Christopher Cornell Expressed Support for Islamic State, Lone Wolf Jihad on Social Media
Christopher Lee Cornell, the 20 year old Cincinnati man also using the online persona "Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah" on social media, was arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on January 14, 2015 for allegedly planning to plant pipe bombs at the U.S. Capitol and then open fire on those nearby.
Cornell maintained several accounts on Twitter showing great support for the Islamic State (IS) and the lone wolf method of jihad. His posts indicate an influence by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American jihadist and AQAP operative killed in 2011. Further, Cornell's Twitter accounts tweeted various IS media releases, including the Steven Sotloff beheading video.
Cornell's social media accounts also appeared to follow and be followed by jihadist accounts, some of which being prominent jihadist fighters and recruiters, such as Syrian fighting group Rayat al-Tawheed and al-Nusra al-Maqdisiya, a pro-IS group known for leading a threat campaign against Twitter.
Support for Lone Wolf Attacks
Across his various accounts, Cornell praised lone wolf jihadists. In an October 23, 2014 tweet, for example, the user made reference to what was then the recent isolated attacks in Canada by Martin Rouleau (Quebec) and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (Parliament Hill, Ottawa):
May Allah reward the brothers who fought and recieved Shahada [martyrdom] in Canada! May these recent attacks send terror into the hearts of the kufr [disbelievers]!
In another tweet made on October 29, 2014, he mentioned previous lone wolf attacks in the West while commenting on what appeared to be the U.S.-led coalition against IS in Syria:
Canada, Britain and America all faced attacks by brave lone wolf mujahid and were terrified so what makes you think they can handle a army?
To a similar note, he also tweeted on the same day:
America wouldn't be able to handle war in their homeland. They are weak, cowardice and are on the edge of economic collapse.
Influence by Anwar al-Awlaki
Tweets made by Cornell's accounts also indicate great influence from deceased jihadist recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki. In a tweet made on November 5, 2014, Cornell posted a quote which he attributed to Awlaki:
An August 21, 2014 tweet by the user appealed to Awlaki while also mentioning what were increasing protests following a police officer's killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:
People are protesting for some thug who armed robbed a store yet stay quiet about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. #Ferguson
Such tweets coincide with the criminal complaint filed against Cornell, which claims that he communicated to a "confidential human source (CHS)" that his plan to attack the Capital would please the deceased recruiter and jihadists overseas:
...we already got a thumbs up from the Brothers over there and Anwar al Awlaki before his martyrdom and many others.
Awlaki was also credited with the recruitment of the Kouachi brothers, who had performed the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attack.
Promotion of IS Propaganda and Beheading Videos
Tweets from his accounts also show participation in grassroots efforts to disseminate IS propaganda, to the extent that he even posted links to multiple IS releases. A tweet made by one of Cornell's accounts on October 24, 2014 provided a link to what was indicated to be an archive of productions by al-Hayat Media Center, IS's Western-aimed media arm (which released the beheading videos, among other things):
In another example, on July 3, 2014, Cornell's account tweeted a video produced by al-Hayat Media Center, titled "There is no Life Without Jihad." The video, released on June 19, 2014, showed IS fighters, identifying as British and Australian nationals, calling for Muslims to join IS while claiming that those within the group "understand no borders."
Cornell's Twitter account also shared "A Second Message to America," the September 2, 2014 IS video showing the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, a day after its release.
IS Fighters and Recruiters
Cornell's radical tweets and support for IS appeared to accumulate him a considerable presence among other pro-IS jihadists online—even some notable ones. One of Cornell's past accounts was followed by "Israfil Yilmaz," a prominent Dutch jihadist fighting in Syria, and "Muslim-Al-Britani," the pro-IS British fighter who had made headlines after flooding Twitter with weapons-making manuals in late 2014.
A tweet from a past account also shows that Cornell had attempted to communicate with prominent jihadist recruiter "AbuHussainAlBritani." In a July 4, 2014 tweet, the recruiter criticized perceptions that IS was among the rebel groups being funded by the U.S. To this tweet, Cornell responded with the link to a now-removed Daily Motion video, titled, "Evidence Of American Arms Giving To Sahawat [Awakening elements] To Fight ISIS."
One account of Cornell's shows 132 accounts followed by him—almost all of which jihadist fighters or supporters, including Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan (under the username, "Mujahid Miski"), an American jihadist in Somalia, and "CambodianK," an alleged IS fighter.
Notable is that Cornell also expressed off-color opinions and beliefs, some of which leaning toward conspiracy theories. On August 8, 2014, he tweeted in part to Secretary of State John Kerry's Twitter account:
John Kerry and both Bush's are members of the Satanic Secret Society "The Order of the Skull and Bones".
Another tweet by Cornell's account commented on prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and referenced a YouTube video, titled, "Alex Jones supports Zionist israel [sic]." The tweeted video was also accompanied a message, reading in part:
ALEX JONES = MOSSAD AGENT...DON'T TRUST NOR LISTEN TO THIS HAFT TRUTHING SHILL PLANTED BY THE MOSSAD
The user also tweeted:
The kafirs [disbelievers] who call the Islamic State "CIA and Israel created" are they themselves the CIA and Israel created.