Tag: Terrorism

United States Seizes Domain Names Used by Foreign Terrorist Organization


The United States has seized “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org,” two websites, which were unlawfully utilized by Kata’ib Hizballah, a Specially Designated National and a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“Once again we see designated foreign terrorist organizations turning to the internet to push their message and recruit followers for their violent causes,” said John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “We will continue to fight terror recruitment and propaganda efforts in the digital world, as we do elsewhere.” 

“Our system of commerce and our infrastructure, whether physical or electronic, is to be used by lawfully,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak for the Northern District of Georgia.  “We will not allow groups that have been rightfully prohibited from obtaining goods and services in the United States to use our internet services – especially to further their terrorist agenda.  This seizure underscores national collaboration and a commitment to protecting our commerce and infrastructure.”

“The District of Arizona is home to many successful technology companies whose goods and services are capable of being used by individuals across the world,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey for the District of Arizona.  “We will not allow members of terrorist organizations to illegally use those goods and services to further their propaganda and agenda.”

“The National Security of the United States is, and will always be, the top priority for the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement.  Attempts to surreptitiously utilize U.S. based online networks and services to promote Iran backed terrorist propaganda will immediately be disrupted, disabled, and seized,” said P. Lee Smith, Performing the Non-exclusive Functions and Duties of the Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce.  “The Bureau of Industry and Security is committed to ensuring the stability of the Iraqi government and protecting our troops and Allied Forces against terrorist acts of violence”

On July 2, 2009, the U.S. Secretary of Treasury designated Kata’ib Hizballah, an Iran-backed terrorist group active in Iraq, as a Specially Designated National for committing, directing, supporting, and posing a significant risk of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces.  On the same day, the U.S. Department of State designated Kata’ib Hizballah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization for committing or posing a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.

“Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org,” acted as Kata’ib Hizballah’s media arm and published internet communications such as videos, articles, and photographs.  These communications included numerous articles designed to further Kata’ib Hizballah’s agenda, particularly destabilizing Iraq and recruiting others to join their cause.  They also functioned as a live online television broadcast channel, “Al-etejah TV.”  Portions of the communications expressly noted that they were published by Kata’ib Hizballah.

Federal law prohibits designated entities like Kata’ib Hizballah from obtaining or utilizing goods or services, including website and domain services, in the United States without a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org” are domain names that are owned and operated by a United States company based in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Kata’ib Hizballah did not obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control prior to utilizing the domain names.

On August 31, 2020, pursuant to a seizure warrant, the United States seized “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org.” 

Visitors to the site received the following message:

This seizure was investigated by the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Northern District of Georgia, Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the District of Arizona, and trial lawyers from the Department of Justice National Security Division prosecuted the seizure.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (September 2020) United States Seizes Domain Names Used by Foreign Terrorist Organization

IDF Thwarts Terror Attack from Syria


On August 2, 2020, the IDF thwarted an attempt by four terrorists to place an improvised explosive device (IED) by the Israeli security fence. The terrorists crossed the buffer zone between Israel and Syria near the Alpha Line before they were stopped by IDF troops.

This attack from Syria follows an attempted infiltration into Israel from Lebanon by a Hezbollah terror squad on July 27, 2020, which you can read about here.

Following the security incident in northern Israel on July 27, 2020, the IDF gave instructions to Israeli civilians living in northern Israel in close proximity to the Blue Line. Civilians were asked to temporarily stay in their homes and avoid any activity in open areas. In addition, the IDF closed roads in the area to minimize movement.

Iran and Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, are using Syria as a launchpad for terror against Israeli civilians. Since the outbreak of conflict in Syria in 2011, Iran has provided significant military and financial support to the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad. Iran has long-sought influence over Syria as control over Syria increases Iran’s ability to threaten Israel with attacks and its overall control in the region.

The Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian proxy groups—like Hezbollah—took advantage of the instability in Syria in the aftermath of conflict, and have used this opportunity to entrench themselves in Syria, to establish a permanent base for Iranian operations. In total, since the beginning of 2018, Iran and Hezbollah have launched eight separate attacks on Israel from Syria.

After the attempted terror attack of August 2nd, the IDF conducted a patrol of the area  and discovered weapons and a bag with explosives—ready to be used—left by the terror squad just 25 meters from the Israeli security fence.  

In response to the attempted terror attack on August 2, 2020, IDF aircraft and fighter jets struck Syrian Armed Forces military sites in southern Syria on August 3, 2020. Among the targets included: observation posts, intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft artillery, and command and control systems. 

The IDF holds the Syrian government responsible for all activities on Syrian soil, and will continue operating with determination against any violation of Israeli sovereignty.

Blogs to Follow:

IDF.IL (August 2020) IDF Thwarts Terror Attack from Syria; IDF Thwarts Hezbollah Infiltration Into Northern Israel

U.S. Army Soldier Charged with Terrorism Offenses for Planning Deadly Ambush on Service Members in His Unit


U.S. Army Private Ethan Melzer Sent Sensitive U.S. Military Information to Members of a Neo-Nazi Group in an Attempt to Facilitate a “Mass Casualty” Attack on Melzer’s Army Unit

The Department of Justice announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging Ethan Melzer, 22, of Louisville, Kentucky, for allegedly planning an attack on his U.S. Army unit by sending sensitive details about the unit – including information about its location, movements, and security – to members of an extremist organization named Order of the Nine Angles (O9A), an occult-based neo-Nazi and white supremacist group.   

Melzer is charged with conspiring and attempting to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring and attempting to murder military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country. 

The FBI and the U.S. Army thwarted Melzer’s plot in late-May 2020, and the FBI arrested Melzer on June 10, 2020.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods.

“As the indictment lays out, Ethan Melzer plotted a deadly ambush on his fellow soldiers in the service of a diabolical cocktail of ideologies laced with hate and violence,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Our women and men in uniform risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own.  The National Security Division is proud to support the efforts of those who disrupted this planned attack and to seek justice for these acts.”

“As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within.  Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength, and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York.  “Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists.  As alleged, Melzer was motivated by racism and hatred as he attempted to carry out this ultimate act of betrayal.  Thanks to the efforts of the agents and detectives of the JTTF, our partners in the Departments of Defense and State, and the career prosecutors of this office, a hate-fueled terrorist attack against American soldiers has been thwarted.”

“As alleged, Ethan Melzer sought to facilitate a deadly mass attack on his fellow service members by disclosing sensitive information to multiple extremists, including al-Qa’ida.  The FBI’s top priority remains protecting Americans from terrorist attacks, at home and abroad, and this case highlights the outstanding work of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, along with our U.S. military partners, to identify and disrupt threats like this one against our men and women in uniform,” said Assistant Director Jill Sanborn of the FBI’s Counter-terrorism Division.

“Melzer declared himself to be a traitor against the United States, and described his own conduct as tantamount to treason.  We agree.  He turned his back on his county and his unit while aligning himself with members of the neo-Nazi group O9A,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office William F. Sweeney Jr.  “Today, he is in custody and facing a lifetime of service – behind bars – which is appropriate given the severity of the conduct we allege today.” 

“This case is another example of the international responsibilities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force,” said Dermot Shea, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department.  “Its FBI agents and New York City police detectives will travel anywhere in the world to bring terrorists to justice, in this case a soldier who is alleged to have forsaken his oath to the United States military and his fellow soldiers.”

According to the criminal complaint and the indictment charging Melzer, which were unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Melzer joined the U.S. Army in approximately 2018, and he joined O9A by approximately 2019.  Members and associates of O9A have espoused violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs, and have expressed admiration for both Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Osama Bin Laden, the now-deceased former leader of al Qaeda.  Members and associates of O9A have also participated in acts of violence, including murders.

In approximately October 2019, Melzer deployed abroad with the Army.  Prior to planning the attack, Melzer consumed propaganda from multiple extremist groups, including O9A and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which are also known as ISIS.  For example, in connection with the investigation, the FBI seized from an iCloud account maintained by Melzer an ISIS-issued document with a title that included the phrase “HARVEST OF THE SOLDIERS” and described attacks and murders of U.S. personnel in approximately April 2020.

In approximately April 2020, the Army informed Melzer of plans for a further foreign deployment by his unit.  Melzer thereafter sought to facilitate a deadly attack on his fellow service members. 

After he was notified of the assignment, Melzer used an encrypted application to send messages to members and associates of O9A and a related group known as the “RapeWaffen Division,” including communications regarding Melzer’s commitment to O9A and sensitive information related to his unit’s anticipated deployment such as locations, movements, and security, for purposes of facilitating an attack on Melzer’s unit.  Melzer and his co-conspirators planned what they referred to as a “jihadi attack” during the deployment, with the objective of causing a “mass casualty” event victimizing his fellow service members. 

Melzer acknowledged in electronic communications that he could be killed during the attack, and, describing his willingness to die, wrote “who gives a [expletive] [. . .] it would be another war . . . I would’ve died successfully . . . cause [] another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”  

On or about May 17, 2020, Melzer exchanged electronic communications regarding passing information about the anticipated deployment to a purported member of al Qaeda.  Between approximately May 24 and May 25, 2020, Melzer sent additional electronic messages with specific information about his unit’s anticipated deployment, including, among other things, the number of soldiers who would be traveling, the location of the facility to which Melzer expected the unit would be deployed, and information about the facility’s surveillance and defensive capabilities.  Melzer promised to leak more information once he arrived at the location of the new deployment in order to try to maximize the likelihood of a successful attack on his unit. 

During a voluntary interview with military investigators and the FBI, Melzer admitted his role in plotting the attack.  Melzer said that he intended the planned attack to result in the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible.  Melzer also declared himself to be a traitor against the United States, and described his conduct as tantamount to treason.    

Melzer is charged in the Indictment with (1) conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2332(b)(2), which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; (2) attempting to murder U.S. nationals, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2332(b)(1), which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; (3) conspiring to murder U.S. military service members, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1117, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; (4) attempting to murder U.S. military service members, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; (5) attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339A, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; and (6) conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 956, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.  The statutory penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

Assistant Attorney General Demers and Acting U.S. Attorney Strauss praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies; the FBI’s Legal Attaché Office in Rome, Italy; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; U.S. Army Counterintelligence; U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command; Attorneys from the U.S. Army Africa Office of the Staff Judge Advocate and 173rd Airborne Brigade; and the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service.

This prosecution is being handled by the office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Adelsberg, Matthew Hellman, and Sidhardha Kamaraju are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Alicia Cook of the Counter-terrorism Section.

The charges in the complaint and indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (June 2020) U.S. Army Soldier Charged with Terrorism Offenses for Planning Deadly Ambush on Service Members in His Unit

NATO launches Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum


NATO on Friday, June 12, launched its first ever Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum (CTRC). It supports interested Allies and partner countries in enhancing their capacities to develop national skills and improve counter-terrorism strategies.

The Curriculum will also serve as a reference document to address partner nation defense educational institution requirements and will provide helpful guidelines for relevant existing NATO courses. Drawing on historical examples, the CTRC provides an overview of terrorist ideologies, motivations and methods, as well as contemporary counter-terrorism practices and potential future projections.

Launching the Curriculum, Dr. Antonio Missiroli, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges stated: “Security challenges like terrorism are not diminishing because of the global pandemic. Terrorism undermines our safety and the very values that underpin and inspire our societies. The Alliance is committed to address this threat with all available means. Supporting improved awareness, strengthening resilience and building counter-terrorism capacity of both Allies and partners are all part of this effort, and the CTRC perfectly fits these objectives. I would like to thank all those who helped make this Curriculum possible, including the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).”

Partners can significantly benefit from using the CTRC for the development of their own tailored courses on Counter-Terrorism. This support will be provided and facilitated in the framework of NATO’s Defense Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP). Dr. John Manza, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Operations, highlighted: “The Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum will be available to all interested partners and Allies. DEEP will work diligently to help partners who request support in implementing tailored versions of the curriculum for their professional military education institutions. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reflecting other longer-term trends, NATO will also work to implement the Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum as a distance course, available to all partners who wish to use it in their institutions. Supporting our partners in this way makes us all stronger in the face of a common threat.” 

Dr. Sajjan M. Gohel, the CTRC’s co-editor and academic project lead from the Asia-Pacific Foundation and the London School of Economics (LSE) added: “The CTRC is designed to provide users with a robust, holistic and nuanced comprehension of terrorism as well as improve potential counter-terrorism outcomes for NATO members and partners. The curriculum reflects NATO’s innovative best.”

The NATO Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum is the result of close cooperation between the Defense Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP) and NATO`s Counter-Terrorism Section, as well as the Partnership for Peace Consortium. Over 100 experts from nations across five continents, including from Tunisia, Jordan and Mauritania, as well as multiple international organizations contributed to the writing, drafting, and editing of the final product.

NATO.int (June 2020) NATO launches Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum

Tampa Man Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS


The Department of Justice on Wednesday announced the filing of a criminal complaint charging Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari, 23, of Tampa, Florida, with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).  

If convicted, Al-Azhari faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

“We are grateful for the quick work of our partners at the FBI to apprehend Al-Azhari before he could carry out his attack,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “This case demonstrates the Department’s commitment to stand vigilant against the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms.” 

“We are grateful for the hard work and swift action by our law enforcement partners and concerned citizens during this investigation,” stated U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida.  “Their coordination and cooperation in this matter allowed us to interrupt a serious threat, without harm to anyone.”

“From Mr. Al-Azhari’s attempt to acquire firearms through unlawful channels to his desire to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, it was clear Mr. Al-Azhari’s intention was to carry out an act of violence,” said Assistant Director Jill Sanborn of the FBI’s Counter-terrorism Division.  “The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country will continue to use all of their legal authorities to prevent a potential act of terrorism in the United States, and elsewhere.”

“The primary mission of the FBI is to protect the American public from a terrorist attack.  Today’s announcement of the arrest of Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azahari is proof we are committed to that pledge.  I commend the 18 federal, state, and local member agencies who comprise FBI Tampa’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for working day and night to prevent the loss of life in the Tampa Bay community,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division Michael F. McPherson.  “We were also fortunate to gain the cooperation of multiple citizens who willingly and bravely provided their assistance during this investigation.  This strong bond between law enforcement and the public allowed us to disrupt this threat.” 

According to the complaint, Al-Azhari was an ISIS supporter who planned and attempted to carry out an attack on behalf of that terrorist organization.  

Al-Azhari, who has a criminal history that includes prior terrorism charges in Saudi Arabia, attempted to purchase multiple firearms over the course of the investigation, before acquiring a Glock pistol and a silencer.

He also expressed admiration for Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen and spoke of his desire to carry out a similar mass casualty shooting.  Additionally, Al-Azhari researched and scouted potential targets in the Tampa area, including Honeymoon Island.  

He also rehearsed portions of an attack and the statements that he would make during or in connection with such an attack.

FBI agents arrested Al-Azhari on May 24, 2020, after he took possession of weapons to be used in an attack.

A complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, including Homeland Security Investigations, the Tampa Police Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, the St. Petersburg Police Department, the Clearwater Police Department, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Scruggs with assistance from Trial Attorney Ranganath Mathripragada of the National Security Division’s Counter-terrorism Section.

Justice.gov (May 2020) Tampa Man Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS