References to the Islamic State omitted from Chelsea bombing complaint


Earlier today, Mike Levine of ABC News tweeted the image above showing a blood-soaked page from Ahmad Khan Rahami’s notebook. The US government has accused Rahami of detonating a bomb in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on Sept. 17 and planting three other explosive devices in New York and New Jersey.

The page above contains the same passages referenced in the Department of Justice’s complaint against Rahami, which was released yesterday.

Curiously, the complaint does not include any reference to the Islamic State.

The journal contains clear references to both “Sheikh Anwar” and “Brother Adnani.” The former is Anwar al Awlaki, an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ideologue who was killed in an American drone strike in 2011. The latter is Abu Muhammad al Adnani, who served as the Islamic State’s top spokesman and oversaw the group’s anti-Western plotting until he met his demise in an airstrike in August.

The complaint specifically mentions Awlaki, but does not name Adnani. Here is a screen shot of the language from the complaint:


The complaint cites several lines, which are written in broken English and obscured by blood, including the phrase “back to sham [Syria].” It continues with additional fragments from the notebook: “But [unintelligible] this incident show the risk are [unintelligible] of getting caught under [unintelligible] I looked for guidance and…Guidance came from Sheikh Anwar…Said it clearly attack the Kuffar [non-believers] in their backyard.”

However, it appears that this “guidance” also came from Adnani. The complaint describes these passages as a “reference to the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.”

As The Long War Journal reported when the complaint was published online, this has been a consistent theme in the Islamic State’s messaging. Adnani repeatedly told followers to attack in their home countries if they couldn’t travel to the lands of the so-called caliphate.

In May, for instance, Adnani told followers that if foreign governments “have shut the door of hijrah [migration] in your faces,” then they should “open the door of jihad in theirs,” meaning in the West. “Make your deed a source of their regret,” Adnani continued. “Truly, the smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here; it is more effective for us and more harmful to them.”

“If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State,” Adnani told his audience, “then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.”

Adnani told jihadists that they should “not make light of throwing a stone at a crusader in his land,” nor should they “underestimate any deed, as its consequences are great for the mujahideen and its effect is noxious to the disbelievers.”

It appears that at least some of the terrorists who have struck inside Europe in recent months were complying with Adnani’s order.

Immediately underneath Adnani’s name in Rahami’s notebook appears the word “Dawla,” which is another reference to the Islamic State.

It is not clear why these obvious mentions of Adnani and the Islamic State were not included in the complaint, which did include citations to Rahami’s notes on other jihadi figures, such as Anwar al Awlaki and Osama bin Laden.

In June, the FBI released a partial transcript of one of Omar Mateen’s 911 calls. Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded dozens more during a mass shooting at a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla. on June 12, pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi during those calls. But the FBI’s transcript initially omitted any reference to Baghdadi or the Islamic State, even though Mateen had obviously sworn his fealty to Baghdadi. A subsequent transcript jointly released by the FBI and the Department of Justice filled those references back in. [See LWJ report, Orlando terrorist swore allegiance to Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.]

The Islamic State quickly claimed that Mateen was its “fighter.” But the group has not issued a similar claim in Rahami’s case.

Thus far, no jihadi organization has claimed responsibility for the bombs in New York and New Jersey.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Arjuna says:

    And Adnani took the words (attack at home, don’t travel for jihad) from Samir Khan or whoever was writing Inspire at the time and Samir Khan took the concept from Al Awlaki who took it from Bin Laden who is the Granddaddy of Strategic Suppleness. Not sure this is such a big deal.
    Do you agree w Debka that this is the first “joint” AQ-IS operation?
    IS have infested Karachi Universities, so they probably helped psych up (out?) the Chicken Man during one of his extended stays there. Ask the ISI and the IB. They know what an American passport-holder does in FATA and Baluchistan.

  • Arjuna says:

    Bulls-eye, Mr Boot: “The existence of safe havens for terrorists abroad remains a significant contributor to the terrorist threat that we face at home.”

  • Alex Ramirez says:

    Think about it… charging documents and warrants only need to show the bare minimum. Everything else comes out in court (long after the breathless media reporting has waned). Omitting the above material seems to reduce attention to the group in an effort to prevent the spread of propaganda from these savages.

  • Arjuna says:

    Here’s the issue. If someone like McCaul is this misinformed about Chicken Man, then the whole USG is misinformed too. Chicken Man is 80% AQ-TB and only 20% IS, if that.

    Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, house Homeland Security Committee chairman, told CNN that Rahami’s writings in a journal showed that his actions had been inspired by Islamic State as “his guidance came from the lead ISIS spokesman.”

    “What that tells me as a counter terrorism expert that now we can definitively say this was an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack.”

    Not exactly, Congressman. He watched IS videos and bought their propaganda (hence his ref to Adnani), but his real Jihadist Roots are in the Land of the Pure, where he attended radical madrasas and even a Pakistani-run training camp (over the border near Kandahar in AFG). His Quetta time is the big tell. He bunked with a Snake’s Own Snake, Salman Taseer’s killer. I bet the ISI were well familiar with the Chicken Man and his Pakistani friends.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram