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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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January 30, 2012

Video Suggests Military Shooter Motivated by Extremist Ideology

A video showing former Marine Corps reservist Yonathan Melaku shooting at military facilities in the fall of 2010 has been released by federal prosecutors. Melaku, who pleaded guilty to weapons violations and causing property damage to government facilities earlier this month, is shown wearing a mask and firing his gun at the National Museum of the Marine Corps while repeatedly chanting “Allahu Akbar” and saying “mission accomplished” with Islamic music playing in the background.

Melaku, a naturalized citizen originally from Ethiopia, was arrested on June 17, 2011, for trespassing in Arlington National Cemetery. Spent shell casings, a notebook that contained references to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and mujahideen, were found in his backpack at the time of his arrest, along with powder that was later confirmed to be ammonium nitrate, a substance which can be used in bombs.  Forensic analysis linked Melaku to a string of late night shooting attacks at the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and two military recruiting centers in 2010.
Melaku’s comments in the video, along with the other evidence, suggest that his attacks were motivated by an extreme ideology that has motivated other attacks and plots against the U.S. military.

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