Expert talks IS tactics, recruiting in PHX trial

Posted at 3:27 PM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 19:08:00-05

An expert for the U.S. Justice Department told a jury in a terror trial on Tuesday that Islamic State targets individual American troops and reaches new recruits through social media.

Terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann testified at the trial of Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, a 44-year-old moving company owner accused of orchestrating a thwarted attack at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest on May 3 in Garland, Texas.

Two of Kareem's friends, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, took bulletproof vests and semiautomatic rifles to the event and were killed by a police officer.

Kareem is accused of helping plan the attack and providing support to Islamic State. He denies the allegations.

Kohlmann said Islamic State keeps a list of 100 U.S. military service members whom the group wants attacked.

Authorities have said Simpson accessed the list six weeks before the cartoon contest, and that Simpson and Soofi drove to Yuma and elsewhere in Arizona near military installations after discussing plans to attack a base.

Kohlmann said the name of a service member from Phoenix was written in a notebook found at the apartment of Simpson and Soofi after the Texas attack.

Islamic State wanted the American service members targeted because "they are soldiers of the enemy," he said.

Kohlmann also explained al-Qaida promotional materials that authorities say were found on Kareem's laptop and an attached flash drive. Kareem has denied the flash drive was his.

Kohlmann also gave jurors a short course on influential leaders in al-Qaida and Islamic State; how the groups use social media to recruit followers; and the influence of lectures delivered by violent jihadists such as Anwar al Awlaki.

Authorities have said a copy of "Defense of the Muslim Lands," a book written by Sheik Abdullah Azzam, was found at the Texas scene.

Kohlmann said Azzam's book explains why people should become mujahedeen, or holy warriors, and calls for the liberation of Muslim lands through jihad.

He called Azzam the "godfather of contemporary jihad."

Kareem's lawyers unsuccessfully tried to bar prosecutors from using the promotional materials as evidence at trial. They haven't yet questioned the expert in court.