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July 17, 2015

Military Sites And Personnel: A Common Target for Islamic Extremists

The Chattanooga recruiting center attacked by Abdulazeez on July 16, 2015

The recruiting center attacked by Abdulazeez on July 16, 2015

The motive behind Mohammad Yousef Abdulazeez’s attack on two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed four Marines yesterday remains unclear. His actions, however, are consistent with other domestic attacks and plots carried out by U.S. residents motivated by Islamic extremist ideologies.

Military sites and personnel are a common target for Islamic extremists in the U.S. and terrorist propaganda has encouraged violence against military targets. An Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS) propaganda video released April 14, 2015, for example, featured images of dead and wounded soldiers with the captions, “mutilated soldiers are coming back to your homeland close to desperation. Eyes are being lost, bodies without legs, we want your blood….”

Two of the three deadly Islamic extremist attacks in the U.S. since 2009, (the Ft. Hood shooting and the shooting at the Little Rock, Arkansas army recruiting center) were specifically directed at military targets.

  • Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad was 23 years old when he killed one soldier and injured another during a drive by shooting at a military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas. Muhammad, a convert to Islam, admitted shooting the uniformed soldiers “because of what they had done to Muslims in the past” and said that he “would have killed more soldiers had they been in the parking lot.” He also reportedly admitted that he was angry about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to the Little Rock shooting, he had thrown a firebomb at a rabbi’s house  in Nashville, Tennessee, and fired shots at a rabbi’s home in Little Rock. Locations and individuals that are, or are perceived as, Jewish or related to Israel are also regular targets for Islamic extremist plots. Mohammad had also attempted to carry out an additional attack on a military recruiting center in Kentucky.
  • Nidal Malik Hassan, was 39 years old when he killed 13 people at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas, where he had been working as an army psychiatrist. Prior to the attack, Hassan had been in contact with Anwar Al-Awlaki, the U.S. born English-language propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who was killed in a drone strike in 2011. In an interview with a Yemeni journalist, al-Awlaki claimed that Hasan viewed him as a confidant and he said that he “blessed the act because it was against a military target. And the soldiers who were killed were not normal soldiers, but those who were trained and prepared to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

There have been numerous other plots against military institutions and personnel in the years since the Fort Hood and Little Rock attacks in 2009. The following is a sampling of those plots that targeted specific military facilities in the U.S. since 2009:

  • April 10, 2015: John T. Booker, Jr., a 20-year-old U.S. citizen from Kansas was arrested and charged with attempting to undertake a suicide attack at Ft. Riley military base.
  • March 26, 2015: Hasan Edmonds, a 22-year-old U.S. citizen from Illinois and Jonas Edmonds, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen from Illinois, were arrested and charged with attempting to join ISIS. Court documents indicate the two were also formulating a plot against the National Guard armory in Juliet where Hasan, a member of the National Guard, had trained, using Hasan’s uniform and his knowledge of the site.
  • February 2015: An Unnamed 16-year-old minor from South Carolina was arrested for a plot to undertake a shooting at a North Carolina military institution and then travel to join ISIS. He was charged as a minor in possession of a pistol and sentenced in March 2015 to five years in juvenile detention, followed by counseling.
  • February 2, 2015: Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamud, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen from Ohio, was arrested and charged with joining Jabhat al Nusra. Court documents indicate that Muhamud returned to the U.S. with the intention of committing an attack against a Texas military base.
  • February 7, 2014: Erwin Antonio Rios, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested in 2013 and charged with possession of a stolen firearm. He is believed to have been planning to murder U.S. military personnel at Ft. Bragg.
  • September 29, 2011: Rezwan Matin Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested for planning to fly explosives-packed model airplanes into the Pentagon in order to “disable their (the American) military center.”
  • July 27, 2011:Naser Jason Abdo, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen, was charged in July 2011 with planning to bomb a restaurant frequented by Ft. Hood personnel and then to target the survivors with firearms. Abdo yelled “Nidal Hasan Fort Hood 2009” while leaving his first court appearance.
  • June 23, 2011: Yonathan Melaku, a 23-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Ethiopia, was arrested after he fired shots at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Iwo Jima memorial and the Pentagon.
  • June 23, 2011: Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, a 33-year-old U.S. citizen and Walli Majahidh, a 32-year-old U.S. citizen were arrested for a plot to attack a Military Entrance Processing Site in Seattle, Washington.
  • December 8, 2010: Antonio Martinez, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen and a recent convert to Islam, was charged with attempting to detonate what he believed was a car bomb at an army recruiting center in Catonsville, Maryland.
  • November 5, 2009: As described above, Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old U.S. citizen and army psychiatrist, killed 12 soldiers and one civilian in a shooting at the Fort Hood army base.
  • July 27, 2009: Daniel Patrick Boyd, a 39-year-old U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was arrested together with his sons, Dylan Boyd (22) and Zakariya Boyd (20), and four other North Carolina residents – Ziyad Yaghi (21), Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan (22), Anes Subasic (33), Hysen Sherifi (24) and Jude Kenan Muhammad (20) – with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel in connection with Boyd’s alleged surveillance of a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Boyd had obtained maps of the military base to plan the attack and possessed armor piercing ammunition to “attack the Americans,” according to the Department of Justice.
  • June 1, 2009: As described above, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen and a convert to Islam, was arrested following his attack at the Little Rock, Arkansas military recruiting center that killed one soldier.
  • May 20, 2009: U.S. citizens James Cromitie (44), David Williams (28) and Onta Williams (32) and Haitian native Laguerre Payen (23) were arrested for a plot that involved planting what they believed were bombs in cars outside of the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center. They also plotted to destroy military aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base located at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York.

There have also been instances of individuals who discussed attacking the military or military personnel more broadly, but did not have specific targets. They include Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas, who were arrested in 2015 and allegedly discussed bombing a military or government target;  Mufid Elfgeeh, who was arrested in 2014 and allegedly intended to shoot military personnel; and Jose Pimentel, who was arrested in 2011 and plotted to attack military personnel and other targets.

Others reportedly considered attacking military institutions but then chose other targets instead. For example, Alexander Ciccolo was arrested in 2015 and allegedly discussed targeting the military before deciding to attack a university, and Amine El Khalifi, who was arrested in 2012 and allegedly discussed targeting the military before deciding to attack the Capital building.

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June 25, 2013

’93 Landmark Plot Foreshowed Domestic Terror Threat

landmark-plot-omar-abdel-rahman

Omar Abdel Rahman

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the arrest of eight followers of radical Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman for conspiring to carry out a campaign of terrorism against New York City landmarks and officials.

The arrests not only foreshadowed efforts to attack New York City in the years since 1993 – most horrifically on September 11, 2001 – but also how terrorists link their opposition to America with their hatred of Jews and Israel.

The major landmarks that were targeted in the 1993 plot included the United Nations Headquarters, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge and the FBI office. Notably, the plotters also discussed attacking New York’s diamond district, an area largely populated by Jewish businessmen, which, according to one them, would be like “hitting Israel itself.”

The arrest came four months after a car bombing at Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City killed six people and wounded more than 1,000 others. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the attack, first planned to bomb Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but settled on the World Trade Center because “the majority of people who work in the World Trade Center are Jews,” according to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a co-conspirator in the attack.

In the 20 years since the foiled landmarks plot and first World Trade Center bombing, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ideologies remain a core feature in the propaganda distributed by terrorist organizations.

For example, every issue of Al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine, which has influenced numerous international and domestic extremists, including the Boston Marathon Bombers, has been saturated with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel narratives. The ability for Al Qaeda to disseminate such propaganda online and recruit would-be Jihadists around the world was virtually unheard on in June 1993.al-qaeda-new-york-threat

But while the communication and recruitment has significantly changed, efforts to attack New York remain unchanged, as do the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel motivations. Several post-9/11 plots and conspiracies targeting Jews have taken place around the country and in New York in particular. For example:

  • In May 2011, Ahmed Ferhani, a legal resident from Algeria, and Mohammad Mamdouh, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Moroccan decent, were arrested for plotting to attack a synagogue in New York City in order to advance their radical ideological goals. During his sentencing, Fer­hani said, “I repeat­edly discussed…my anger towards Jews based on what I believed and per­ceived to be their mis­treat­ment of Mus­lims through­out the world. I intended to cre­ate chaos and send a mes­sage of intim­i­da­tion and coer­cion to the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion of New York City, warn­ing them to stop mis­treat­ing Muslims.” New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Ferhani planned to grow out his beard in order to look “more like a Jew” and enter a synagogue more easily.
  • Zarein Ahmedzay, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, admitted in federal court that he and two other New Yorkers planned to detonate homemade explosives on New York City subway lines during the days following the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. While entering his guilty plea, Ahmedzay stated that “the real enemies of this country are the ones destroying this country from within” and condemned “a special group of Zionist Jews” who want to “establish a permanent shadow government in the United States of America.”
  • A similar plot occurred in 2009, when four men, including three American Muslim converts, planned to attack synagogues in the Bronx and a military base in Newburgh, in response to perceived American actions against Muslims around the world. The men planted what they believed to be bombs in cars outside of the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center.  In a conversation with an undercover informant, one of the plotters, James Cromitie, stated his desire to “destroy” the Jews. “The worst brother in the whole Islamic world is better than 10 billion Yahudi (Jews),” Cromitie stated.  “With no hesitation, I will kill 10 Yahudis.”
  • In 2007, Russell Defreitas, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, and three other men were arrested for plotting to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The men planned the attack in part because they wanted to take revenge on the U.S. for its diplomatic relationship with Israel. Defreitas later reportedly told an informant that Muslims “incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass,” and that he “wanted to do something to get those bastards.” Court documents have also alleged that Defreitas had suggested targeting a nearby Jewish school or a predominately Jewish neighborhood.
  • In 2004, American citizen James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj, a Pakistani who was in the U.S. illegally, plotted to bomb New York’s Herald Square subway station. In conversations secretly recorded by an undercover informant, Elshafay talked about his hatred of “Zionists” and his solidarity with the Palestinians, according to court documents. The men also watched terrorist videos at the bookstore where Siraj worked, and Siraj gave Elshafay books that claimed the Jews were conspiring to take over the world’s economy.

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December 5, 2012

New York Synagogue Bomb Plot Suspect Pleads Guilty

Ahmed Ferhani

Update: On March 15, 2013, Ferhani was sentenced to 10 years in prison. On April 26, Ferhani’s  coconspirator, Mohammad Mamdouh was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Ahmed Ferhani, a legal U.S. resident from Algeria, pleaded guilty yesterday to terrorism charges stemming from his role in a plot to attack a New York City synagogue. The foiled plot was the latest is a series of post-9/11 terror plots motivated, in part, by hatred of Jews and Israel.

Ferhani, 27, and his alleged coconspirator Mohammad Mamdouh, 21, were arrested on May 11, 2011, after attempting to purchase weapons, including guns and a hand grenade, from an undercover officer during a sting operation.

Reading a prepared statement in Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday, Ferhani said, “I repeatedly discussed…my anger towards Jews based on what I believed and perceived to be their mistreatment of Muslims throughout the world. I intended to create chaos and send a message of intimidation and coercion to the Jewish population of New York City, warning them to stop mistreating Muslims.”

As part of his plea deal, Ferhani pleaded guilty to 10 terror-related and hate crime charges and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

During the undercover operation, Ferhani allegedly said that Palestinians are particularly victimized and allegedly expressed interest in traveling to Gaza to fight. At the time of the arrest, New York Police Commissioner Kelly said Ferhani planned to grow out his beard in order to look “more like a Jew” and enter a synagogue more easily.

Other terror plots in New York in recent years have been similarly motivated, in part, by hatred of Jews and Israel, including:

September 2009: Zarein Ahmedzay, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, and two other New Yorkers were arrested for plotting to detonate homemade explosives on New York City subway lines during the days following the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. While entering his guilty plea a year later, Ahmedzay stated that “the real enemies of this country are the ones destroying this country from within” and condemned “a special group of Zionist Jews” who want to “establish a permanent shadow government in theUnited States of America.”

May 2009: Four Muslim converts, three American and one Haitian, were arrested for an alleged plot to attack two synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down planes at a military base inNewburgh,New York. James Cromitie, the apparent leader of the group, and the other three men allegedly began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish Community Center in theBronx in April 2009. “These were people who were eager to bring death to Jews,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said at a court hearing the day after the arrests. The men were subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.

November 2008: American citizen Bryant Neal Vinas was arrested for providing information about New York City transit systems to Al Qaeda for potential terrorist attacks and for firing rockets at an American military base in Afghanistan. Vinas, who was angry with the U.S. government for its support of Israel, was also involved with the Islamic Thinkers Society, a New York-based anti-Semitic extremist group that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. He also met with the former leader of Revolution Muslim, another New York-based anti-Semitic organization that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence against non-Muslims. Vinas subsequently pleaded guilty to all three charges against him.

February 2007: Russell Defreitas, a naturalized U.S.citizen from Guyana, and three other men were arrested for plotting to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The men plotted the attack in part because they wanted to take revenge on theU.S. for its diplomatic relationship withIsrael. Defreitas later told an informant that Muslims “incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass,” and that he “wanted to do something to get those bastards,” according to court documents. Defreitas also suggested targeting a nearby Jewish school or a predominately Jewish neighborhood. Defreitas was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

August 2004: American citizen James Elshafay and another man plotted to bombNew York’sHerald Squaresubway station. In conversations secretly recorded by an undercover informant, Elshafay talked about his hatred of “Zionists” and his solidarity with the Palestinians, according to court documents. The men also watched terrorist videos and shared books that claimed the Jews were conspiring to take over the world’s economy. Elshafay was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison.

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