalizing their views and activities. The forums are also used by global terrorist elements as a human resource pool of radical Muslim youth, who then go on to collect information for terrorist attacks and locate, recruit, and incite like-minded individuals to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Israel and elsewhere.
12. The phenomenon of Al-Qaeda's recruiting and handling terrorists from across the globe through the Internet was extensively covered in a report published by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on May 8, 2008 . Titled “Violent Islamist Extremism, The Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat”, the report discusses the extensive use made of the Internet by Al-Qaeda, global jihad elements, and groups associated with radical Islam, and voices concerns over the exposure of American citizens to the websites of Al-Qaeda (the full report is available on the Senate website). 3 Those issues should also be of concern to other countries (including Israel ) facing “homegrown terrorists” handled by Al-Qaeda. Those terrorists go through a process of losing their own identity and embracing the jihadist ideology of Al-Qaeda and radical Islam, distributed through the Internet and in other media. 4
Handling jihadist networks in the Gaza Strip, in Judea and Samaria , and among Israeli Arabs, using the Internet
13. In Judea and Samaria there are also operatives who sympathize with the ideology of global jihad and whose activity is guided by elements in the Gaza Strip and worldwide, mostly through online forums. For global jihad operatives, supporters in Judea and Samaria are a human resource pool for recruiting propaganda agents, disseminating the ideas of global jihad, collecting intelligence information on Israel , and encouraging operatives to carry out military activities. 5
14. In the Gaza Strip there are several active networks ideologically associated with global jihad, the oldest of which is Army of Islam, headed by Mumtaz Dughmush. There are also several smaller organizations, such as Fath al-Islam in the Land of Ribat , Army of the Nation, and several smaller groups. Their activity focuses mostly in spreading the idea of jihad and small-scale operations aimed for the time being mostly against the foreign nationals and non-Muslims residing in the Gaza Strip. 6
Mumtaz Dughmush (the Hamas forum, January 24, 2007)
Mumtaz Dughmush (right) with one of his operatives (the Hamas forum, January 24, 2007 )
15. Global jihad websites also have a visible effect on Israeli Arabs. S ince early 2008, Israeli security forces exposed several squads composed of Israeli Arab citizens who supported radical Islamic ideology and were going to perpetrate terrorist activities against targets in Israel . The squad members made extensive use of the Internet, were members of global jihad forums, and drew their radical Islamic ideology from global jihad websites:
a. In early 2008, charges were filed against two Israeli Arabs from Jaljulia, who acted under the inspiration of global jihad ideas. In their interrogation, both admitted that they had attempted to perpetrate several terrorist attacks. They also admitted to manufacturing improvised explosive devices which they had learned to produce on the Internet.
b. In May-June 2008, two Israeli Bedouins were arrested for allegedly joining Al-Qaeda and acting on its behalf and on behalf of global jihad elements against Israeli civilians. Aged 20-21, both resided in the Bedouin town of Rahat and were members of the Israeli Islamic Movement. Their interrogation by the Israel Security Agency showed that they had developed an extensive network of contacts with global jihad networks, based on their ideological affiliation with radical Islam. They had surfed Islamic websites and forums belonging to Al-Qaeda and global jihad, where they met with the director of Al-Qaeda's world media front and the head of the online forum. 7
c. In June-July 2008, six young Arab men were arrested, two of them Israeli citizens and four from East Jerusalem . The detainees, some of them students in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, were members of a closed religious group which operated in the Jerusalem area and was planning to establish an Al-Qaeda network in Israel to perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. On July 18, 2008 , charges were filed against the group at the Jerusalem Magistrate and District Courts. The detainees' radical Islamic ideology was drawn from publications on various websites, some of them associated with Al-Qaeda. 8
1 In global jihad online forums, a moderator ( al-mushrif ) is a person responsible for content management. In that capacity, the moderator sets website policies and decides what goes on the website. The moderator has direct access to the website server (using a password). He often does more than just sorting materials sent in by forum members, taking an active part in the forums (where he usually identifies himself as the administrator ( al-mushrif al-‘am ).
2 Based on the text of the indictment, pre-sentencing arguments, and verdict of Amjad Qadri, in the military court of Samaria.
4 See our Information Bulletin: “Terrorism and Internet: a US Senate report analyzes the extensive use made by Al-Qaeda of the Internet in its war for hearts and minds. The report voices concerns over the exposure of American citizens to the websites of Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic organizations” ( July 14, 2008 ).
5 Based on an article on the Israel Security Agency website, dealing with Al-Qaeda and the penetration of its ideas into the Middle East (in Hebrew).
6 For example, see our Information Bulletin: “A group called “Army of the Nation, Jerusalem ” is yet another global jihad offshoot in the Gaza Strip. Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, there has been an increase in the propaganda and terrorist activities carried out by radical Islamic groups associated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad” (February 11, 2008).
7 See our Information Bulletin: “ Terrorism and Internet: charges have recently been filed against two Israeli Bedouins, members of the Islamic Movement. They are suspected of acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda. They formed and maintained contact with Al-Qaeda through the Internet, based on their ideological affinity with radical Islam” ( July 20, 2008 ).
8 See our Information Bulletin: “ The Israel security forces recently detained six Israeli and East Jerusalem Arabs, some of them students. They planned to set up an Al-Qaeda network and planned to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel, including downing the helicopter of the American president during his visit to Jerusalem” ( July 21, 2008 ).