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April 22, 2013

Slain Officer Tragic Reminder Of Extremist Dangers To Law Enforcement

Officer Sean Collier

The hunt for suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gripped the nation on April 19 as authorities shut virtually the entire city down in their hunt for the deadly fugitive.

Somewhat sidelined by the manhunt was the fatal encounter that touched off the massive search, the shocking alleged murder by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev of a university police officer the night before.  Around 10:30pm on April 18, police received a call about a convenience store robbery near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge (the robbery later turned out to be unconnected).  Shortly thereafter, 26-year-old MIT police officer Sean Collier, reportedly encountered the two brothers, who shot him multiple times while he was still in his cruiser, mortally wounding him.

The brothers allegedly carjacked a Mercedes shortly thereafter.  Police located the stolen vehicle in Watertown, but when the first officer approached the car, the brothers allegedly jumped out and opened fire.  As additional officers arrived, the suspects allegedly threw explosive devices at the officers.  MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donahue, Jr., 33, received critical gunshot injuries during this chase, though he is now in stable condition receiving hospital care.  Fifteen other officers were injured during the shootout.  Tarmerlan Tsamaev died in this second encounter after receiving multiple injuries, including being run over by his own brother driving a vehicle.

The tragic death of Officer Collier and the near fatal shooting of Officer Donahue highlight the extent to which police officers risk their own lives and welfare to protect Americans from dangerous extremists.  However, most Americans are not aware how often the nation’s police officers must place themselves in the line of fire to oppose dangerous extremists.

According to ADL records, Officer Collier was actually the 30th police officer to die in the United States at the hands of domestic extremists (of all varieties) since 2001.  In a number of those instances, the officers, like Collier, were killed while encountering a desperate extremist fugitive trying to evade capture for a previous act.

Just since 2009, 33 shootouts (including the Watertown event) have taken place between law enforcement officers and domestic extremists—including right-wing anti-government extremists, white supremacists, domestic Muslim extremists and others.  In those violent encounters, extremists have shot 34 police officers, 11 fatally.  In at least four of those incidents, it was probably only body armor that saved the officers’ lives.  Almost 25% of these shootouts involved extremists who were fugitives or otherwise resisting arrest.

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April 19, 2013

Profile Of Boston Bombers Emerges

Even as the manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continues, a portrait of him and his brother, Tamerlan, the alleged perpetrators of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing, has begun to emerge.

Based on social media profiles apparently belonging to them, the brothers were interested in militancy, Islam and Chechnya, a region in Russia.

The two reportedly came to the United States as refugees in the early 2000s, perhaps a couple of years apart, after fleeing the violence in the Caucasus.  Both appeared to maintain close ties to their ethnic homeland. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, included the seal of his hometown soccer team as the background of his Twitter account. The older, Tamerlan, expressed his hope for Chechen independence and included books about Chechnya about on his Amazon wish list.

The brothers were also practicing Muslims, posting messages about Islam and Ramadan on various social media profiles. There is an indication that Tamerlan may have had a more radical streak, reflected in his YouTube playlist featuring videos by a radical cleric living in Australia and videos about joining an Islamic army to help establish a Caliphate as well as a playlist on “Terrorists” (the videos of which had previously been deleted by YouTube).

A more complete profile on the brothers can be found here: Social Media Profiles Shed Light on Brothers Accused in Boston Marathon Attack.

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April 18, 2013

Extremists and Conspiracy Theorists React to Boston Marathon Terrorist Attack

Forty-eight hours after Monday’s horrific terrorist attack targeting the Boston Marathon, which left 3 people dead and close to 200 injured, extremist and anti-government conspiracy theories about who was responsible are spreading across the Internet.

A screenshot from the anti-Semitic conspiracy website “nodisinfo.com.”

The lack of information currently available to the public about possible perpetrators has not kept extremists from jumping to conclusions.  Conspiracy theorists spanning the ideological spectrum – from anti-Muslim bigots to white supremacists – have accused different groups and individuals of perpetrating the bombing.

Here’s just a sampling of these accusations. A comprehensive overview of extremist reactions to the Boston attack can be found here: Boston Bombing Prompts Extremist Conspiracy Theories.

Conspiracy theorist Mark Glenn claimed that the bombing in Boston may have been orchestrated by Israel as a “way of not only rubbing manure in Barack Obama’s face” but also to demonstrate what Israel is capable of doing to the United States. He blamed the Jewish community and the State of Israel for a number of attacks against Americans, adding “You in the Jewish community and in the pro-Israel community…you have a criminal record.” Glenn concluded, “It is very possible that this is an Israeli false flag event, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Others claimed they were sure Muslims were behind the attack. Quran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones released a statement that read, “Is it an Islamic attack? It looks like it. The bombing came on Patriots Day. It has all of the earmarkings (sic) of an Islamic attack but will there again be a great coverup by the Great Satan Obama? His Administration, the people he has surrounded himself with, are all some type of closet Muslims, heavily influenced by Islam because of their background.”

Anti-government extremists have described the attack as a “false flag” operation orchestrated by the U.S. government as a pretext to curtail Americans’ civil liberties. 

Other extreme organizations seemed satisfied with the attack and went so far as to describe it as a divine act. The virulently homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, for example, announced that it would picket the victims’ funerals and that the attack was a result of God’s anger about gay rights in America.

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