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After years of undercover work, the U.S. is starting to pull back the veil on what appear to be loose-knit, perhaps deeply rooted networks of would-be terrorists who support each other even as many prepare to act alone.
Heightening the concern, these complex webs of connections and support seem to span several years and often cut across the ideological lines that delineate one terror group from another.
“Increasingly, the FBI’s had a lot of these,” according to a law enforcement official familiar with one of the most recent cases. “I think it is going on nationally.”
The official, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, also said it was clear that “a lot of this predated ISIL,” using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.Concern has reached all the way to the White House. After a meeting with national security officials late Thursday at the Pentagon, President Barack Obama said, “It’s conceivable that there are some networks here [in the U.S.] that could be activated.”
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“We have to do a better job of disrupting networks,” he added.
Yet former counterterror officials warn that doing so promises to be difficult, because what holds these networks together cannot be undone simply by trying to dismantle a single terror group.
“The differences between al-Nusra and ISIS [Islamic State] and al-Qaida and al-Shabab, for the regular people, it’s a distinction without a difference,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. “What’s really underlying it is the ideological underpinnings that drive these people.”
In many cases, researchers say, for the members of these groups, it comes down to a willingness to embrace violence to fill holes or gaps in their lives.
“If ISIS is eliminated tomorrow and moves on, there are going to be other groups that pop up, and these individuals are already primed,” said Hughes, who previously worked at the National Counterterrorism Center. “They’ll latch onto the next foreign terrorist organisation.”
Perhaps no case illustrates the dangers as much as that of Nicholas Young, 36, a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit police officer from Fairfax, Virginia, arrested this past week for trying to help Islamic State acquire mobile messaging accounts for use in recruiting new members.
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The arrest appeared to be the culmination of years of undercover work that most likely began in late 2010 when FBI agents interviewed Young about an acquaintance.
“Six years is a very long time for an active FBI investigation,” Hughes said. “They were clearly concerned.”
According to an FBI affidavit, the acquaintance in question was Zachary Chesser, who had been arrested earlier in 2010 after trying to travel to Somalia to join the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab terror group.
Young told investigators he was shocked by the charges and that it would be his religious and personal duty to have told someone if he suspected Chesser of any terror-related activity.But something got the FBI’s attention, and investigators kept him in their sights.
“From the law enforcement perspective, the hope is that if you follow this individual, he lights up the system and you get to see if there are any networks you need to be worried about,” Hughes said.
It would seem Young “lit up” the system.By January 2012, Young was in regular contact with an undercover law enforcement officer.
That March, the undercover officer reported on a meeting with Young and two other men to discuss “the fundamentals of marksmanship.”One of the two other men then joined the undercover officer and Young at a restaurant for the first of what were to be several shared meals over the coming months. They talked about jihad, martyrdom and evading authorities.
Both men at the March meeting would later be arrested on the same day, February 17, 2012.One of them, who was not named in court documents, was arrested on charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The other man, Amine El-Khalifi of Alexandria, Virginia, was arrested in a sting operation as he attempted to carry out a shooting and suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol in the name of al-Qaida.Even after those arrests, investigators continued to watch Young, who confided he had twice travelled to Libya a year earlier to fight with the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade, an al-Qaida-linked group trying to overthrow then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
By 2014, Young was expressing growing admiration for the Islamic State, advising an FBI informant on how to reach the terror group. Thinking the informant had successfully joined the ranks of IS, Young tried to send him the mobile messaging gift cards just last month. That act led to his arrest.
Law enforcement officials refuse to say whether the six-year investigation of the former Metro Transit officer will yield more arrests, but a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington field office said it is likely that more cases are on the way.
“Because of the national significance of Washington, D.C., and the vast number of potential geographic and human targets, northern Virginia and the surrounding area are likely to continue to experience arrests of individuals who have provided material support to designated terrorist organisations,” said the FBI’s Lindsay Ram.
Ten people have been arrested in Virginia on terror-related charges since March 2014, according to Hughes of the George Washington University extremism program. Only New York (18) and Minnesota (13) have seen more terror-related arrests in that period of time.
“A lot of these cases have to do with in-person … recruitment or radicalization, where they reinforce each other,” Hughes said.
Still, law enforcement officials warn against underestimating the power of social media, as evidenced in Thursday’s arrest of Erick Jamal Hendricks, 35, of Charlotte, North Carolina, charged with trying to recruit members for an IS sleeper cell — a group of willing terrorists who remain inactive and out of sight until they are called upon to join a plot.
Court documents show the FBI was able to link Hendricks through social media to several other U.S.-based IS followers.One of them, Amir Said Rahman Al-Ghazi, 38, was arrested in June 2015 after trying to buy an AK-47 assault rifle from an undercover agent.Another, Elton Simpson, was killed in May 2015 along with Nadir Hamid Soofi, when the two tried to attack an event in Garland, Texas, where amateur cartoonists were drawing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
The FBI says Hendricks had been in touch with Simpson via social media about a week prior to the Texas attack and even connected Simpson with an undercover FBI agent who was in Garland at the time.
For Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, evidence that Hendricks and Simpson knew each on social media is especially worrisome.
“One thing that we know is that Junaid Hussain, who was functioning as an external operations connector/official for the Islamic State, was in touch with Elton Simpson,” Gartenstein-Ross said. “Rather than [contact between Simpson and Hendricks] being informal, there may have been a formal ISIL hand in helping to connect these disparate individuals together.”
Some of Hendrick’s claims may lend additional credence to those concerns.
During a conversation on social media in April 2015, Hendricks told an undercover FBI agent he was in contact with “senior people.”
“Does the head give orders?” the agent then asked.
“Only advice,” Hendricks replied.
“And connect ppl (people) to form groups,” Hendricks added, breaking up the word “groups” as he did with other words he feared would draw the attention of law enforcement.
“The networks are definitely broader, they’re definitely thicker and they’re definitely more interconnected than we’ve ever seen before,” Gartenstein-Ross said.
Another concern stemming from the arrests of Nicholas Young and Erick Jamal Henderson is that despite arrests, disruptions and the watchful eye of law enforcement, the loose-knit terror networks seem to be able to sustain themselves — and, in some cases, even outlive the terror groups that helped spark their creation.
“The adaptability of the threat moves faster than the state can keep up with it,” cautioned Mubin Shaikh, an expert who has worked with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. (VOA)
By Monika Manchanda
Eating fruits is one of the most satisfying ways to tackle sweet-tooth cravings while meeting your nutritional needs. Despite many studies and research on fruit consumption in diabetes, there are a lot of speculations on the right kind of fruit consumption and its relation to blood sugar levels.
Eating seasonal and locally available fruit has many health benefits ranging from reducing sugar and inflammation levels to fighting high blood pressure -- thanks to their abundant vitamins and mineral presence! They are a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamins A, B, C, E, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.
The fruits listed below are not just diabetic-friendly but are loaded with fiber and water content which can slow down the sugar spikes and sugar absorption rate. Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. Turns out there is a truth in the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", after all!
Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. | Photo by Pierpaolo Riondato on Unsplash
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. They are high in fibers as well, and have been linked with lowering the risk of diabetes. Berries: Adding berries is one of the best ways to add a variety to your diabetes-friendly diet. You can choose from blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries because all of them are power-packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fibers. Papaya is rich in natural oxidants, which makes it a perfect pick for people with diabetes. It reduces the chances of future cell damage.
Star fruit: This sweet and sour fruit is rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C. It also positively impacts anti-inflammatory processes and can help repair cell damage, and it has minimal fruit sugars as well. Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin E, K, and potassium, and they are low in fruit sugars as well, which makes it a perfect diabetic-friendly fruit.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. | Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash
Melons (Musk melon and watermelon): Powerful hydrating fruits like cantaloupe and melons are recommended for people with diabetes, and people with the risk of developing diabetes. Eat-in moderation for multiple nutritional benefits like fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B, and C. Dragon fruit is full of dietary fibers, vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Pear are nutrient-rich, and they are known to fight inflammation and improve digestion.? Studies also suggest that consuming pears along with a healthy diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Orange: This citrus fruit is full of fiber that helps slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, and its vitamin C component helps improve immunity levels.
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . | Photo by Jo Sonn on Unsplash
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . Add nuts like walnuts and almonds to complement your fruit snack. you can also add flaxseeds to balance the glycemic load in the body. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Diabetics, Apples, Star fruit, Pear, Melons, Kiwi fruit
By Nimerta C Sharan
Your monthly round up of the latest lifestyle launches, from luxury indulgences to artisanal creations, here's what you can look forward to :
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags 'Artycapucines - Chapter 3'. Six internationally -- acclaimed artists have transformed the black canvas of the timeless Capucines bag into beautiful art pieces. Each bag will be available in a limited edition of 200 and will be released worldwide at the end of October 2021.
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags. | Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
Add To Cart
Looking for a quick festive fashion fix for you and your loved ones? E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. The shopping platform has roped in stylista Sonam Kapoor as the face of the sale that will offer more than 2500 brands at discounted prices.
E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. | Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash
The country's leading design house, Good Earth, in collaboration with textile designer Madeline Weinrib will present its collection of 'butah' motif dinnerware and home textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York. The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe.
The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe. | Photo by Jean Vella on Unsplash
Sweet dreams are made of this! Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. Spread over three floors, the bakery currently has twelve macaron flavours, their signature pastries and tea cakes and other brunch and high-tea items on the menu. Bon appetit.
Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. | Pixabay
Bright And Beautiful
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. Inspired by the richness and diversity of Rajasthan, the collection consists of organza and silk saris and shararas, gota lehengas and kurtas and embroidered odhnis. The colours and silhouettes are just right for the upcoming festive season. (IANS/ MBI)
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. | Photo by Souravi Sinha on Unsplash
Keywords: Lifestle, AJIO, sale, Deepika PAdukone, saris, Motifs, artisan, art
Actress Kangana Ranaut has talked about how her weight adjustments for her latest 'Thalaivii' that "messed up many things" in her body and left her with "permanent stretch marks". For her role in the film, based on the life of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and former actress J. Jayalalithaa, Kangana had to gain 20kg and undergo major physical transformation several times.
She took to Instagram to share her experience, detailing that doing all that over the six months period left her with "permanent stretch marks". "Gaining 20 kgs in 6 months and loosing it all within 6 months that too in my thirties messed up many things in my bodya I also have permanent stretch marks as well but art comes to life with a price and more often than not price is the artist him/herself," she wrote.
"Thalaivii" showcases the varied aspects of Jayalalithaa's life, tracing her journey as an actress at a young age to becoming the face of Tamil cinema, as well as the rise of the revolutionary leader who changed the course of the state's politics. Talking about her upcoming works, Kangana currently has 'Dhaakad'.
She is also shooting for her next 'Tejas', where she plays a fighter pilot. The Indian Air Force was the first of the country's defence forces to induct women into combat roles in 2016. The film takes inspiration from the landmark event. 'Tejas' is directed by debutant Sarvesh Mewara. The film will be RSVP's second film which pays a tribute to the Indian military after the immensely successful film "Uri: The Surgical Strike" which was released in January 2019. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Kangana Ranaut, Thalaivii, bollywood, stretc marks, actress, tamil cinema