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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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February 2, 2016

Law Enforcement: A New Target for Domestic Islamic Extremists

Update: 3/17/2016 – In March 2016, the Cyber Caliphate Army, a pro-ISIS hacking group, released so-called “kill lists” with the names, addresses and contact information of law enforcement officers in New Jersey and Minnesota. The information was uploaded to a file sharing site and to Telegram.

The original version of this post was also updated on 2/19/2016.

2015 saw an unprecedented number of attacks on law enforcement officials by U.S. residents motivated by Islamic extremist ideologies and professing allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A shooting of a Philadelphia police officer in January 2016 indicates that the threat against law enforcement will continue into the coming year.

There have been eight documented instances of violence attempted or plotted against law enforcement by individuals motivated at least in part by Islamic extremist ideology since 2014:

Edward Archer of Pennsylvania shot a police officer

Edward Archer

  • January 2016: Edward Archer of Pennsylvania allegedly fired 13 bullets at a Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett. Hartnett suffered wounds to his arm. Archer claimed that he had acted on behalf of ISIS.
  • July 2015: Harlem Suarez of Florida was arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb a Florida beach. According to court documents, Suarez had also discussed placing bombs outside the houses and vehicles of law enforcement officers. Suarez had claimed allegiance to ISIS and had maintained a Facebook account on which he posted extremist content.
  • June 2015: Usaama Rahim and David Wright of Massachusetts and Nicholas Rovinski of Rhode Island allegedly plotted to behead Boston-area police officers. Rahim also allegedly drew a knife when approached by a law enforcement officer for questioning. The three allegedly claimed to be acting on behalf of ISIS and expressed some interest in traveling to join ISIS in Syria.
  • June 2015: Munther Omar Saleh of New York drew a knife and attacked a law enforcement officer who had been surveilling him. Saleh acted together with an unnamed  minor who had been with him at the time. He is separately charged with plotting a domestic attack. According to court documents, Saleh had expressed support for ISIS and posted ISIS propaganda on his Twitter account.

    Fareed Mumuni of New York

    Fareed Mumuni

  • June 2015: Fareed Mumuni of New York attacked law enforcement officers who had come to his residence with a knife. Mumuni is also charged with plotting a domestic attack together with Saleh and other co-conspirators. Mumuni had allegedly expressed support for ISIS.
  • April 2015: Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui of New York were arrested for allegedly plotting a domestic attack. Although the target had not been disclosed, court documents indicate that the two had indicated they wanted to attack a government, military or law enforcement target. Siddiqui and Velentzas had a long history of engaging with terrorist propaganda and extremist content and, according to court documents, had intended to commit their attack on behalf of ISIS.
  • February 2015: Abdurasul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhmetov of New York were charged with material support for terror for allegedly attempting to travel to join ISIS. Court documents indicated that the two had also discussed the possibility of a domestic attack that involved killing law enforcement officers, taking their weapons, and then mounting an attack on the FBI headquarters. The two had expressed support for ISIS online, where they also allegedly indicated their intent to act on the group’s behalf.
  • October 2014: Zale Thompson of New York attacked law enforcement officers with a hatchet. Thompson’s motive remains unclear and he demonstrated interest in a variety of extremist ideologies; however, his online record indicated he had most recently engaged with Islamic extremist propaganda and ideology, including ISIS-specific propaganda, prior to the attack.

In addition, court documents indicate that Alexander Ciccolo, a Massachusetts resident arrested in July, had planned to attack law enforcement, military and civilians on behalf of ISIS before allegedly deciding to attack a university instead.

The upsurge in attacks against law enforcement may be motivated in part by propaganda by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has called directly for such attacks. A September 2014 speech by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad Al Adnani, for example, stated, “Strike their police, security and intelligence members….” ISIS propaganda has also called for smaller scale terrorist attacks than those Al Qaeda adherents had been known to plot. A January 2015 speech by Al Adnani, for example, called for attacks, “whether with an explosive device, a bullet, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist.” The attacks against law enforcement have primarily been attempted with small arms.

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March 18, 2015

NJ Man Arrested For Trying to Join ISIS Espoused Anti-Semitism Online

Tairod Pugh

Tairod Pugh

A New Jersey man, indicted yesterday for attempting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), marks the 12th U.S. resident charged with supporting or joining Islamic extremism this year and demonstrates the presence of anti-Semitism and role of online propaganda in the radicalization process.

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh is a U.S. citizen and former air force mechanic from Neptune, NJ. He allegedly attempted to travel to join ISIS in January but was detained and sent back to the U.S. by Egyptian officials. Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015, upon his return to the U.S., but the charges were made public following yesterday’s indictment.

Pugh’s Facebook profile included multiple anti-Semitic and anti-Israel posts as well as posts supporting Hamas.

In July 2014, Pugh wrote a post that stated, in part, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within themselves. On the day of Judgment full responsibility of the starving, torture, jailing and killing of innocent Muslims will rest upon there (sic) shoulders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang themselves,” and posted an image with text stating, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our G-d is Lucifer.” In August 2014, he shared an image that referenced blood libel accusations, depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slitting the throats of sleeping children.

Pugh also posted several cartoons equating Jews, Israel or Zionists to Nazis, as well as multiple images claiming to depict Israeli war crimes.

An anti-Semitic post on Tairod Pugh's Facebook page.

An anti-Semitic post on Tairod Pugh’s Facebook page.

Although Pugh did not publicly post his support for ISIS, he did share a quote by terror propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki in August 2014. Awlaki is frequently cited as an inspiration for extremism by Americans who have been linked to terrorism.

Pugh allegedly also used his computer to research joining ISIS and watch ISIS propaganda videos. An investigation reportedly found that he had used the internet to search for the terms, “borders controlled by Islamic state,” “who controls kobani (a city that has been contested by ISIS),” “kobani border crossing,” and “jarablus border crossing,” and the feature-film length terror propaganda video “Flames of War,” which depicts and apocalyptic struggle between ISIS and the West. He had also allegedly viewed a chart of crossing points between Turkey and Syria and had downloaded at least one ISIS execution video, along with other ISIS videos.

Additional Facebook posts by Pugh demonstrated anti-U.S. sentiment. One post from August 2014, taken from Iranian controlled media outlet Press TV, depicted protesters burning an effigy of President Barack Obama. A post earlier that month included an article that Pugh wrote describing “the rape of a Muslim woman by the American forces.” According to media reports, some Facebook posts not publicly available also expressed Pugh’s desire to never return to the U.S.

Pugh also shared images praising the terror group Hamas. In August 2014, he shared an apparent image of Hamas militants “returned safely after 21 days of siege.” In July 2014, he shared a photo of Hamas militants with the caption, “Thank you! You make us proud …”

The 12 U.S. residents charged with Islamic extremism related terror offenses this year have been arrested in 7 different states including New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana and Missouri. Pugh is also the 31st American resident publicly linked to ISIS since 2014.

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