At a Glance - December 27

Europe: Berlin Christmas Market Attacker Connected to ISIS Cell in Germany; Communications: Telegram Emerges as the “App of Choice” for Terrorist Organizations; Not What It Appeared: Black Parishoner Charged in Arson of African-American Church in Mississippi


Anwar al-Aulaqi: Inspiring Jihadists Five Years After His Death

The attack on Monday at Ohio State University highlights the enduring influence of radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, who was killed in a US airstrike in Yemen in 2011. Abdul Artan, who shortly before the Ohio State attack posted a statement on Facebook praising Aulaqi as “our hero,” drove his vehicle through a crowd and struck fellow students with a knife, injuring 11. Artan’s motives are still under investigation., and in the same Facebook post, he made references to ISIS and lone-wolf attacks.

Hotel Security: Lessons From Terrorist Attacks in Africa

Since 2015, foreign terrorist organizations, including al-Qa’ida affiliates and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have directed and inspired attacks against the hotel industry in Africa, with the goal of depleting emergency responder resources and maximizing casualties. Hotels are often open to the public and host tourists, government officials, and entrepreneurs, as well as provide a conducive environment for meetings, conferences, and other special events.

ISIS: Redefining Success to Compensate for Losses

Since May, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has tried to maintain operational and strategic momentum in the face of setbacks by recasting its propaganda, downplaying territorial losses, and emphasizing its potential long-term impact on the global jihad. Since 2015, the group lost approximately 30 percent of its territory and 120 leaders. 

Transportation/Maritime: Ferries a Vulnerable Target

An NJOHSP review of the Transportation Sector found that ferries remain susceptible to terrorist attacks because they transport large volumes of people, have limited security, and offer minimal escape options during incidents. Although there has not been a recent plot or attack against ferries in the United States, authorities across the country, including in New Jersey, have increased security in this area. French authorities likewise hardened port security following a bomb scare at the Port of Marseille in July.

Rahimi Arrest Highlights Public’s Role in Combating Terrorism

Ahmad Khan Rahami—a.k.a Ahmad Rahimi—who was responsible for bomb-related incidents in Seaside Park, Elizabeth, and New York City in September, was arrested after citizens reported suspicious activity to local authorities, underscoring the importance of the public in countering terrorism. On September 19, law enforcement officials in New Jersey and New York issued alerts on Twitter and other platforms with photos of Rahami, stating he was wanted in connection with explosions in both states.

AQAP: Publishing New Inspire Guides

Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to influence the global English-speaking jihadist community through newly created Inspire Guides, which allow the group to take credit for attacks and provide guidance for future operations. AQAP has not successfully executed an attack in the West since the operation in January 2015 against the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Rebranding The Nusrah Front

The Nusrah Front—al Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria—this summer changed its name to the Levant Conquest Front, or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, as part of a rebranding strategy to improve its image among local Syrians, participate in future Syrian peace talks, and decrease the number of US-led airstrikes against its positions in Syria. In July, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the head of the Nusrah Front, stated the organization would no longer associate with groups outside Syria, including al-Qa’ida.