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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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December 12, 2012

Shabaab Spokesman’s “Close Friend” Arrested

Two American citizens residing in Alabama were arrested yesterday in Georgia on suspicion of terrorism-related activity.

Randy “Rasheed” Wilson was arrested in Atlanta attempting to board a flight to Morocco. Wilson allegedly claimed to be a close friend of Omar Hammami, the Alabama native who became the public face of Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Somali terrorist organization. His co-conspirator, Mohammad Abukhdair, was arrested at a bus station en route to Canada from where he reportedly planned to join Wilson.  Both were charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists in an Alabama federal court on Monday.

According to court documents, Wilson and Abukhdair expressed their admiration for radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, as well as repeating their commitment to carry out violent jihad, to an undercover FBI employee.  They even turned over a cache of jihadist propaganda, including Awlaki lectures, to the undercover employee for destruction. Wilson, who is 25, apparently believed that “one way or another everyone’s gonna have to fight… there’s no deed better than jihad,” according to the transcripts of recorded conversations submitted to the court.

Wilson had previously reportedly conspired with another mutual friend of Hammami’s (who later became a confidential informant) to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabaab. Abukhdair had been detained by Egyptian authorities on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity and was deported back to the United States.  He apparently admitted to the undercover FBI employee that he had jihadist material on his laptop at the time and believed that “Allah protected him” because Egyptian intelligence had not found it.

The two men, who met online in 2010, supposedly discussed several possible destinations, including traveling to Somalia via Sudan, where they reportedly expected special treatment because of Wilson’s relationship with Hammami. Abukhdair alternatively proposed that they carry out attacks in the United States because he feared he would not be allowed to travel internationally after being turned away from a flight to Jordan earlier this year.  According to the charges, Abukhdair allegedly suggested engaging in hostage-taking operations in the U.S. and demanding the release of Muslim terrorists being held in American prisons in exchange.

The court documents assert that Wilson and Abukhdair made definite travel arrangements to go to Mauritania via Morocco in October. The two also reportedly discussed traveling to Mali from Mauritania where Islamic militants are active in the north of the country.

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