Recent News from ACT! for America

At least four major Islamic charities based in the U.S. are operating or sponsoring relief efforts in Libya.  If these groups can truly assist refugees, that is commendable; but the origins, leadership, and troublesome links of these charities do not inspire trust and confidence in their operations.

  1. Islamic Relief USA will provide relief to displaced Libyans fleeing the country.  The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report says that Islamic Relief USA has a close relationship with an Islamic charter school tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Islamic Relief Worldwide was involved with the founding of the pro-Hamas Union of Good charity network.  Recently, a Department of Justice official revealed that Islamic Relief has become a successor to the defunct Holy Land Foundation in terms of funding Hamas.
  2. The Zakat Foundation already operates a camp for 200 refugee families passing through from Libya to Tunisia.  The Zakat Foundation currently features an article written by a Chicago-area nurse about her experiences volunteering in Libya, and a link to a WBEZ radio interview with the nurse.  The nurse’s name is Donna Neil Demir, and WBEZ describes her as a “medical consultant” for the Zakat Foundation.  Donna has the same last name as Khalil Demir, the executive director of the Zakat Foundation.  Khalil Demir was caught on videotape and exposed by Money Jihad for working with Muslim Hands, a pro-Hamas Muslim U.K. charity, during relief operations in Haiti.  Khalil’s name is also sometimes spelled Halil.  Real estate records indicate that Halil I. Demir and Donna Neil Demir purchased a house together in Oakland Park, Illinois, for $355,000.  It is not unusual for Muslim charity directors to hire their own relatives and put them on the payroll.
  3. LIFE for Relief and Development has deployed a “caravan” to rebel stronghold Benghazi and is soliciting donations of $1,000 or “other amount.”  Before meeting the end of the hangman’s noose, LIFE was Saddam Hussein’s favorite American charity.
  4. Mercy USA says it is seeking donations to help them sponsor doctors working in Libya.  Mercy USA is chaired by Iman Elkadi (also spelled al-Qadi), the daughter of a founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the widow of a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Muslim Students Association.  The current CEO and president of Mercy USA, Umar al-Qadi, is a possible relative of Iman and another example of Islamic charity nepotism.

We’ll see if the State Department publishes a press release trumpeting the Islamic charities’ work the way State did with Haiti.

Money Jihad
May 2, 2011


The State Department has put a multimillion-dollar bounty on the heads of two Americans who the United States claims belong to an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, CNN has learned.

Posters and matchbooks in Somali and English emblazoned with the names and pictures of Omar Shafik Hammami and Jehad Serwan Mostafa tout rewards up to $5 million each for information leading to their arrest or conviction. Both men are on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List.


Image on matchbox to be distributed as part of the Rewards for Justice program

The rewards are being offered through the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program.

Hammami and Mostafa are members of Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, and "have made significant contributions to this terrorist organization's media and military activities," according to a State Department statement on the rewards, obtained by CNN. They are both are believed to be in Somalia and speak English, Arabic and Somali.

A senior FBI official said the United States has information that both men "had a persistent interest in targeting U.S. interests" and are "believed to be involved in planning attacks on U.S. persons or property." But it is unclear what specific attacks against Americans, even ones that have been thwarted, these men have taken part in. Officials said that information is classified.

Hammami, a 29-year-old Alabama native, moved to Somalia in 2006. The State Department claims he joined Al-Shabaab there and received training from Islamic militants, rising through the organization's ranks to command a contingent of foreign fighters. Officials say he was also a "propagandist" for the group, helping to recruit English-speaking youth through writings, rap songs and video statements.

An Alabama court indicted him in 2009 on charges of providing support to a terrorist group.


Image on matchbox to be distributed as part of the Rewards for Justice program

In July 2011, the Treasury Department placed him on a blacklist prohibiting Americans from doing business with individuals and groups threatening stability in Somalia.

Hammami has been engaged in a public rift with Al-Shabaab over the past year. Last March, he first expressed concern about his safety in an extraordinary Web video. He has since criticized the group's leaders for corruption and living extravagant lifestyles with money fighters collect from Somali residents, and for fighting only in Somalia while ignoring global jihad.

Hammami's family has said they fear for his life.

But the senior FBI official told CNN that Hammami's current status with the group is "immaterial" and that the reward is based on the actions he has already taken to threaten U.S. interests.

"We still believe he is an individual of great significance to the activities that are going on in Somalia with Al-Shabaab," the official said.

Mostafa is believed to be either 27 or 32. He was born in Wisconsin before moving California, where he attended college. He traveled to Somalia in 2005, where officials say he led foreign fighters for Al-Shabaab and served as a media expert and recruiter. He was indicted in California on charges of providing material support to Al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab was labeled a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2008. The group was responsible for the July 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed more than 70 people, including a U.S. citizen, gathering to watch a World Cup final soccer match. Al-Shabaab is also believed to be responsible for numerous other attacks in Somalia that have killed international aid workers, journalists, civilian leaders and African Union peacekeepers.

In February 2012 the group's leader, Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed and al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video announcing the alliance of the two organizations. The Rewards for Justice Program is already offering up to $7 million for information on seven other Al-Shabaab leaders.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved the rewards before leaving office. Officials said they hope the rewards will generate new leads from both Somalia and in Somali-American communities in the United States. In addition to the posters and matchbooks, U.S. officials will be talking with local media in Somalia to reach people that may have information about the men's whereabouts.

It is rare for the United States to offer a reward for an American citizen. The most notable previous reward offered for an American was $1 million for Adam Gadahn, who has served as senior operative and spokesman for the core al Qaeda organization.

March 20, 2013
By: Elise Labott

France has taken up the challenge of defeating Al-Qaeda’s new stronghold in northern Mali, its largest since the fall of Afghanistan in 2001. Paris has taken on a well-armed and well-funded group, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which poses a serious threat to Africa and the West. The United States has a backseat role in this fight, but a big stake in the outcome. AQIM has already demonstrated it can strike back by taking hostages at an oil installation in Algeria; it may be capable of attacks in Europe as well. AQIM was long among Al-Qaeda’s weaker franchises. Emerging from an Algerian terrorist group in 2006, it had some early success blowing up the United Nations headquarters in Algiers, but for most of its existence has been confined to kidnapping Westerners traveling the remote deserts of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as well as other criminal enterprises. It amassed a sizable war chest, more than $200 million according to Algerian sources, from the ransoms paid. Then it accumulated huge amounts of weapons from Libya after Moammar Gadhafi’s downfall.

Last spring after a military coup in Mali, AQIM found a partner in a local jihadist group in Mali, Ansar al-Dine, and together they swept out government forces from the north of Mali, before turning on a Tuareg independence movement, the predominant ethnic group in the north and initially a partner. AQIM and Ansar al-Dine gained control of a vast Saharan stronghold the size of Texas.

Together, they began destroying the Islamic heritage of the fabled city of Timbuktu, much as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban destroyed Afghanistan’s historical treasures in Bamiyan Valley in the years before the 9/11 attacks. Jihadists from across Africa and as far as Pakistan are flocking to Mali for training, money and weapons.

Ansar al-Dine is led by a former Tuareg rebel, named Iyad ag Ghaly, who was a diplomat for Mali in Saudi Arabia, 2008 to 2010. The Saudis expelled him for contacts with extremists in the kingdom. His goals are probably mostly local, but he established extensive contacts with the AQIM leadership, helping negotiate release of foreigners kidnapped by Al-Qaeda for years.

The combustible mix of AQIM, Ansar al-Dine and Tuareg rebels is complex. AQIM itself has split into factions with different leaders but the same general agenda. All are well armed, thanks to looting of the Libyan arms depots; indeed AQIM has acquired so many weapons from Libyan caches that it’s the best armed Al-Qaeda franchise in the world today.

Almost all of Mali’s neighbors, except initially Algeria, are horrified at what’s taking place in the north. The Moroccan foreign minister told me recently that the jihadist emirate is the greatest threat to regional stability in north and west Africa in more than over a decade. Today, AQIM is the fastest growing Al-Qaeda franchise in the world. Based on previous experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere once Al-Qaeda establishes a presence in a failing state it becomes difficult to root it out entirely.

So Paris, Mali’s former colonial ruler, stepped into the breach. This month it stopped an advance by the jihadists on the capital in Bamako. Now it is attacking their bases in the north. The French know more about Mali than other major powers do. The French should – it’s their creation, an artificial state known as French Sudan with borders created by Paris in 1880. France’s intelligence services have better insights into Tuareg and jihadist militants than do those of the United States and the United Kingdom. France also has baggage from the colonial era, with many Africans and Arabs resenting French interference.

Algeria, Mali’s big neighbor to the north with the largest army in Africa, 150,000 strong, a defense budget of more than $10 billion annually, and extensive spy networks across the Sahara, is especially nervous about French actions. Algiers opposed NATO’s role in Libya, blaming it for starting the Mali mess. But the Algerians did allow French fighter jets to overfly Algerian territory to bomb AQIM targets in Mali. In response, an AQIM affiliated force attacked a natural gas installation in Algeria, near the border with Libya, 1,000 kilometers away from Mali. The resulting carnage killed dozens of terrorists and hostages. It was also AQIM’s first attack on an energy facility in Algeria.

Ironically, the attack probably will push Algiers off the fence about the war. The generals who run Algeria, called collectively “le pouvoir” in Algeria, or “the power,” were reluctant to push AQIM out of Mali, fearing the group would only move north to Algeria. Now they have no choice. Since Algeria is Africa’s largest country, with a GDP of $260 billion and a ruthless intelligence service, it can do more to fight AQIM than any other African country.

The head of Algerian intelligence, Mohammad Mediene, has a long track record of eradicating terrorist groups using extreme methods. KGB-trained, rarely photographed, he has run Algerian intelligence since 1990 and is known for his professionalism and determination.

Washington can help with diplomacy in the U.N. and elsewhere. Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in with a visit to Algiers last year and Ambassador Susan Rice has secured U.N. blessing for fighting AQIM. The French will require munitions and logistic help in addition to the U.S. drones and other surveillance assets already in use.

We can expect Al-Qaeda to strike back even more desperately. The worst case would be a mass-casualty attack in France itself. French intelligence is monitoring the more than 5 million Algerian émigrés in the country. Al-Qaeda Amir Ayman Zawahiri has called for a 9/11 in Paris since 2006. AQIM sleeper cells, if any are in France, could be activated. France may also see more lone-wolf attacks like those carried out by an citizen of Algerian origin in Toulouse last year.

The Al-Qaeda stronghold in Mali is only one of the group’s new safe havens developed in the last year since the wave of Arab revolutions sweeping across the region. The so-called Arab Spring removed some of the old police states that ran the Arab world, but also removed many of the counterterrorist professionals like Mediene, creating failed states and lawless areas where local Al-Qaeda franchises could take root and operate.

This is Al-Qaeda 3.0, the third generation in effect, a more decentralized movement that’s learned from many of the mistakes of the earlier generations of Al-Qaeda operatives. They’re more local in orientation and more willing to collaborate with other Sunni Muslim groups and operate without the Al-Qaeda brand name. The Nusra Front in Syria, for example, is a group that avoids the title to escape outside attack.

The franchises still pledge their loyalty to Osama bin Laden’s successor, Zawahiri, who’s hiding in Pakistan. Zawahiri remains the unchallenged leader of Al-Qaeda across the Muslim world, and his periodic public messages provide broad spiritual and strategic guidance to the movement.

Al-Qaeda safe havens in Mali, Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Yemen, Iraq and Syria pose separate challenges and must be dealt with on their own merits. In each case the terrorists thrive because the local government is weak and lacks legitimacy. The French, Americans and others can help provide intelligence and weapons, but there’s little we can do to ensure good governance and political legitimacy. Hence, we’re in for a long fight.

February 7, 2013

New reports are released every single day in Washington, but one that could prove to be of life or death importance was unveiled this week by The Henry Jackson Society, a bipartisan think tank headquartered in London. Al-Qaeda in the United States: A Complete Analysis of Terrorism Offenses holds up a mirror to America and provides us with a clear but terrifying image.

The report itself is more than 700 pages, and is a painstaking and meticulous review of all 171 al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda inspired terrorists who were either killed during their attacks or convicted in court here in the United States. Authored by Research Fellow Robin Simcox, the value of the data as a means of protecting Americans is underscored by the fact that the foreword was penned by General Michael Hayden, who previously led both the CIA and the NSA.

The excellent report challenges the post September11 conventional wisdom of who we thought al-Qaeda terrorists were—and are. It reveals that the bulk of the terrorists here are not highly trained foreign nationals infiltrating our borders to attack us, but our neighbors next door.

More than half of the terrorists were American citizens. A shocking 82% of the terrorists killed or convicted were U.S. residents. Ninety-five percent were men and they lived in states from coast to coast and all across the heartland. The highest numbers came from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Virginia, Minnesota and California.

Another remarkable data point is that 52% of the attackers were college educated and nearly 60% were either pursing their education or employed at the time of their arrest. These facts punch gaping holes in the false and self-defeating assertion that those who hate America are driven to do so because they are ignorant or downtrodden. As Robin Simcox explained when I interviewed him recently, these people were not failed by our society; they were a part of it.

An inordinate number of the al-Qaeda terrorists were not born into radical Islam, but decided to embrace it later in life with the fervor of converts. Religious converts have made up 24% of all the terrorists and 95% of those converts were American citizens such as John Walker Lindh who pleaded guilty to assisting the Taliban.

One of the most striking things about this thorough study is how rigorously it steers clear of making policy recommendations. It provides the facts, and it is now up to those charged with developing our counter-terrorism and homeland security strategies to decide how best to use this information.

After all, safeguarding our citizens is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. It’s not a left-wing or right-wing issue. It needs to be an American priority.



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