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September 21, 2016

Practical Weaponry Inspired by Foreign Terrorist Organizations

Bombs in New York and New Jersey on September 17th and 18th and an unrelated stabbing attack on September 17th in Minnesota serve as reminders of the domestic threat posed by individuals motivated by Islamic extremism. These attacks come amid propaganda from groups including ISIS and Al Qaeda increasingly encouraging Westerners to commit attacks with any means at their disposal.

A pressure cooker bomb found in New York City on September 17

A pressure cooker bomb found in New York City on September 17

The bombs placed in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood were made with pressure cookers, similar to those used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Since 2002, there have been at least nine alleged plots in the United States involving pressure cooker bombs, including this weekend’s. Only one other plot, the Boston Marathon bombing, resulted in an explosion. Some plans only involved sending or requesting direction for making the bombs, but did not lead to any actual construction.

The majority of these cases took place in 2015 and 2016, and three of the nine plots were in New York City.

  • September 2016: Two pressure cooker bombs were left in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, allegedly by New Jersey resident Ahmad Khan Rahami. One exploded, injuring 29; the second was tampered with and rendered inert.
  • July 2016: Arizona resident Mahin Khan allegedly plotted to attack an air force recruitment center in support of ISIS. Court documents indicate that he asked a member of a foreign terrorist organization for rifles and instructions for building pressure cooker bombs.
  • September 2015: Florida resident Joshua Ryne Goldberg allegedly sent instructions for building pressure cooker bombs to an individual who Goldberg believed would attempt to bomb a 9/11 memorial ceremony in Kansas City.
  • July 2015: Massachusetts resident Alexander Ciccolo allegedly plotted to plant pressure cooker bombs at a local university in support of ISIS.
  • June 2015: New York residents Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni allegedly plotted to detonate pressure cooker bombs in New York City in support of ISIS.
  • April 2015: New York residents Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas were arrested for allegedly plotting an attack in New York. Although no targets were specified, the pair had allegedly acquired materials and instructions for building pressure cooker bombs. They had reportedly claimed allegiance to ISIS and had been in touch with known Al Qaeda members.
  • June 2013: Massachusetts residents Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 individuals and injuring about 264.
  • July 2011: Texas resident Naser Jason Abdo was arrested for plotting to use a pressure cooker bomb to attack a local restaurant popular with soldiers and their families in support of Al Qaeda.
  • May 2002: Florida resident Imran Mandhai plotted to use pressure cooker bombs to bomb several possible targets in South Florida, including Jewish-owned businesses, the Israeli Consulate in Miami, Jewish community centers, electrical power stations and the National Guard Armory. Mandhai pled guilty to conspiring to carry out a terrorist plot in 2006.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspect behind the New York and New Jersey

Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspect behind the New York and New Jersey bombs

The bomb that exploded before a marine charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey, as well as bombs found in Elizabeth, New Jersey on September 17 and 18 were all pipe bombs allegedly left by Ahmad Khan Rahami.

Since 2002, there have been at least 5 domestic plots motivated by Islamic extremism involving consideration or building of pipe bombs, including the September 17 attacks:

  • September 2016: A pipe bomb allegedly left by New Jersey resident Ahmad Khan Rahami exploded at the location of a marine charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey. There were no casualties. A bag of unexploded pipe bombs, also allegedly belonging to Rahami, was found in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
  • January 2015: Ohio resident Christopher Lee Cornell allegedly plotted to use a pipe bomb to bomb the U.S. Capitol building. He then allegedly planned to shoot government officials in support of ISIS.
  • November 2011: Jose Pimentel allegedly plotted to use pipe bombs to bomb various targets around the U.S. in support of Al Qaeda. He pled guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree as a crime of terrorism in 2014.
  • August 2004: New York residents Shahwar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay plotted to use pipe bombs to bomb a New York City subway in support of Al Qaeda.

Direction for building both pressure cooker bombs and pipe bombs are in the first issue of Inspire, the English-language propaganda magazine released by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. That issue was released in the summer of 2010; subsequent issues have referenced and occasionally repeated the directions, as well as provided directions for other types of bombs.

Although their choice of weapon was unspecified, Florida residents Raees and Sheheryzar Alam Qazi, arrested in 2012 for plotting an attack against U.S. gas stations, had allegedly plotted to build a bomb based on the directions in the first issue of Inspire.

In total, there have been at least 71 domestic Islamic extremist plots involving bombs or grenades since 2002, including 37 since 2010. In many cases, the type of bomb is not specified.

There have been at least 52 domestic Islamic extremist plots involving guns since 2002, including 27 since 2010. ISIS and Al Qaeda have both suggested that it is easy to acquire guns in the U.S. and have encouraged their followers to do so. There is some overlap between the gun and bomb plot numbers, as some plots involved both types of weapons.

Dahir Ahmed Adan, perpetrator of the stabbings in Minnesota

Dahir Ahmed Adan, perpetrator of the stabbings in Minnesota

The stabbings in Minnesota this weekend point to another, newer form of domestic Islamic extremist plot involving knives. Although there are no clear plots involving knife or stabbing attacks prior to 2015, there were two such plots in 2015 and 2 in 2016:

  • September 2016: Minnesota resident Dahir Ahmed Adan allegedly stabbed 10 people in a Minnesota mall. Although investigations into his motivation are ongoing, Adan allegedly asked at least one person if he was Muslim during the attack and ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • August 2016: Michigan resident Sebastian Gregorson was arrested for illegally acquiring an arsenal of weapons that included knives, guns and grenades. Court documents indicate that Gregorson plotted to carry out an attack on a building in support of ISIS.
  • December 2015: New York resident Emmanuel Lutchman allegedly plotted to stab patrons at a Rochester, New York bar with a machete or dagger in support of ISIS.
  • June 2015: Usaama Rahim and David Wright of Massachusetts allegedly plotted to behead Boston area police officers in support of ISIS.

Knives were also a common accessory among individuals who supported ISIS in 2015, even if their plans did not involve knife attacks. Fareed Mumuni and Munther Omar Saleh of New York, who allegedly plotted to bomb New York landmarks, and Usaama Rahim of Massachusetts all allegedly used knives in con­fronta­tions with law enforce­ment offi­cials who were mon­i­tor­ing or attempt­ing to ques­tion them. Amir Said Abdul Rah­man Al-Ghazi, an Ohio resident arrested in June 2015, had also allegedly pur­chased a knife but did not use it. Court documents suggest that he bought it for use in propaganda videos that he wanted to film. And court documents indicate that Jabil Ibn Ameer Aziz, a Pennsylvania resident arrested in December 2015 who reportedly hoped to travel to join ISIS and recruited others to do so, was allegedly in possession of a “Go-Bag” packed with a modified kitchen knife, in addition to M4-style high-capacity magazines loaded with ammunition, as well as many  other items.

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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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