All posts in Terrorism

Islamic State fighters number far more than first thought, says CIA

US officials are shocked at the “Islamic State’s rapid growth.” Now, the CIA estimates that the Islamic State has somewhere between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters within its ranks. That number may include “some 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria alone, including 2,000 Westerners,” Al Jazeera reported, which noted the estimate is “far more than first thought.”

Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria number around 20,000 to 31,500 — a figure far higher than previously estimated, the Central Intelligence Agency has said.The new calculation includes some 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria alone, including 2,000 Westerners, a U.S. intelligence official told the AFP news agency on Thursday.

“The number is much higher than a previous estimate of 10,000,” Al Jazeera continues.

The scope of the operation, including the territory covered, indicates that tens of thousands of ISIS fighters participated in the recent fighting. The group is estimated to have anywhere around 50,000 members, thousands of foreign fighters and is more of an army rather than a smaller extremist group.

How the U.S. Could Escalate Its Name-and-Shame Campaign Against China’s Espionage

Chinese companies believed to be benefiting from stolen secrets could be the next target of U.S. action to curb industrial espionage.

Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Justice indicted five Chinese military officers for industrial espionage, accusing them of leading attacks on the computers of U.S. companies including U.S. Steel and Westinghouse to gather material to be passed on to Chinese companies.

The move puts U.S. policy in line with experts who have argued that only naming and shaming the perpetrators, and pursuing them through legal action, will rein in such attacks. Digital IP theft is now normal for U.S companies, although few victims disclose the fact.

Dmitri Alperovitch, cofounder and chief technology officer (see “TR35: Dmitri Alperovitch”) of the security company Crowdstrike, a company that offers new ways to trace and fight back against cyberattacks, told MIT Technology Review’s Tom Simonite how the U.S. could use its new strategy to increase the pressure on China even further.

Can Hackers Decrypt Target’s PIN Data?

Slightly longer answer: it depends on whether they have access to the encryption key, or to a machine that contains the encryption key.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about: there was recently a massive credit card breach at Target. If you’re like many people you probably heard about this three times. First in the news, then again in your email when Target notified you that you were a victim, and finally a third time when you checked your credit card bill. Not a proud day for our nation’s retailers.

The news got a bit messier today when Target announced the thieves had also managed to get their hands on the PIN numbers of unfortunate debit card customers. But this time there’s a silver lining: according to Target, the PIN data was encrypted under a key the hackers don’t have.

UN Team to Begin Syria CW Site Inspections ‘Within Next Week’

The Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is reviewing additional information received from Syria about its chemical weapons stockpiles, a United Nations spokesperson has said, ahead of onsite inspections and initial disabling of equipment which could start as early as next week. The OPCW Technical Secretariat, which together with the UN forms the team tasked with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities, received information that was “additional to the disclosure on its chemical weapons program which Syria submitted on September 21,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on Friday.

Meet Abu Omar: Al Qaeda Busted Him Out of Abu Ghraib. Now He Fights in Syria

Waiting for the tram in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Abu Omar is on his way to the mall. No groceries today, his shopping list includes a Turkish-made tablet computer and a small GPS navigation device loaded with digital maps of the Middle East.

“It’s nothing special,” says Abu Omar, an Iraqi national, as he puts the goods in his rucksack. “But this stuff might come in handy after I make it to Syria.”

Abu Omar, a handsome young man with long black hair, is not the only one making the trek to Syria. Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners, mostly suspected or convicted jihadists, were freed in July after al Qaeda-linked militants staged a deadly jailbreak at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. At the time, Iraqi and Western authorities feared that some of those men would travel to Syria, helping to fuel the rise of extremist groups there. Those fears have now become a reality.

Shabaab Plot to Attack London Planned to be ‘Similar to…Mumbai’

A document found after Somali troops killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda’s former leader in East Africa and a senior Shabaab commander, details a plot to conduct multiple Mumbai-like attacks that target civilians in London. The plot highlights how al Qaeda and Shabaab seek to strike civilian targets outside Somalia, and foreshadowed Shabaab’s attack on the Eastgate Mall in Kenya this week.

The document and several others found in Fazul’s possession after he was killed by Somali troops at a checkpoint in Mogadishu in June 2011 were obtained by the Toronto Star. A copy of the document was also obtained by The Long War Journal. The Canadian newspaper reported that “dozens of documents, Internet frame grabs and media reports in English, Arabic, Somali and Swahili, along with more than 50 video clips” were also found in Fazul’s car.

Are You Looking at An Official Shabaab Twitter Account?

Not long after Shabaab took responsibility for the Westgate mall attack, Twitter shut down the terror group’s official account. Although Twitter has acted against Shabaab’s accounts a couple times in the past, it had never done so while the jihadist group was live-tweeting one of its attacks.

As in the previous instances, Shabaab quickly returned to the social media platform to spew its hate and propaganda. At the same time, copycat accounts emerged, which led to false reporting and a bit of confusion for observers not used to following the al Qaeda affiliate on Twitter.

Shabaab Threatens ‘Big Surprise’ As Siege at Kenyan Mall Continues

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As Shabaab fighters continue to hold out inside the Westgate Mall in Kenya for the fourth day after assaulting the upscale shopping center on Saturday, the al Qaeda group’s media arm on Twitter threatened that a “big surprise” was in store for Kenyans. Shabaab released the following statement on Twitter just minutes ago:

The Kenyan govt and FM haven’t the faintest idea of what’s going on inside #Westgate mall. Rest assured, Kenyans are in for a big surprise!

The group did not detail the nature of the “big surprise” (or it wouldn’t be a surprise), but previous tweets over the past few hours indicate that the members of the assault team are holding their ground, despite claims from Kenyan officials last night that the mall has been secured, and the team still has hostages.

Jihadist Media Unit Urges Fighters to Strike Egyptian Army

The Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, yesterday called for jihadists to strike the Egyptian army.

In the communique, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the jihadist media group claimed that Egyptian soldiers recently committed a “massacre” in the Sheikh Zuweid area. The ITMC appeared to be referencing an incident from Sept. 13 that, according to the jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), resulted in the deaths of seven civilians, including four children.

The statement further denounced efforts by Egyptian security forces to stem the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza. “[T]he criminal butcher Abdel Fattah el Sisi” has increased the siege on Gaza, the statement charged.

The ITMC statement also criticized the Muslim Brotherhood. “He [Mohammed Morsi] gave no indications, neither he nor the Brotherhood, that they wish to establish an Islamic State where the rule is for Allah,” the ITMC said.