Support the
Henry Jackson
Society

Our work is only possible through the generosity of private philanthropy. Find out how you can support our mission and can contribute to our work.

Members' log in
Events

Past events

Briefing
May 30, 2014

American Links to Jihadist Combat Abroad

by
Robin Simcox

American Links to Jihadist Combat Abroad is available to download here.

Following the May 25th suicide attack in Syria’s northern province of Idlib by American citizen Abu Huraira al-Amriki, The Henry Jackson Society has released a strategic briefing outlining terrorist activities carried out by Americans abroad. U.S. intelligence believes over 100 Americans have fought in Syria. Abu Huraira al-Amriki is the first U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide attack in Syria’s ongoing conflict, but not the first U.S. citizen or resident to have carried out attacks abroad in jihadist causes.

American Links to Jihadist Combat Abroaddraws on HJS’s extensive research into terrorism at home and abroad, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates, featuring evidence from HJS’s seminal 2013 study, Al Qaeda in the United States: A Complete Analysis of Terrorism Offenses, profiling 171 individuals convicted of al-Qaeda related offenses.

Key findings of the briefing include:

  • At least 46 US citizens or residents, other than Abu Huraira al-Amriki, have fought for jihad, been killed engaging in jihad, committed a suicide attack abroad, or been proven to have aspired to fight abroad – and in some cases, travelled specifically for the purpose of doing so. These incidents date back as far as the 1980s, have taken place in seven separate counties other than Syria (Afghanistan, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia), and involve at least 20 individuals (43%) born in the U.S.
  • Of the 28 individuals who have managed to fight, be killed, or commit an attack abroad, the most common locations were: Somalia (ten separate incidences); Afghanistan (eight separate incidences); and Bosnia and Yemen (three separate incidences).
  • Of the 19 individuals who aspired to fight jihad and had left the US or were en route to a conflict zone but had not reached their destination, the most common locations settled were Afghanistan (five separate incidences) and Somalia (five separate incidences).
  • Somalia and Afghanistan are the most popular destinations for U.S. citizens and residents aspiring to fight jihad abroad. The flow of individuals to Afghanistan contracted sharply after 2002, demonstrating that Somalia has become the most popular contemporary conflict for American citizens and residents. From the 45 individuals who either aspired to fight in a specific location or who had already travelled to do so, 15 separate incidences (33%) related to Somalia.

Robin Simcox, Henry Jackson Society Research Fellow, said:

“US citizens and residents have been attracted to jihadist causes for decades and this trend shows no signs of stopping. In light of the Syrian conflict pulling in ever larger numbers of foreign fighters, the presence of U.S. citizens fighting there is no surprise. Western governments must continue to monitor the threat that such individuals could pose upon their return.”

American Links to Jihadist Combat Abroad is available to download here.

 

Robin Simcox

About Robin Simcox

Robin Simcox is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, where he specialises in al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda inspired terrorism. He is the co-author of both editions of 'Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections' and several other reports broadly focussed on national security, terrorism and al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda affiliated movements across the world. Simcox has written for the likes of the Wall Street Journal, New Republic, Guardian, Weekly Standard, Spectator, Huffington Post and Daily Telegraph and regularly appears across a broad variety of media outlets, including the BBC, Fox News, Sky News, Channel 4 and al-Jazeera. He has spoken on a variety of platforms, including the British Parliament, US Special Operations Command and the European Parliament.

Full profile  |  See all of Robin Simcox's work