Luqman Ameen Abdullah. Photo from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Fox News.
In recent months, the US has experienced an alarming rise in jihadist activity. In the last two months alone, five terror plots have been foiled by the FBI, and there have been dozens of other arrests for various related crimes, such as providing material support for terrorists. The plots have been directed at targets at home and abroad, both civilian and military. The arrests clearly demonstrate the potential for al Qaeda and other extremist groups to recruit and carry out attacks in the US.
The extent of influence by al Qaeda and allied groups is evident in their ability to convince potential terrorists in other countries to come to the US with the intention of carrying out attacks; it is also shown by the capacity of these groups to indoctrinate US citizens and nationals. The case of Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan national accused of plotting attacks in the US, stands out in what has been described as the biggest plot against America since 9/11. Listed below are the incidents that have occurred so far in 2009.
Feb. 20, 2009: An Afghan national was arrested for his ties to terrorist groups and for trying to obtain a US passport by fraudulent means. Ahmadullah Sais Niazi was indicted on charges of perjury, naturalization fraud, misuse of a passport obtained fraudulently, and making false statements to authorities. After a 2004 trip to Pakistan, Niazi denied any association to terrorist organizations. One one occasion, Niazi reportedly met with Dr. Amin al-Haq, commander of the Black Guard, which is Osama bin Laden’s security unit. Authorities later discovered that Niazi had ties not only with the Taliban but also with al Qaeda and Hezb-i-Islami.
March 20, 2009: After at least 20 Minneapolis-based Somali-American men had traveled back to the war-torn county, only “several” have returned to the United States. The remaining men are reported to be currently fighting, or have been killed fighting, on behalf of the al Qaeda-linked, Somali-based terror group known as al-Shabaab. Counterterrorism officials do not believe the men have returned to conduct attacks on the US. During the investigation, Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to fight against the government and “the international crusade.” In April, federal agents raided money transfer businesses that served the Somali community, in an effort to halt the flow of money from the US to terror groups abroad. In July, authorities indicted three Somali-Americans for recruiting the 20 men to fight abroad, including one who carried out a suicide attack against the Somali government.
May 21, 2009: Four men were arrested shortly after planting inactive explosives outside two New York City synagogues. James Cromite, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen are reported to have been “disappointed that the World Trade Center wasn’t still around to attack,” and often vowed to wage jihad. The men, three Americans and a Haitian, also plotted to shoot down a military plane with surface-to-air missiles. A confidential informant, whom the men thought belonged to the group Jaish-e-Mohammed, provided the men with the decoy explosives and missile that led to their arrest after an investigation of almost a year. The charges against the men include conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction within the US and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles.
July 28, 2009: Daniel Boyd, an American, and six other North Carolina men were arrested for plotting terrorist attacks in Israel and Pakistan. They are believed to have taken a half dozen trips in which they intended to engage in violent jihad abroad; each attempt ended in failure. An eighth man, Jude Mohammed, a Raleigh resident whom investigators believe is a member of the North Carolina terror cell, was arrested for trying to illegally enter Pakistan’s tribal region and is believed to be still in Pakistan after he failed to make a courtroom appearance. Prosecutors played tapes in early August at Daniel Boyd’s trial that indicated his intent on engaging in jihad. “I love jihad. I love to stand there and fight for the sake of Allah,” Boyd had said.
Sept. 14, 2009: The FBI, along with local law enforcement, raided several residences in Queens, New York City. The men had aroused suspicion by what authorities described as “espousing militant ideology” and had apparent ties to al Qaeda. No arrests were made at the time, but this raid was the first in what would become a string of arrests and foiled plots over the following two months.
Sept. 22, 2009: A federal judge ordered Najibullah Zazi to be held without bail. Zazi’s actions roused suspicion after law enforcement officials discovered bomb-making documents on his computer. After being interrogated by officials, Zazi admitted he had received weapons and explosives training in Pakistan. It was later discovered that his ties to al Qaeda went all the way to Mustafa Abu Yazid, the head of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Two other men, including Zazi’s father and Ahmad Wais Afzali, were detained in connection with the case. The three are being prosecuted for lying to investigators about a conspiracy to detonate improvised explosives within the US.
Sept. 24, 2009: A 19-year-old Jordanian man was arrested after attempting to detonate what he thought was a car bomb, in the garage of a Dallas skyscraper. Hosam Maher Husein Smadi caught the attention of authorities after they discovered him on an extremist website. FBI agents say Smadi “stood out based on his vehement intention to actually conduct terror attacks.” Three undercover agents, posing as al Qaeda sleeper cell members, had been in communication with Smadi for several months during which they discussed potential targets within the US. The undercover agents provided the potential terrorist with an inert car bomb, which he parked under the skyscraper. Smadi pled not guilty to the charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a public place on Oct. 26, 2009.
Sept. 24, 2009: An Illinois man, Michael Finton or Talib Islam, was arrested for attempting to detonate a car bomb at a federal courthouse in Springfield. Finton raised suspicion after letters were discovered by authorities that indicated his sympathy for al Qaeda and his intention to engage in jihad. Undercover agents posing as al Qaeda operatives befriended Finton back in February; he later discussed with them making specific attacks on the US. In August, Finton recorded a video, which he thought would be delivered to Osama bin Laden, that sought to justify the attacks on government targets. On Sept. 24, Finton, along with an undercover agent, parked the car that he believed contained nearly a ton of explosives in front of the federal building. With the undercover agent, Finton drove a few blocks away where he twice used a cell phone to remotely detonate the “bomb.” He was immediately arrested and faces charges of attempted murder of federal employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Oct. 3, 2009: Two Chicago men were arrested for planning to carry out attacks on overseas targets. David Coleman Headley, a Pakistan-born US citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, was detained while attempting to board a flight to Philadelphia.The flight would have eventually taken him to Pakistan to meet with Ilyas Kashmiri, the operational leader of al Qaeda’s Brigade 313. The other man arrested in the case was Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani national from Canada. The two allegedly plotted to attack Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper whose publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed caused outrage in the Muslim world. In January, Headley had traveled to Denmark to conduct reconnaissance on the building and commenced planning for an assault similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Oct. 21, 2009: Tarek Mehanna was arrested in Boston for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and has been indicted for plotting terrorist attacks at home and abroad. Mehanna, along with Ahmad Abousamra, plotted to kill US civilians, soldiers serving in Iraq, and two members of the US executive branch. Abousamra traveled to Pakistan twice, and both men later traveled to Yemen, with the intent of joining a terrorist training camp. In each instance the men were turned down for their inexperience. Upon returning home, the men then began to plan attacks in the US that included using automatic weapons on civilians in shopping malls. Mehanna had previously been arrested last year for lying to authorities when questioned about Daniel Maldonado, who pled guilty to undergoing terrorist training in Somalia.
Oct. 28, 2009: Patrick Nayyar, an Indian national living illegally in Queens, and Stanisclaus Mulholland were indicted on four counts of attempting to provide material support to Hezbollah. Since June, the pair had agreed to provide the Lebanese-based terror group with weapons, ammunition, vehicles, bulletproof vests, and night vision goggles. A confidential informant posing as a Hezbollah operative, working for the FBI, had met Nayyar and Mulholland on several occasions to discuss how the items could be delivered to support the group. Although Nayyar has been taken into custody, Mulholland has yet to be arrested. Prosecutors believe that Mulholland is currently in Britain.
Oct. 28, 2009: Luqman Ameen Abdullah, the leader of a mosque who also headed the Islamic movement in Detroit called the Ummah, was killed after opening fire on FBI agents. The agents raided two locations and apprehended 10 other men on connection with the case. Three men, including Abdullah’s son Mujahid Carswell, were on the run following the raids. Carswell was apprehended the next day, but the two other men remain on the loose. The Ummah, or “Brotherhood,” is a movement with the goal of establishing a separate state within the US, governed by sharia law and whose national leader is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of two police officers in Georgia. The Ummah is said to preach violence against the US, and its members receive weapons training.