The Soufan Group Morning Brief



A pressure-cooker bomb in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan injured 29 people on Saturday night. A second, unexploded bomb was found four blocks away. The improvised devices were reportedly filled with shrapnel and built with flip phones and Christmas lights that set off a powerful explosive compound, according to police. Authorities are searching for a man named Ahmad Khan Rahami in connection with the bombing. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that “there is no evidence of an international terrorism connection with this incident,” and noted that no terrorist group had claimed responsibility for the bombing. Mayor Bill de Blasio also avoided using the word terrorism to describe the incident. Authorities are investigating any possible links to a pipe bomb explosion at a New Jersey beach on Saturday, which occurred in a trash can before the start of a road race in Seaside Park. On Sunday, police found a backpack containing explosive devices, including pipe bombs, near an Elizabeth, New Jersey train station. New York Times, Washington Post

New York Times: Mayor de Blasio Avoids Terrorism Label in Manhattan Explosion
CNN: New York bombing: Investigators search for suspects, motive
Wall Street Journal: New York Explosion Captured on Surveillance Video
AP: FBI: Beaches Reopened After Pipe Bomb Blast, Probe Ongoing

ISIS claimed responsibility on Sunday for the stabbing attack on a Minnesota shopping mall that injured nine people. ISIS’s Amaq News Agency claimed the attacker, who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer, had been a “soldier of the Islamic State.” The FBI said it was investigating the attack as a “potential act of terrorism.” The attacker, who was dressed in a security guard uniform, reportedly mentioned Allah and asked at least one victim if he was Muslim, according to police. New York Times, Reuters, AP`

Washington Post: Will a European de-radicalization approach work in at-risk U.S. cities?
ABC: FBI Investigating Stabbing Attack in Minnesota Mall as 'Potential Act of Terrorism'
CNN: ISIS wing claims responsibility for Minnesota mall attack
NPR: ISIS Claims A Link To Mass Stabbing In Minnesota
AP: Minnesota mall stabbing could be realization of terror fears

Drones: The Obama administration has agreed to pay nearly $3 million to the family of an Italian aid worker who was killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan last year, according to U.S. officials. Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto, 39, was killed in the strike while being held hostage by Al Qaeda. The U.S. government is still negotiating with the family of a second aid worker killed in the strike, American Warren Weinstein, 73, who had been working on a U.S. government development contract in Pakistan. Washington Post

Hate crimes: The rate of hate crimes against Muslim-Americans are at their highest level since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers at California State University in San Bernardino. The study tracked hundreds of attacks, including arsons at mosques, shootings, assaults, and threats of violence. Researchers found that hate crimes against Muslim-Americans increased 78 percent over the course of 2015. New York Times

Gitmo: Guantanamo detainee Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi reportedly told U.S. officials this summer that he believed a member of the Saudi royal family was assisted in an effort to recruit him in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks, according to a newly released transcript of his hearing in front of the Periodic Review Board. Al-Sharbi, 41, said a religious figure in Saudi Arabia used the term “your highness” during a telephone conversation with a man who had urged him to take part in an attack that would involve learning to fly a plane. AP

San Bernardino: Three news organizations are suing the FBI to release information related to the methods used to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. The Associated Press, Vice Media, and Gannett filed the lawsuit after the FBI refused several Freedom of Information Act requests on the matter. The Hill

The United States mistakenly killed more than 60 Syrian government soldiers in a series of airstrikes intended for ISIS targets on Saturday in the city of Deir Ez-Zor. On Sunday, Russia threatened to pull out of the ongoing ceasefire plan, which includes steps for cooperation and coordination of targeted strikes against jihadist militants. New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters

Syria: On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed it had killed a senior ISIS militant who oversaw the group’s information and propaganda activities in an airstrike earlier this month. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the September 7 strike killed Wael Adel Salman al-Fayad near the city of Raqqa. Cook described Fayad as being “one of ISIL’s most senior leaders,” who served as minister of information and was a member of the group’s Shura Council. Washington Post

Washington Post: U.S. Special Operations forces begin new role alongside Turkish troops in Syria
The Hill: Putin frustrated US won't release Syria ceasefire details
New York Times: Caliphate in Peril, More ISIS Fighters May Take Mayhem to Europe

Kashmir: On Sunday, heavily armed militants stormed an Indian Army base in the disputed region of Kashmir, killing 17 Indian soldiers. India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, accused Pakistan of being linked to the attack, saying “I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups.” New York Times

Pakistan: ISIS and a Pakistani Taliban faction claimed responsibility for an ambush that killed three Pakistani soldiers on Sunday in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Reuters

Philippines: The militant group Abu Sayyaf said on Saturday that it had released to the Philippine government a Norwegian man who had been held hostage by the group. Kjartan Sekkingstad had been held captive by the ISIS-linked group for nearly a year after he was abducted from a resort on the southern island of Samal. CNN,

Radicalization: A new study has found that depressive symptoms are associated with a higher risk of sympathies for violent protest and terrorism (SVPT). The study, conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London and the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, found that certain adverse life events higher risk of SVPT. Such life events involved incidents such as the death of a close friend, injury, bereavement, loss of job, and legal problems. Domain-b
The House Intelligence Committee’s Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Snowden Report: “Late yesterday afternoon the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a three-page executive summary (four, if we count the splendid cover photo) of its two-year inquiry into Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency (NSA) disclosures. On first reading, I described it as an ‘aggressively dishonest’ piece of work,” writes Barton Gellman at the Century Foundation. “With a day or so to reflect on it, I believe it’s worse than that. The report is not only one-sided, not only incurious, not only contemptuous of fact. It is trifling.”

The Islamic State's "Homo Jihadus": “In contrast to other jihadist groups, however, ISIS’ non-violent messaging has a deep and direct connection to its recruitment successes. A core rallying cry is that it is the only territory on earth where a ‘pure’ and original Islam is practiced and enforced,” writes Jacob Olidort on Lawfare. “In other words, ISIS aims to create an ideal Muslim homeland for the ‘ideal Muslim,’ the homo jihadus. By extension, so the group’s narrative goes, anyone who fails to heed this call – to either migrate to Iraq and Syria or to fight on its behalf – is not a true Muslim.”

Sizing Up the Next Commander-in-Chief: “Both candidates have spelled out how they would deal with ISIS, and terrorism more broadly, but their approach in essence sounds like what President Obama is doing now—with more ideological fervor and some additional starch,” writes Robert Gates in the Wall Street Journal. “Neither has addressed what the broader U.S. strategy should be toward a Middle East in flames, from Syria to Iraq to Libya, and where Gulf Arab states worry about their own stability amid growing doubts they can rely on the U.S.; both Egypt and Turkey are ruled by increasingly authoritarian strongmen; and an Israeli-Palestinian conflict further from resolution than ever.”

A Russian-Iranian Axis: “The partial cease-fire in Syria’s civil war is welcome news. But it must not be allowed to obscure a dangerous new development — the emergence from the war of a Russian-Iranian military axis that could upset hopes for stability in the Middle East, and for containing Russia’s global ambitions, into the future,” writes Vali Nasr in The New York Times. “The United States and Russia are nowhere near a new Cold War. Still, America has every interest in discouraging Russia’s and Iran’s impulses to ally themselves in rivalry with the West. If such an alliance took the form of a military-backed common front, it would guarantee a more intractable Iran, projecting power in the Middle East even as an assertive Russia tried to restore its sway along its own rim.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Investigating the Bombings in New York and New Jersey

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