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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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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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May 3, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombers Inspired By Anwar al-Awlaki

Reports are emerging that Tamer­lan and Dzkhokhar Tsar­naev, the brothers allegedly responsible for the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, were radicalized, at least in part, by radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.awlaki-boston-marathon-bombing-adl

Dzokhar, the surviving Tsarnaev brother, reportedly told law enforcement officials that he and his brother were inspired by Awlaki sermons available online. Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who encouraged attacks against America and the West, delivered his ideology of extreme intolerance and violence to English-speaking online audiences for several years.

Prior to his death in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011, Awlaki influenced a generation of extremists in the U.S and abroad. One indication of Awlaki’s widespread influence is the number of extremists that have been found in possession of his materials. In addition to the Boston Bombings, Awlaki’s influence can be seen in at least nine other plots:

  • Quazi Nafis, who pleaded guilty to attempt­ing to bomb the New York Fed­eral Reserve Build­ing in Octo­ber 2012, reportedly watched Awlaki videos and admired him, according to friends and federal officials.
  • Adel Daoud, who was arrested in Sep­tem­ber 2012 and charged with plot­ting to bomb a Chicago-area bar, shared Awlaki lectures with his friends.
  • Jose Pimentel, who was arrested and charged with state-level terrorism offense in New York for planning to attack military personnel and other targets in November 2011, posted at least fifteen Awlaki videos to his YouTube channel. On his website, Pimentel called Awlaki “The Destroyer Of The US” and posted transcripts of his messages. Pimentel reportedly accelerated his bomb-building efforts in response to Awlaki’s death in a US drone strike in September 2011.
  • Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, who was sentenced for his plot to attack a military facility in Seattle in June 2011, subscribed to a YouTube channel featuring Awlaki videos.  In one of the videos Abdul-Latif made himself, he laments that President Obama “put a hit out on Anwar al-Awlaki, our brother sheikh.”
  • Antonio Martinez, who was sentenced for attempting to detonate what he believed to be a car bomb at a Maryland Army recruiting center in December 2010, conveyed to an undercover informant his admiration for Awlaki.  On his Facebook profile, Martinez similarly broadcast his appreciation of Awlaki, writing, “I love Sheikh Anwar al Awlaki for the sake of ALLAH.  A real inspiration for the Ummah, I dont care if he is on the terrorist list! May ALLAH give him Kire amen [sic].”
  • Farooque Ahmed, who was sentenced for his role in a plot to attack DC-area public transportation in 2010, was found to be in possession of CDs containing Awlaki lectures and speeches.
  • Faisal Shahzad, who was sentenced to life in prison for his failed attempt to bomb Times Square in 2010, told investigators he was influenced by Awlaki.
  • Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, sent 16 emails to Awlaki and received two responses.  In the aftermath of the attack, Awlaki claimed he “blessed the act because it was against a mil­i­tary tar­get,” gave Hasan “per­mis­sion to carry out his attacks at Fort Hood,” and instructed him to “kill other Amer­i­can sol­diers,” although his email responses were relatively innocuous.
  • Five men who conspired to attack the Fort Dix army base in New Jersey in 2007 were reportedly in possession of an Awlaki sermon and were also reportedly recorded discussing the lecture enthusiastically.
awlaki-samir-kahn-inspire-aqap

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan

Awlaki was also a contributor to Inspire magazine which influenced numer­ous inter­na­tional and domes­tic extrem­ists moti­vated by rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam. Fed­eral law enforce­ment offi­cials report­edly con­firmed that the Tsar­naev brothers got bomb-making instruc­tions from Inspire magazine.

Additionally, Awlaki is believed to have personally instructed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate his bomb aboard a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 over American airspace in order to maximize casualties.

Awlaki’s influence is not limited to plots. His propaganda also influenced a number of individuals accused of providing or attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Recent examples include Abdella Tounisi, four individuals from California, Randy “Rasheed” Wil­son and Moham­mad Abukhdair. Notably, several American extremists communicated with Awlaki directly, including Nidal Hassan, Zachary Chesser and Barry Bujol, Jr.

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