1. Richard Reid – December 2001. A British citizen and self-professed follower of Osama bin Laden who trained in Afghanistan, Richard Reid hid explosives inside his shoes before boarding a flight from Paris to Miami on which he attempted to light the fuse with a match. Reid was caught in the act and apprehended aboard the plane by passengers and flight attendants. FBI officials took Reid into custody after the plane made an emergency landing at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
In 2003, Reid was found guilty on charges of terrorism, and a U.S. federal court sentenced him to life in prison. He is currently incarcerated at a federal maximum-security prison in Colorado.
Saajid Badat, a supporter to Reid, has been sentenced to 13 years in jail for planning to blow up a passenger plane. The 26-year-old, a religious teacher from Gloucester, England, was sentenced after he admitted conspiring with fellow Briton Reid. Badat pleaded guilty in February 2005 to the plot to blow up the transatlantic flight on its way to the U.S. in 2001.
2. Jose Padilla – May 2002. U.S. officials arrested Jose Padilla in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport as he returned to the United States from Pakistan, where he met with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and received al-Qaeda training and instructions. Upon his arrest, he was initially charged as an enemy combatant, and for planning to use a dirty bomb (an explosive laced with radioactive material) in an attack in the U.S.
Along with Padilla, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi were convicted in August 2007 of terrorism conspiracy and material support. It was found that the men supported cells that sent recruits, money, and supplies to Islamic extremists worldwide, including al-Qaeda members. Hassoun was the recruiter and Jayyousi served as a financier and propagandist in the cell. Before his conviction, Padilla had brought a case against the federal government claiming that he had been denied the right of habeas corpus (the right of an individual to petition his unlawful imprisonment). In a five-to-four decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the case against him had been filed improperly. In 2005, the government indicted Padilla for conspiring against the U.S. with Islamic terrorist groups.
In August 2007, Padilla was found guilty by a civilian jury after a three-month trial. He was later sentenced by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to 17 years and four months in prison. In September 2011, an appellate court ruling deemed Padilla’s original sentence to be too lenient. In 2012, Padilla was moved from a federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, to the federal detention center in Miami while awaiting resentencing. Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a complaint on behalf of Padilla alleging that being named an enemy combatant was a violation of his rights, and that he was subjected to torture during interrogation nearly a decade ago. His current release date is set for January 4, 2022.
3. Lackawanna Six – September 2002. When the FBI arrested Sahim Alwan, Yahya Goba, Yasein Taher, Faysal Galab, Shafal Mosed, and Mukhtar al-Bakri in Upstate New York, the press dubbed them the “Lackawanna Six,” the “Buffalo Six,” and the “Buffalo Cell.” Five of the six had been born and raised in Lackawanna, New York. All six are American citizens of Yemeni descent, and stated that they were going to Pakistan to attend a religious camp, but attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan instead. The six men pleaded guilty in 2003to providing support to al-Qaeda. Goba and al-Bakri were sentenced to 10 years in prison, Taher and Mosed to eight years, Alwan to nine and a half years, and Galab to seven years. Goba’s sentence was later reduced to nine years after he, Alwan, and Taher testified at a Guantanamo Bay military tribunal in the case against Osama bin Laden’s chief propagandist, Ali Hamza al-Bahlul. All the men have served their jail sentences and are now living freely in western New York.
Recent reports indicate that Jaber Elbaneh, one of the FBI’s most wanted and often considered to be a seventh member of the Lackawanna cell, has been captured in Yemen. It remains to be seen whether he will be tried in the U.S., since the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Yemen.
4. Uzair and Saifullah Paracha – March 2003. Uzair Paracha, a Pakistani citizen with permanent residency status in the U.S., was arrested in March 2003 and charged with five counts of providing material and financial support to al-Qaeda. Uzair attempted to help another Pakistani, Majid Khan, an al-Qaeda operative, gain access to the United States via immigration fraud. Khan is said to have been in contact with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and planned to bomb underground storage tanks at Maryland gas stations. Uzair was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Saifullah Paracha, Uzair’s father, a 64-year-old citizen of Pakistan and resident alien of the U.S., is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial. Paracha was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 8, 2003, through the efforts of the FBI and information provided by his son. He is believed to have had close ties to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and Mohammed’s nephew Ammar al-Baluchi. Saifullah is said to have used his international business connections to help al-Qaeda procure chemical and biological explosives and assist in their shipment to the U.S., along with the shipment of ready-made explosives.
5. Iyman Faris – May 2003. Iyman Faris is a naturalized U.S. citizen, originally from Kashmir, who was living in Columbus, Ohio. He was arrested for conspiring to use blowtorches to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge, a plot devised after meetings with al-Qaeda leadership, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The New York City Police Department learned of the plot and increased police surveillance around the bridge. Faced with the additional security, Faris and his superiors called off the attack.
Faris pleaded guilty to conspiracy and providing material support to al-Qaeda and was later sentenced in federal district court to 20 years in prison, the maximum allowed under his plea agreement.
6. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali – June 2003. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is an American citizen of Jordanian descent who was arrested in Saudi Arabia on charges that he conspired to kill President George W. Bush, hijack airplanes, and provide support to al-Qaeda. He was arrested while attending Medina University in Saudi Arabia, where he had joined an al-Qaeda cell. His plans, according to authorities, were to kill President Bush and then establish an al-Qaeda cell in the United States, with himself as the head. He was convicted by an American court on November 22, 2005, and sentenced to life in prison on July 27, 2009, overturning a 2006 sentence of 30 years that was ruled to be too lenient.
7. Virginia Jihad Network – June 2003. Eleven men were arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, for weapons counts and for violating the Neutrality Acts, which prohibit U.S. citizens and residents from attacking countries with which the United States is at peace. Four of the 11 men pleaded guilty. Upon further investigation, the remaining seven were indicted on additional charges of conspiring to support terrorist organizations. They were found to have connections with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a terrorist organization that targets the Indian government. The authorities stated that the Virginia men had used paintball games to train and prepare for battle. The group had also acquired surveillance and night vision equipment and wireless video cameras. Two more men were later indicted in the plot: Ali al-Timimi, the group’s spiritual leader, and Ali Asad Chandia.
Ali al-Timimi was found guilty of soliciting individuals to assault the United States and was sentenced to life in prison. Ali Asad Chandia received 15 years for supporting Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Randall Todd Royer, Ibrahim al-Hamdi, Yong Ki Kwon, Khwaja Mahmood Hasan, Muhammed Aatique, and Donald T. Surratt pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three years and 10 months to 20 years. Masoud Khan, Seifullah Chapman, and Hammad Abdur-Raheem were found guilty and later sentenced to prison terms ranging from 52 months to life. Both Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem and Sabri Benkhala were acquitted at trial.
8. Nuradin M. Abdi – November 2003. Nuradin M. Abdi, a Somali citizen living in Columbus, Ohio, was arrested and charged in a plot to bomb a local shopping mall. Abdi was an associate of convicted terrorists Christopher Paul and Iyman Faris and admitted to conspiring with the two to provide material support to terrorists. Following his arrest, Abdi admitted to traveling overseas to seek admittance to terrorist training camps, as well as meeting with a Somali warlord associated with Islamists.
Abdi has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, one of the four counts for which he was indicted. He was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in jail per the terms of a plea agreement. After being released from prison, Abdi was deported to his home country of Somalia in 2012.
9. Dhiren Barot – August 2004. Seven members of a terrorist cell led by Dhiren Barot were arrested for plotting to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions in New York, Washington, D.C., and Newark, New Jersey. They were later accused of planning attacks in England. The plots included a “memorable black day of terror” that would have included detonating a dirty bomb. A July 2004 police raid on Barot’s house in Pakistan yielded a number of incriminating files on a laptop computer, including instructions for building car bombs.
Barot pleaded guilty and was convicted in the United Kingdom for conspiracy to commit mass murder and sentenced to 40 years. However, in May 2007, his sentence was reduced to 30 years. His seven co-conspirators were sentenced to terms ranging from 15 to 26 years on related charges of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to cause explosion.
10. James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj – August 2004. James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj, both reportedly self-radicalized, were arrested for plotting to bomb a subway station near Madison Square Garden in New York City before the Republican National Convention. An undercover detective from the New York City Police Department’s Intelligence Division infiltrated the group, providing information to authorities, and later testified against Elshafay and Siraj.
Siraj was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Elshafay, a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty and received a lighter, five-year sentence for testifying against his co-conspirator.
11. Yassin Aref and Mohammad Hossain – August 2004. Two leaders of a mosque in Albany, New York, were charged with plotting to purchase a shoulder-fired grenade launcher to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat. An investigation by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and local police contributed to the arrest. With the help of an informant, the FBI set up a sting that lured Mohammad Hossain into a fake terrorist conspiracy. Hossain brought Yassin Aref, a Kurdish refugee, as a witness. The informant offered details of a fake terrorist plot, claiming that he needed the missiles to murder a Pakistani diplomat in New York City. Both Aref and Hossain agreed to help.
Aref and Hossain were found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to conceal material support for terrorism and were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
12. Hamid Hayat – June 2005. Hamid Hayat, a Pakistani immigrant, was arrested in Lodi, California, after allegedly lying to the FBI about his attendance at an Islamic terrorist training camp in Pakistan.
Hamid was found guilty of providing himself as “material support” to terrorists and three counts of providing false statements to the FBI. In interviews with the FBI, he stated (correctly) that he specifically requested to come to the United States after receiving training in order to carry out jihad. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hamid’s conviction in a split decision. However, his lawyers continue to pursue his appeal.
13. Levar Haley Washington, Gregory Vernon Patterson, Hammad Riaz Samana, and Kevin James – August 2005. The members of the group were arrested in Los Angeles and charged with conspiring to attack National Guard facilities, synagogues, and other targets in the Los Angeles area. Kevin James allegedly founded Jamiyyat ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS), a radical Islamic prison group, and converted Levar Washington and others to the group’s mission. The JIS allegedly planned to finance its operations by robbing gas stations. After Washington and Patterson were arrested for robbery, police and federal agents began a terrorist investigation, and a search of Washington’s apartment revealed a target list.
James and Washington pleaded guilty in December 2007. James was sentenced to 16 years in prison and Washington to 22 years. Patterson received 151 months, while Samana was found unfit to stand trial and was initially detained in a federal prison mental facility. He was later sentenced to 70 months in jail.
14. Michael C. Reynolds – December 2005. Michael C. Reynolds was arrested by the FBI and charged with involvement in a plot to blow up a Wyoming natural gas refinery; the Transcontinental Pipeline, a natural-gas pipeline from the Gulf Coast to New York and New Jersey; and a Standard Oil refinery in New Jersey. He was arrested while trying to pick up a $40,000 payment for planning the attack. Shannen Rossmiller, his purported contact, was a Montana judge and private citizen working with the FBI. Rossmiller posed as a jihadist, tricking Reynolds into revealing his plan. The FBI later found explosives in a storage locker in Reynolds’s hometown of Wilkes–Barre, Pennsylvania. Reynolds claimed that he was doing much the same as Rossmiller, and was working as a private citizen to find terrorists.
Reynolds was convicted of providing material support to terrorists, soliciting a crime of violence, unlawful distribution of explosives, and unlawful possession of a hand grenade. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
15. Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Zand Wassim Mazloum – February 2006. Amawi, El-Hindi, and Mazloum were arrested in Toledo, Ohio, for conspiring to kill people outside the United States, including U.S. Armed Forces personnel serving in Iraq. The men also conspired to train and arm for a violent jihad against the United States, both domestically and abroad. Training involved use of materials including those found on secure and exclusive jihadist websites, downloaded and copied training videos, and materials for jihad training sessions. The men also were found to have provided material support to terrorist organizations and to have verbally threatened attacks on President George W. Bush. The investigation was begun with the help of an informant who was approached to help train the group.
In June 2008, the three men were convicted of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism against Americans overseas, including U.S. military personnel in Iraq, and other terrorism-related violations. Amawi was sentenced to 20 years, El-Hindi to 13 years, and Mazloum to approximately eight years.
16. Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar – March 2006. Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a 22-year-old Iranian native, drove his SUV into a crowd of students at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, injuring six people on March 3, 2006. The reasoning, he stated, behind the attack was retribution for the treatment of Muslims around the world. Taheri-azar called police shortly after the incident, and turned himself over to authorities a few miles from his hit-and-run. Taheri-azar was sentenced to a prison term of at least 26 years and two months, after pleading guilty in 2008to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder.
17. Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee – April 2006. Ahmed and Sadequee, from Atlanta, Georgia, were accused of conspiracy, having discussed terrorist targets with alleged terrorist organizations. They allegedly met with Islamic extremists in the U.S. and gathered video surveillance of potential targets in the Washington, D.C., area, including the U.S. Capitol and the World Bank headquarters, and sent the videos to a London Islamist group. Ahmed is said also to have traveled to Pakistan with the goal of joining Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.
Both men were indicted for providing material support to terrorist organizations and pleaded not guilty. In June 2009, a federal district judge found Ahmed “guilty of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists here and overseas.” Ahmed was subsequently sentenced to 13 years in jail. Sadequee was also found guilty and sentenced to 17 years.
18. Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augustine – June 2006. Seven men were arrested in Miami and Atlanta for plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, FBI offices, and other government buildings around the country. The arrests resulted from an investigation involving an FBI informant. Allegedly, Batiste was the leader of the group and first suggested attacking the Sears Tower in December 2005.
All of the suspects pleaded not guilty. On December 13, 2007, Lemorin was acquitted of all charges, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the other six. The second trial ended in a mistrial in April 2008. In the third trial, the jury convicted five of the men on multiple conspiracy charges and acquitted Herrera on all counts. On November 20, 2009, the five were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 13.5 years, with Batiste receiving the longest sentence.
19. Assem Hammoud – July 2006. Conducting online surveillance of chat rooms, the FBI discovered a plot to attack underground transit links between New York City and New Jersey. Eight suspects, including Assem Hammoud, an al-Qaeda loyalist living in Lebanon, were identified for plotting to bomb New York City train tunnels. Hammoud, a self-proclaimed operative for al-Qaeda, admitted to the plot. He was held by Lebanese authorities but was not extradited because the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon. In June 2008, Lebanese authorities released him on bail. In February 2012, Hammoud was convicted in a Lebanese court. He was sentenced to two years in prison, which he had already served.
20. Liquid Explosives Plot – August 2006. British law enforcement stopped a terrorist plot to blow up 10 U.S.-bound commercial airliners with liquid explosives. Twenty-four suspects were arrested in the London area. The style of the plot raised speculation that al-Qaeda was behind it, but no concrete evidence has established a link.
The United Kingdom initially indicted 15 of the 24 arrested individuals on charges ranging from conspiring to commit murder to planning to commit terrorist acts. Eventually, in April 2008, only eight men were brought to trial. In September, the jury found none of the defendants guilty of conspiring to target aircraft, but three guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on four of the men. One man was found not guilty on all counts.
21. Derrick Shareef – December 2006. Derrick Shareef was arrested on charges of planning to set off hand grenades in a shopping mall in Rockford, Illinois, outside Chicago. Shareef reportedly acted alone and was arrested after meeting with an undercover Joint Terrorism Task Force agent. FBI reports indicated that the mall was one of several potential targets, including courthouses, city halls, and government facilities. Shareef, however, settled on attacking a mall in the days immediately preceding Christmas because he believed it would cause the greatest amount of chaos and damage. Shareef, who was also found to have connections to convicted terrorist Hassan Abujihaad, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and after pleading guilty, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
22. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – March 2007. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, captured in Pakistan in 2003, was involved in a number of terrorist plots and is one of the most senior bin Laden operatives ever captured. He is being held at the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. In March 2007, Mohammed admitted to helping plan, organize, and run the 9/11 attacks. He also claimed responsibility for planning the 1993bombing of the World Trade Center and the 2002 bombings of nightclubs in Bali and a Kenyan hotel. He has stated that he was involved in the decapitation of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and took responsibility for helping to plan the failed shoe-bomb attack by Richard Reid, along with plots to attack Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, various targets in Israel, the Panama Canal, Los Angeles, Chicago, the Empire State building, and U.S. nuclear power stations. He had also plotted to assassinate Pope John Paul II and former President Bill Clinton.
In December 2008, Mohammed and his four co-defendants (Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, and Walid Bin Attash) told the military tribunal judge that they wanted to confess and pleaded guilty to all charges. The judge has approved the guilty plea of Mohammed and two co-defendants but has required mental competency hearings before allowing the other two conspirators to plead guilty. In November 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Mohammed would be relocated to the United States to face a civilian trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. That decision has now been reversed and the Administration announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other Guantanamo Bay detainees would be prosecuted in military tribunals at Guantanamo. The date for the arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants was set for May 5, 2012, with pre-trial motion hearings beginning in October 2012 and continuing in January 2013.
23. Fort Dix Plot – May 2007. Six men were arrested in a plot to attack Fort Dix, a U.S. Army post in New Jersey. The plan involved using assault rifles and grenades to attack and kill U.S. soldiers. Five of the alleged conspirators had conducted training missions in the nearby Pocono Mountains. The sixth helped to obtain weapons. The arrests were made after a 16-month FBI operation that included infiltrating the group. The investigation began after a store clerk alerted authorities after discovering a video file of the group firing weapons and calling for jihad. The group has no known direct connections to any international terrorist organization.
In December 2008, five of the men were found guilty on conspiracy charges but were acquitted of charges of attempted murder. Four were also convicted on weapons charges. The five men received sentences ranging from 33 years to life plus 30 years. The sixth co-defendant pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the others in illegal possession of weapons and was sentenced to 20 months in jail.
24. JFK Airport Plot – June 2007. Four men plotted to blow up “aviation fuel tanks and pipelines at the John F. Kennedy International Airport” in New York City. They believed that such an attack would cause “greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks.” Authorities stated that the attack “could have caused significant financial and psychological damage, but not major loss of life.”
Russell Defreitas, the leader of the group, was arrested in Brooklyn. The other three members of the group – Abdul Kadir, Kareem Ibrahim, and Abdel Nur – were detained in Trinidad and extradited in June 2008. Kadir and Nur have links to Islamic extremists in South America and the Caribbean. Kadir was an imam in Guyana, a former member of the Guyanese Parliament, and mayor of Linden, Guyana. Ibrahim is a Trinidadian citizen and Nur is a Guyanese citizen.
In 2010, Kadir was found guilty on five counts and sentenced to life in prison. In February, both Defreitas and Nur were also found guilty. Defreitas was sentenced to life in prison, while Nur was sentenced to 15 years. The final conspirator, Kareem Ibrahim, was convicted in May 2011 and has been sentenced to life in prison. In June of 2013 a U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the convictions for both Defreitas and Kadir and stated that due to the “gravity of the crimes for which they were convicted” the life sentences were also justified.
25. Hassan Abujihaad – March 2008. Hassan Abujihaad, a former U.S. Navy sailor from Phoenix, Arizona, was convicted of supporting terrorism and disclosing classified information, including the location of Navy ships and their vulnerabilities, to Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, the alleged administrators of Azzam Publication websites (the London organization that provided material support and resources to terrorists). Abujihaad was arrested in March 2007 and pleaded not guilty to charges of supporting terrorism in April 2007. In May 2008, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2010, his conviction was upheld in a federal court of appeals. Both Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are being held in Britain on anti-terrorism charges and are fighting extradition to the U.S.
26. Christopher Paul – June 2008. Christopher Paul is a U.S. citizen from Columbus, Ohio. He joined al-Qaeda in the 1990s and was involved in conspiracies to target Americans in the United States and overseas. In 1999, he became connected to an Islamic terrorist cell in Germany, where he was involved in a plot to target Americans at foreign vacation resorts. He later returned to Ohio and was subsequently arrested for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction – specifically, explosive devices – “against targets in Europe and the United States.” Paul pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
27. Bryant Neal Vinas – November 2008. Bryant Neal Vinas is an American citizen of Hispanic descent who converted to Islam in 2004. In 2007, Vinas left home telling his parents he wanted to study Islam and Arabic. He then traveled to Pakistan where he was trained by and joined the Taliban. During his time in Pakistan, Vinas assisted with unsuccessful attacks on American forces and provided al-Qaeda with extensive information regarding the Long Island Rail Road for a potential attack. He was arrested by Pakistani forces and sent back to the United States, where he pleaded guilty and began cooperating with authorities. He is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals and is awaiting sentencing.
28. Synagogue Terror Plot – May 2009. On May 20, 2009, the New York Police Department announced the arrest of James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen for plotting to blow up New York-area Jewish centers and shoot down planes at a nearby Air National Guard Base. The four had attempted to gain access to Stinger missiles and were caught in the act of placing bombs in the buildings and in a car. (The bombs were duds, because undercover agents sold the four defendants fake explosives as part of an ongoing sting operation). All four men were found guilty. In June 2011, James Cromitie, David Williams, and Onta Williams were sentenced to 25 years in prison. In September 2011, Laguerre Payen received the same sentence.
29. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad – June 2009. On June 1, 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe, walked up to an army recruitment office in Little Rock, Arkansas, and opened fire, killing one soldier and wounding another. Born in Tennessee, the 23-year-old Muslim convert is among a growing group of self-radicalized homegrown terrorists that have emerged in the U.S. in recent years. Muhammad’s reported motivation for the attack was his anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what he viewed as U.S. military abuse towards Muslims worldwide. Muhammad had been under preliminary investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for a trip he made to Yemen prior to the attack.
In July 2011, Muhammad pleaded guilty under a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
30. Raleigh Jihad Group – July 2009. A group of seven men in North Carolina were arrested on charges of conspiring to support terrorist groups abroad, engage in terror attacks abroad and plotting an attack on the U.S. Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. Their ringleader, Daniel Patrick Boyd, is believed to have a long association with radical groups, dating from his time living in Pakistan. In Pakistan, he is believed to have been an active member of Hezb-e-Islami (Party of Islam). The Raleigh group also raised funds and trained extensively in preparation to wage attacks both at home and abroad. Boyd pleaded guilty on February 9, 2011, to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons abroad. He was sentenced to 216 months in prison, followed by five years supervised release, and a $3,000 fine. Prosecutors noted that Boyd cooperated with the government and testified against several of his co-conspirators who were convicted in October 2011.
31. Najibullah Zazi – September 2009. Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan, was arrested after purchasing large quantities of chemicals used to make a TATP bomb, the same type of weapon used in the 2005 bombing of the London Underground and the 2001 shoe-bomb plot. Zazi had traveled to Pakistan, where he received instruction in bomb making and attended an al-Qaeda training camp. Zazi allegedly planned to detonate TATP bombs on the New York City subway. It has since been found that the plot was directed by senior al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
Najibullah Zazi’s father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, was also indicted for obstructing justice, witness tampering, and lying to the FBI in attempts to help his son cover up plans for his attack. A cousin of Zazi, Amanullah Zazi, also publicly admitted that he played a role in Zazi’s 2009 plot. Amanullah pleaded guilty in secret and agreed to become a government witness in federal court in Brooklyn against Najibullah’s father. The father has since been found guilty and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty, as the result of a plea bargain, and remains in jail. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
At least three other individuals have since been arrested on allegations of conspiring to carry out the attack with Zazi. One of them, New York religious leader Ahmad Afzali, has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to federal agents about informing Zazi that he was being investigated by authorities. As part of a plea deal, Afzali was sentenced to time served and ordered to leave the country within 90 days. A second man, Zarein Ahmedzay has also pleaded guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in the foiled plot and lying to investigators. Adis Medunjanin, a former Queens, New York, resident, has recently been sentenced to serve life in the Florence, Colorado, maximum security prison. The notorious jail is reserved for the worst of the worst, and houses terrorists such as Zacarias Moussaoui and Ted Kaczynski. Ahmedzay and Medunjanin are thought to have traveled to Pakistan with Zazi, and to have met with wanted al-Qaeda operative Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah, who has also been charged in the plot. A fourth individual, Abid Nasser, has also been implicated in the plot led by Zazi, as well as other plots in England and Norway. He is currently in the United Kingdom facing extradition to the United States. Also charged in the plot are Tariq Ur Rehman and a fifth defendant known as “Ahmad,” “Sohaib,” or “Zahid.” Both el Shukrijumah and Rehman are not in custody.
32. Maher Husein Smadi – September 2009. Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian, was apprehended in an attempt to plant a bomb in a Dallas skyscraper. Originally identified through FBI monitoring of extremist chat rooms, Smadi was arrested and charged after agents posing as terrorist cell members gave Smadi a fake bomb, which he later attempted to detonate. Smadi was found guilty and sentenced to 24 years in prison.
33. Michael Finton – September 2009. Michael Finton, an American citizen, was arrested on September 23, 2009, by undercover FBI agents after attempting to detonate a car bomb filled with what he believed to be close to one ton of explosives outside the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in downtown Springfield, Illinois. The blast was also intended to destroy the nearby office of Representative Aaron Schock (R–IL). Evidence presented against Finton has shown that he expressed a desire to become a jihadist fighter and was aware that his planned attack would cause civilian injuries. He has been arrested on charges of attempted murder of federal employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Finton pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
34. Tarek Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra – October 2009. Tarek Mehanna, previously indicted for lying to the FBI about the location of terrorist suspect Daniel Maldonado, was arrested on October 21, 2009, on allegations of conspiracy to kill two U.S. politicians, American troops in Iraq, and civilians in local shopping malls, as well as conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra, his co-conspirator, were indicted on charges of providing and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill Americans in a foreign country, and conspiracy to provide false information to law enforcement.
The two men are not believed to be associated with any known terrorist organization. Mehanna pleaded not guilty to charges against him and has since been convicted. He is serving 17 and a half years in federal prison. Abousamra remains at large in Syria. The FBI is currently offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
35. Major Nidal Malik Hasan – November 2009. On November 5, 2009, a U.S. Army psychiatrist opened fire at a military processing center at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13people and wounding 32 others. During the attack, Major Hasan was reported to have shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” Moreover, his actions were apparently motivated by Yemeni al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a CIA drone strike in September of 2011. Despite the evidence that the Fort Hood massacre was a terrorist attack, the U.S. government has labeled the incident “workplace violence.”
Major Hasan was severely wounded in the attack, but survived, and is now facing pre-meditated murder and attempted murder charges, which makes him eligible for the death penalty. The formal trial has been delayed because Major Hasan was granted a request to represent himself at trial. A judge recently rejected Major Hasan’s “defense of others” strategy, which would have required him to prove that he acted to prevent immediate harm to others, in this case, to Taliban fighters.
36. The Christmas Day Bomber – December 2009. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian engineering student living in London, boarded a plane from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then flew from Amsterdam to the U.S. It was on this second flight when he attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear as the plane began to land. The device ignited but did not detonate, and passengers quickly stopped Abdulmutallab from trying again, leading to his arrest by U.S. authorities upon landing in Detroit. The bomb, containing the explosives PETN and TATP, was similar to the failed device used by Richard Reid in his shoe in 2001.
Media accounts following the plot indicate that Abdulmutallab admits involvement with al-Qaeda in Yemen and pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. In February 2012, Adulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction.
37. Raja Lahrasib Khan – March 2010. Chicago taxi driver Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was arrested by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on two counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. According to the charges, Khan was affiliated with Ilyas Kashmiri, leader of the al-Qaeda-linked extremist group Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami in Kashmir, and has previously been indicted in the U.S. on terrorism charges.
Khan originally transferred $950 to Pakistan, to be delivered to Kashmiri, and later attempted to send around $1,000 provided to him by an undercover agent. Khan attempted to use his son to carry the second pot of money to England, where he planned to rendezvous with his son and carry the money the rest of the way to Pakistan. Khan’s son was stopped by government agents at Chicago’s O’Hare airport before leaving the country. The criminal complaint filed against Khan also alleges that he had discussed plans to bomb an unnamed sports stadium in the United States.
Khan has since pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization as part of a plea deal. He was sentenced in 2012 to seven and a half years in prison.
38. Faisal Shahzad – May 2010. Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized citizen from Pakistan, attempted to detonate explosives in an SUV parked in Times Square. After explosives training in Pakistan, he is said to have received $12,000 from entities affiliated with the terrorist organization Tehrik-e-Taliban to fund the attack. Following the failed bombing attempt, Shahzad attempted to flee the country to Dubai, but was arrested before the flight was able to leave New York’s JFK airport.
Shahzad pleaded guilty to 10 counts, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism and to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was sentenced to life in prison and is being held at the same Colorado maximum-security prison as Richard Reid and Jose Padilla.
39. Paul G. Rockwood Jr. and Nadia Piroska Maria Rockwood – July 2010. Paul G. Rockwood Jr., an American citizen, became an adherent of Anwar al-Awlaki’s ideology of violent jihad after converting to Islam. In studying al-Awlaki’s teachings, Rockwood came to believe it was his religious responsibility to seek revenge against anyone who defiled Islam. He created a list of 15 individuals to be targeted for assassination, including several members of the U.S. military. Rockwood is said to have researched explosive techniques and discussed the possibility of killing his targets with a gunshot to the head or through mail bombs. Nadia Piroska Maria Rockwood, Paul’s wife, knowingly transported the list to Anchorage, Alaska, to share with an unnamed individual who apparently shared Rockwood’s ideology. The list then made it into the hands of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Anchorage.
Paul was charged with making false statements to the FBI in a domestic terrorism charge, while Nadia was charged with making false statements to the FBI in connection to the case against her husband. Paul was sentenced to eight years in prison, while his wife was sentenced to five years probation.
40. Farooque Ahmed – October 2010. Pakistani-American Farooque Ahmed was arrested following an FBI investigation into plots to attack the Washington, D.C., subway. Ahmed is said to have conducted surveillance on the D.C. Metrorail system on multiple occasions, and was in contact with undercover FBI agents whom he believed to be individuals affiliated with al-Qaeda. According to an unsealed affidavit, Ahmed wanted to receive terrorist training overseas and become a martyr. The affidavit also indicates that he sought to specifically target military personnel in his bombing attempt.
Ahmed pleaded guilty to charges of material support and collecting information for a terrorist attack on a transit facility. He was then immediately sentenced to 23 years in prison and 50 years of probation.
41. Air Cargo Bomb Plot – October 2010. Two packages shipped from Yemen to Chicago-area synagogues were discovered to contain explosive materials of the same type used by Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in previously thwarted bombing attempts. The packages contained printer cartridges filled with the explosive material and were identified with the help of intelligence tips from Saudi Arabian authorities while in transit on cargo planes in the United Kingdom and Dubai. While no arrests have been made, the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed responsibility for the failed attack.
42. Mohamed Osman Mohamud – November 2010. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-American, was arrested after attempting to detonate a car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The bomb was composed of inert explosives given to him by undercover FBI agents. Mohamud had previously sought to travel overseas to obtain training in violent jihad. Having failed in that attempt, he wanted to commit an attack that would cause mass casualties to individuals and their families. Mohamud pleaded not guilty to the charges and was found guilty on January 31, 2013, of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Mohamud is scheduled to be sentenced on September 6, 2013. His lawyers have already promised to appeal the verdict.
43. Antonio Martinez – December 2010. Antonio Martinez, a 21-year-old American citizen also known as Muhammad Hussain, planned to bomb a military recruiting center in Maryland. The FBI learned of the plot from an unnamed informant. Martinez was arrested after attempting to detonate a fake explosive device supplied by FBI agents. He was charged with attempted murder of federal officers and employees, as well as attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. In April 2012, a U.S. District Judge sentenced Martinez to 25 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release.
44. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari – February 2011. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a Saudi citizen studying in Lubbock, Texas, was arrested by the FBI after placing an order for the toxic chemical phenol. Both the chemical supplier and the freight shipping company became suspicious of the order, which could be used to make an improvised explosive device (IED), and alerted the FBI and local police. Surveillance of Aldawsari’s e-mail turned up a list of potential “nice targets” including dams, nuclear power plants, military targets, a nightclub, and the Dallas residence of former President George W. Bush. The search also recovered plans to acquire a forged U.S. birth certificate and multiple driver’s licenses. Aldawsari seems to have considered using these documents to obtain rental cars for use in vehicle bombings.
After pleading not guilty, Aldawsari was convicted of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and sentenced to life in prison on November 13, 2012, by a U.S. District Judge. Attorneys for Aldawsari are currently appealing the case on grounds that evidence discovered in his apartment was obtained improperly.
45. Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh – May 2011. Ahmed Ferhani of Algeria, and Moroccan-born Mohamed Mamdouh, a U.S. citizen, were arrested by the New York Police Department after attempting to purchase a hand grenade, guns, and ammunition to attack an undetermined Manhattan synagogue. The men planned on disguising themselves as Orthodox Jews in order to sneak into the synagogue. Reports have also cited the Empire State Building as a possible second target. Both men pleaded guilty to a variety of charges under New York state terror laws, and were sentenced to 10 years and five years, respectively, in prison. Ferhani, the alleged mastermind, admitted to conspiring with Mamdouh to bomb synagogues in retaliation for what he viewed as Jewish mistreatment of Muslims throughout the world.
46. Yonathan Melaku – June 2011. On June 17, 2011, Yonathan Melaku, an Ethiopian and a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Marine Corps reservist, was arrested at Fort Myer near Arlington National Cemetery, where he was found with a backpack filled with ammonium nitrate, spray paint, and spent ammunition rounds. The discovery led authorities to unravel a series of mysterious events from the fall of 2010, when shots had been fired at night from the street at various military buildings, including the Pentagon, causing over $100,000 in damages. After searching his bag and house, authorities found video of Melaku shooting at the buildings and providing commentary, a series of notebooks written in Arabic with references to terrorism, and a list of equipment needed to make a timed explosive device. He has since pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Melaku has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and attorneys have requested that a judge re-examine the validity of his plea agreement.
47. Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh – June 2011. In a raid on a warehouse in Seattle, the FBI arrested Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh. The two suspects had arranged to purchase weapons from an anonymous informant in contact with the Seattle Police Department. They were seeking to purchase automatic machine guns and grenades in preparation for an attack on a military recruiting station in Seattle. Since the arrests, authorities have learned that Abdul-Latif, a felon and Muslim convert, had initially planned to attack the Joint Base Lewis–McChord with his friend, Los Angeles resident Mujahidh. The target was later changed to the Seattle Military Entrance Processing Station for undisclosed reasons.
The men have been charged with conspiracy to murder officers and employees of the United States government, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and possession of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence. Abdul-Latif has also been charged with two counts of illegal possession of firearms and is awaiting further trial. Mujahidh pleaded guilty in December 2011 to a conspiracy to murder officers and agents of the United States, to a conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, as well as to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced in April 2013to 17 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release. Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif was sentenced to 18 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release.
48. Ulugbek Kodirov – July 2011. Ulugbek Kodirov, a 22-year-old Uzbekistan national, was living in Alabama on an expired student visa when he was arrested for plotting to assassinate President Obama in 2011. Kodirov originally moved to the United States after he was accepted to attend Columbia University’s medical school, but never enrolled in classes because his English skills were too poor. Prosecutors argue that Kodirov became radicalized online when he began communicating with an individual whom he believed was a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an organization recognized by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). In February, Kodirov pleaded guilty to threatening to kill the President, providing material support to terrorism, and unlawfully possessing a firearm. He was sentenced in July 2012 by a U.S. District Judge to 15 years in prison. An attorney for Kodirov has called him “a victim to a degree of social media,” and stated that Kodirov deeply regrets his actions.
49. Emerson Winfield Begolly – August 2011. Begolly, a moderator and supporter for the internationally known Islamic extremist Web forum Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF), was arrested on charges of terrorist actions involving solicitation to commit a crime of violence and distribution of information in relation to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction. Through his profile on AMEF, the Pennsylvania-born man solicited others to engage in violent acts of terrorism against post offices, water plants, military facilities, bridges, train lines, and Jewish schools. Begolly also used the website to post a downloadable 101-page document that contains information on how to create, conduct, and manufacture chemical explosives. The instructional document is loosely linked to al-Qaeda’s former top chemical and biological weapons expert Abu Khabbab al-Misri. Begolly pleaded guilty to counts of soliciting others to engage in acts of terrorism within the U.S., and attempting to use a 9-mm semi-automatic handgun during an assault upon inquiring FBI agents. He is currently awaiting further trial.
50. Rezwan Ferdaus – September 2011. Ferdaus, a self-radicalized 26-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested for trying to provide material support to terrorist organizations when he gave a modified cell phone to someone he believed to be an al-Qaeda operative. He did so believing the man would use the cell phone to detonate improvised explosive devices against American soldiers. The alleged al-Qaeda operative was an undercover FBI agent. Ferdaus also sought to use small drone aircraft laden with explosives to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol, followed by a ground attack carried out by armed men with automatic rifles. He had already purchased some items, including C4and AK-47s, toward this goal from an undercover agent. Ferdaus pleaded guilty on two charges and was convicted in a Federal Court in Boston. He was later sentenced to 17years in prison after agreeing to a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
51. Iranian Terror Plot – October 2011. On October 11, 2011, Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, was arrested for plotting to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., as well as bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. He claims he was working for the Iranian Quds Forces, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. On behalf of the Quds Forces, Arbabsiar is said to have contacted members of a Mexican drug cartel with the goal of hiring them to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. The two parties allegedly agreed on a payment of $1.5 million, with a down payment of $100,000 that Arbabsiar wired to members of the cartel, supposedly from the Iranian government. The plot was uncovered because the supposed members of the cartel he approached were informants for the Drug Enforcement Agency. He was arrested at JFK airport in New York, has pleaded not guilty, and is currently awaiting trial. Another man, Gholam Shakuri, is an Iranian citizen who is wanted in connection with the plot; he is believed to be in Iran. This is the first publicly known post-9/11 Islamist-inspired terror plot aimed at the United States specifically linked to state-sponsored terrorism.
In October 2012, Arbabsiar pleaded guilty to one count of murder-for-hire, one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, and one count of conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries. He was sentenced on May 30, 2013, in a New York Federal Court to 25 years in prison for his involvement in the plot, and ordered to pay $125,000.
52. Jose Pimentel – November 2011. On November 20, 2011, Jose Pimentel, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Dominican Republic, was arrested on charges of planning to use pipe bombs to attack targets throughout New York City. His proposed targets included police stations, post offices, and U.S. soldiers. He was a homegrown radical inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki. Pimentel also managed his own radical website espousing his beliefs in violent jihad. The plot was uncovered by an informant and Pimentel was arrested by the NYPD. He has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.
53. Sami Osmakac – January 2012. On January 7, 2012, Sami Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Kosovo region of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, was arrested on charges of planning attacks against night clubs, businesses, and a sheriff’s office. He came to the attention of the authorities when a source alerted them that Osmakac had asked how to locate an al-Qaeda flag. He planned to conduct a multi-pronged attack against his proposed targets with vehicle-born explosives. He also wished to take hostages. He was introduced to an undercover FBI agent whom he believed was an arms dealer and procured disabled AK-47s and explosives from him. He was arrested by the FBI’s Tampa office and has since pleaded not guilty. Osmakac is still awaiting trial due to a series of delays over whether the subject was competent enough to stand trial, and a request by his lawyer to withdraw from the case.
54. Amine El Khalifi – February 2012. Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan citizen illegally in the United States, was arrested on charges of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol. He was arrested as he left his parked car with guns and a bomb. He did not know that the weapons had already been rendered inoperable, as they had been provided to him by FBI agents he believed to be al-Qaeda operatives. Before choosing the Capitol building as a target, El Khalifi had proposed targets including D.C. office buildings, restaurants, and synagogues. Khalifi, after a deal with prosecutors, pleaded guilty in an Alexandria courtroom and was sentenced in September 2012 to 30 years in prison, the maximum sentence.
55. AQAP Plane Bomb Plot – May 2012. In May 2012, the U.S. government announced that it had successfully thwarted an attack launched by the Yemen-based AQAP. The group was planning to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner around the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. The confiscated device that AQAP had developed was an upgraded version of the explosive used in the thwarted Christmas Day underwear bomb attempt in 2009. The improvements made to the bomb included use of high-grade military explosives, potential inability to be detected by full-body scanners at airports, and, according to officials, would have been capable of destroying the aircraft. The CIA used a double agent with direct access to AQAP leadership, who then volunteered for the upcoming suicide attack. The infiltration of the network allowed the U.S. to launch a successful drone strike, which killed Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted for the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
56. Adel Daoud – September 2012. The FBI arrested 18-year-old Adel Daoud in September 2012outside a Chicago bar as he attempted to detonate a car bomb. The FBI and other government agencies had been monitoring Daoud for several months and stated that the public had not been in any immediate danger. Undercover agents were able to complete a sting operation that involved providing fake explosives to Daoud for his attack. Prosecutors claim his ultimate goal was to wage “violent Jihad” against the U.S and that he believed the U.S. was at war with Muslims. Daoud has pleaded “not guilty” in his October 11 hearing and is disputing the charges. He faces the possibility of life in prison if found guilty of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Daoud is currently awaiting trial.
57. Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis – October 2012. According to reports by the FBI, 21-year-old Bangladeshi citizen Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis came to the U.S. in January 2012 on a student visa with the explicit goal of carrying out a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Upon arriving, Nafis actively sought out al-Qaeda contacts within the U.S. to assist him in carrying out an attack. One of the individuals Nafis sought to recruit for his terrorist cell turned out to be an FBI informant. Federal authorities arrested Nafis outside the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan as he attempted to detonate a van he believed to be carrying a 1,000-pound bomb. The explosives had been rendered inoperable by the FBI and the public was not in any immediate danger.
In a plea deal reached with federal prosecutors, the car bomber pleaded guilty on February 7, 2013, to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Nafis faces at least 30 years in prison, with a sentencing hearing set for August 9, 2013.
58. Qazi Brothers’ Plot – November 2012. On November 29, 2012, brothers Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi were arrested and charged with conspiring to detonate a weapon of mass destruction and providing material support to terrorists. Both brothers are naturalized U.S. citizens who were born in Pakistan and are residents of Oakland Park, Florida. In November 2012, Raees Qazi travelled to New York to consider potential terror targets including Times Square, Wall Street, and Broadway theaters. His plan was to carry out either a suicide attack or a bombing by a remote control device. While Raees Qazi intended to carry out the attack himself, his brother was aware of his plans and provided funding and support for the operation. In a detention hearing on December 18, 2012, it was revealed that the men sought to avenge the deaths of those killed in U.S. military drone strikes in Afghanistan.
Both brothers have pleaded not guilty and have been denied bail. Sheheryar may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, while Raees faces up to life in prison for conspiracy to detonate a weapon of mass destruction. A trial date is still pending.
59. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev – April 2013. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, calmly walked through the crowd of spectators at the annual Boston Marathon on the afternoon of April 15, 2013. The brothers placed two backpacks near the finish line of the race on Boylston Street, each containing homemade pressure-cooker bombs. The bombs detonated approximately 10 seconds apart, killing three people and wounding and maiming 245 bystanders. In the investigation that followed, police linked the Tsarnaev brothers to the murder of an MIT police officer, Sean Collier, who was shot and killed on the school’s campus in Cambridge several days after the bombing.
After the murder of the MIT officer, the brothers exchanged gunfire with law enforcement officials and threw explosives at police vehicles. Tamerlan was killed by authorities during the confrontation, and purportedly run over by Dzhokhar, who managed to escape. After another confrontation with police, Dzhokhar, although severely wounded, was captured alive by authorities and transferred to a nearby hospital.
Dzhokhar, who is a naturalized American citizen, was charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. He could face the death penalty. The motivation for the attack, according to Dzhokhar, was retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim lands. In June, Dzhokhar was indicted by a federal grand jury on 30 charges, including his alleged use of weapons of mass destruction and for his involvement in the murder of Sean Collier. In July, Dzhokhar pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.
60. Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser – April 2013. Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser were arrested in April 2013 for attempting to carry out an attack on a Via Railway train travelling from Canada to the U.S. The attack, authorities claimed, was supported by an al-Qaeda element in Iran, although there is currently no evidence that it was state-sponsored. The exact route of the targeted train has not been identified, and Iranian authorities vehemently deny that al-Qaeda is operating within Iranian borders.
Esseghaier and Jaser have been charged in Canada with conspiracy to commit murder for the benefit of a terrorist group, participating in a terrorist group, and conspiring to interfere with transportation facilities for the benefit of a terrorist group. Esseghaier has also been charged with participating in a terrorist group, and both men face up to life in prison. The two men are awaiting trial. Chiheb Esseghaier wants to represent himself, basing his defense on the Quran instead of on the Canadian criminal code, which has caused delays in the proceedings.
61. Terry Lee Loewen – December 2013. Terry Lee Loewen, an avionics technician at the Wichita airport, had been under investigation by Wichita law enforcement and the FBI since early summer 2013 due to his expressed interest in anti-American activities, including supporting violent jihad and downloading online documents about jihad and martyrdom and the “Al-Qaeda Manual.”
According to the Associated Press, Loewen had “been under investigation for about six months, after he made online statements about wanting to commit ‘violent jihad’ against the U.S. The statements were made in a conversation with an FBI special agent unknown to Loewen.” Loewen wrote to the FBI employee in a previous online conversation, saying, “Let me preface the bottom line by saying I have become ‘radicalized’ in the strongest sense of the word, and I don’t feel Allah wants me any other way.” In the documents released by FBI agents, Loewen is said to have spent months studying the airport’s layout, flight patterns, passenger volume, and components of the building.
Through a carefully executed plan, FBI agents allowed Loewen to unfold his desires and plans without allowing him to pose any real threat. In a sting operation, “FBI employee 2,” as named in the court documents, was with Loewen when he attempted to wire and construct the bomb. Unknown to Loewen, the bomb materials supplied by “FBI employee 2” were inert.
Loewen attested that he was able to retrieve the wiring materials still needed for the bomb from his place of employment. He also declared that he could and would wire the device, as that was part of his current job responsibilities. Following the creation of the device, Loewen and “FBI employee 2” created the plan to drive to the airport and use Loewen’s badge to gain access to the tarmac and terminal.
Upon arrival at the airport tarmac with the dummy explosive in the trunk of the car, Loewen accessed entry via his personal badge, which had been flagged in order to alert law enforcement officials. At 5:42 a.m. Loewen attempted to use his badge twice on the card reader, and immediately thereafter Loewen was apprehended and taken into custody. Officials stressed that at no time was there any real danger and that Loewen was under constant surveillance.
Loewen remains in custody on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property with explosives, and attempting to provide material support and resources, in the way of services to a foreign terrorist organization to include al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
62. Zale Thompson – October 2014. On October 23, Zale Thompson attacked four New York City police officers in broad daylight with a hatchet, slashing one on the arm and hitting another in the head before being shot and killed by the other two officers. The officer hit in the head was critically injured but is currently recovering. A bystander was struck in back by a stray bullet fired by police officers, and there are some reports that she may be paralyzed. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has called this “a terrorist attack.”
Zale Thompson was a recent convert to Islam who increasingly spent a great deal of time online reading, watching, and posting material regarding jihad and Islamist extremism. He frequented websites associated with al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups and watched videos of violent acts including beheadings. He made various posts on social media sites advocating for jihad and guerrilla warfare against the U.S. Based on the NYPD investigation of his computer search history, Thompson’s anti-Americanism and thoughts of terrorism had “more intensity in recent days,” and he reportedly googled “jihad against police” and the recent attacks in Canada in the days before his attack. Some reports indicate that Thompson also sought to attack white individuals because he believed that whites needed to pay for their racism and oppression of blacks.
Given that Thompson was directly inspired by the work of radical Islamism to strike at the U.S., there is no doubt that Thompson should be considered an Islamist terrorist, making him the 62nd terrorist plot or attack against the U.S. since 9/11.
63. Christopher Cornell – January 2015. On January 14, the FBI arrested Christopher Cornell for plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol and then fire upon those who fled from the buildings. According to the complaint filed against him, Cornell, who was using the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, supported the Islamic State and sought to wage jihad against the U.S. This is the 63rd successful or foiled Islamist terrorist plot against the United States since 9/11 and continues the trend of homegrown terrorism.
The criminal complaint filed by the FBI against Cornell states that he created Twitter accounts in the summer of 2014 and began posting statements and videos supportive of ISIS as well as voicing support for violent jihad and acts of terrorism around the world. The FBI used a confidential informant to reach out to Cornell and investigate his intentions. In August, Cornell wrote an instant message to the informant in which he stated, “I believe we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything… [W]e already got a thumbs up from the Brothers over there and Anwar al Awlaki before his martyrdom and many others.”
These messages led to an in-person meeting between Cornell and the informant in October in which Cornell described his need for weapons and his desire to attack but without specific details. In a second meeting in November, Cornell identified the Members of Congress as enemies and specified that he sought to build and plant pipe bombs near the U.S. Capitol and then shoot those fleeing the scene. Cornell showed the informant research on government buildings, the construction of pipe bombs, and the acquisition of firearms. After saving money, Cornell put his plan into motion on January 14, purchasing two semi-automatic rifles and around 600 rounds of ammunition from a store in southern Ohio. He was then arrested before the public was put in danger.
64. Hasan Edmonds – March 2015. According to the FBI, in January 2015, Hasan Edmonds communicated online with an undercover FBI agent about getting his and his cousin’s affairs in order and their plans to travel to the Middle East. Hasan wrote that it was his “duty” to support ISIS and stated that he and Jonas had taken an oath to support ISIS.
While Hasan wanted to travel to Syria and use his military training to help ISIS there, he also expressed an eagerness to attack targets in the U.S. in the event he was prevented from traveling to Syria or if ISIS commanded him to remain in the U.S. His stated rationale for such acts was that “the best way to be[a]t them is to break their will. With the U.S. no matter how many you kill they will keep coming unless the soldiers and the American public no longer have the will to fight… If we can break their spirits we will win.”
The FBI began to communicate with Jonas in February 2015, and the goals he expressed to them were similar to Hasan’s. Law enforcement officials met several times with the cousins during February and March. During these meetings, it became clear what the cousins sought to do. Hasan purchased tickets to fly to Egypt, from where he would make his trip to Syria, while Jonas would purchase assault rifles and grenades for use against a U.S. military base. Hasan provided Jonas with his knowledge of the base and recommended specific targets and tactics.
On March 25, Hasan went to Chicago’s Midway Airport to fly to Cairo. Hasan was arrested at Midway airport, and Jonas was arrested at his home shortly thereafter.
65. Noelle “Najma Samaa” Velentzas and Asia “Murdiyyah” Siddiqui – April 2015. On April 2, 2015, just one week after two cousins in Chicago were arrested for attempting to support a foreign terrorist organization, two women in New York City were arrested and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. This plot is the 65th Islamist terrorist plot or attack aimed at the U.S. homeland since 9/11 and proves that the threat of terrorism is real and growing.
U.S. citizens Noelle “Najma Samaa” Velentzas and Asia “Murdiyyah” Siddiqui were arrested for willfully conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the United States. Using the Internet and relevant books, the two roommates researched and obtained the items needed to create an explosive device made from propane tanks. Velentzas noted several weeks ago that there are more “opportunities of pleasing Allah” in the United States, implying that she intended to launch an attack on U.S. soil rather than going to fight overseas.
An investigation revealed that both defendants took to Islamist ideology several years ago. Velentzas admired Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam and had been obsessed with pressure-cooker bombs since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. She also considered herself a citizen of the Islamic State (ISIS). Siddiqui showed an interest in Islamist ideology even earlier. In 2006, she became close to a prominent figure in the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist group, Samir Khan, who died in 2011. In 2009, she wrote a poem for a magazine called Jihad Recollections and called for readers to engage in violent jihad. In 2010, she sent a letter of support to Mohamed Mohamud, who was arrested for attempting to detonate a car bomb in Portland, Oregon.
Through an undercover agent, the FBI began tracking both Velentzas and Siddiqui in July 2014. About that time, the two women showed an increased interest in learning how to construct and detonate explosive devices within the United States. Velentzas and Siddiqui read about how to make homemade grenades, pipe bombs, and pressure-cooker bombs and on electrical currents and chemistry. Velentzas showed a growing interest in attacking police, military, and other government targets, and discussed how she and Siddiqui could defend themselves with concealed knives or with stolen weapons in the event they were arrested.
Ultimately, the FBI acted because Velentzas and Siddiqui had not only acquired the materials necessary to build a bomb, including multiple propane canisters, but Siddiqui had indicated a desire to proceed with independent planning and plots. With the potential for a bomb to be built, the undercover agent unable to track the progress of the work, and Siddiqui and Velentzas’s clear desire to attack the U.S., the FBI arrested them before harm could come to the public.
66. John T. Booker Jr – April 2015. On April 10, 2015 the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Topeka, Kansas, arrested John T. Booker Jr., as he prepared a car bomb for use against the nearby Fort Riley Army post. Booker, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen who goes by the name Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, expressed a desire to support the Islamic State by engaging in violent jihad here in the U.S. Through the use of confidential informants, the FBI tracked Booker’s statements, plans, and actions, and arrested him before the public was in danger.
Booker was accepted into the Army in February 2014, but before he entered basic training the FBI became aware of multiple messages on Facebook in which he claimed to be excited to wage jihad. When interviewed, Booker “admitted that he enlisted in the United States Army with the intent to commit an insider attack against American soldiers like Major Nidal Hassan had done at Fort Hood, Texas.” As a result, Booker was not allowed to join the military.
Starting in October of 2014, Booker began to communicate with an FBI confidential informant, and “repeatedly expressed to [the informant] his desire to engage in violent jihad on behalf of ISIL.” Booker told the informant of his desire to go to the Middle East to join ISIS and kill Americans. As their conversations continued into November, Booker showed the informant videos of suicide bombers and spoke fondly of them. When the informant indicated that he had a cousin who could get Booker overseas, Booker excitedly accepted the offer and expressed a willingness to wage jihad in the U.S. to prove his dedication.
In December of 2014, Booker told the informant that he was thinking about attacking American soldiers at a nearby military base with a gun or a grenade, believing it justified by the Koran. Then in February, Booker referenced an ISIS propaganda video and expressed a desire to create a similar video. Booker thought that capturing and killing an American soldier in the U.S. would “scare this country” and warn it that “we will be coming after American soldiers in the streets… we will be picking them off one by one.”
In March, the confidential informant introduced Booker to his “cousin,” another informant; the two told Booker that the cousin was a sheik planning terrorist attacks. Booker said that he had studied suicide bombing and wanted to build and detonate a truck bomb, following in the footsteps of an American called Jihad Joe, who died as a suicide bomber in Syria. Booker then filmed a video threatening the U.S. and rented a storage unit for gathering bomb components. By the end of March, Booker began purchasing bomb materials and gathering information on military targets, settling on Fort Riley. Booker provided the bomb components to the confidential informants, believing that they would provide the explosive material, which was actually inert. He then proclaimed that “I am going to do this Friday,” meaning April 10, and prepared a second threatening video. On April 10, the two informants drove to Fort Riley and, as Booker was arming the inert bomb, FBI agents arrested him.
67. Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud – February 2015. In February of 2015, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Somalia, was arrested in Ohio and charged with various terrorist activities. Last week, news came that a Federal Grand Jury had indicted Mohamud on additional federal charges, including providing material support to terrorists and making a false statement involving international terrorism. With the indictment came greater details of Mohamud’s travel to Syria, where he was trained by a terrorist group, and his return to the U.S. to target American soldiers in a terrorist attack.
Mohamud’s family came to the U.S. from Somalia when he was young and he became a naturalized citizen in February 2014. According to the indictment, Mohamud applied for a U.S. passport about one week later in order to join his brother Aden, who was fighting with the Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda franchise operating out of Syria. Prior to his travel to Syria, Mohamud communicated with an unnamed person about his plans and eagerness to join Aden, and his own willingness to kill any U.S. allies in battle. Mohamud discussed with this unnamed person which terrorist group would be best to join and how Mohamud could smuggle money to Aden.
In April of 2014, Mohamud purchased a one-way ticket to Athens. During a connecting stop in Istanbul, he left the airport and began communicating with Aden about where he was staying and how he could travel to Syria. Through a contact of Aden’s, Mohamud was picked up and smuggled into Syria. The indictment seems to indicate, though, that Mohamud intended to join ISIS not the Nusra Front, since he did not seem to meet up with his brother, and he subsequently posted photos on his Facebook page that appeared to have ISIS logos. Aden was killed sometime in May or early June 2014.
After being trained in hand-to-hand combat, small arms, and explosives, Mohamud told an unnamed person that an ISIS cleric told him that he should return to the U.S. to commit terrorist acts. Mohamud told this unnamed person that he wanted to kill Americans, especially military personnel, police officers, or others in uniform, such as prison guards, and that he would soon join Aden. Upon returning to the U.S., Mohamud talked with a second unnamed person about his training and time in Syria. He also “talked about doing something big in the United States. He wanted to go to a military base in Texas and kill three or four American soldiers execution style.” The second unnamed person believed that Mohamud was trying to recruit him for this plot.
68. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi – May 2015. On May 3, 2015 two men armed with rifles attacked the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas. While both shooters were killed before they could get inside the exhibit, this attack is the 68th Islamist terrorist plot or attack against the U.S. since 9/11. This incident has raised significant questions about the way terrorists are being recruited in the U.S. and what the U.S. can do to stop them. With Congress set to debate portions of the Patriot Act, it should consider how it can provide intelligence and law enforcement officials with the tools they need to find and stop terrorists, while respecting individual liberty and privacy.
While the FBI has not completed its investigation of the incident, FBI Director James Comey provided details to reporters last week and the Garland police have provided updated information as well. The first shooter, Elton Simpson, had been watched by the FBI since 2006 when it appeared that he was going to travel overseas to join al-Shabaab, a terrorist group that is based in Somalia and affiliated with al-Qaeda. While his travel plans were thwarted, he was only convicted of lying to federal officials and received three years probation in 2011. The FBI stopped monitoring him in 2014 but reopened their investigation in March after he expressed interest in jihad and the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) on social media.
Hours before the attack, the FBI sent a bulletin to Garland Police to notify them of Simpson, but they had no definitive information that he was headed from Phoenix to the event much less that he was set to attack it. So far, little is officially known about the other shooter. According to the Garland Police, he was Nadir Soofi, Simpson’s roommate.
Arriving at the art contest in Garland, Simpson and Soofi opened fire with rifles, wounding one unarmed security officer in the leg. The first officer to confront the shooters wounded both before other members of the Garland police department returned fire, killing the shooters. ISIS reportedly claimed credit following the attack and also claimed that it has “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack.”
While the investigation will uncover more specifics, there is sufficient detail available to declare this a terrorist plot: Simpson had expressed interest in jihad and proceeded to attack an event that he viewed as contrary to his faith. The investigation may provide us more insight into Simpsons’ connection and communication with ISIS, how this target was chosen, and how Soofi became radicalized, but for now many of these details are unknown or unconfirmed by law enforcement.
69. Usaamah Abdullah Rahim – June 2015. On June 2, 2015 in Boston, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim drew a knife and attacked police officers and FBI agents, who then shot and killed him. Rahim was being watched by Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force as he had been plotting to behead police officers as part of violent jihad. A conspirator, David Wright or Dawud Sharif Abdul Khaliq, was arrested shortly thereafter for helping Rahim to plan this attack.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Wright, Rahim had originally planned to behead an individual outside the state of Massachusetts, which, according to news reports citing anonymous government officials, was Pamela Geller, the organizer of the “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. To this end, Rahim had purchased multiple knives, each over 1 foot long, from Amazon.com.
The FBI was listening in on the calls between Rahim and Wright and recorded multiple conversations regarding how these weapons would be used to behead someone. Rahim then changed his plan early on the morning of June 2. He planned to go “on vacation right here in Massachusetts… I’m just going to, ah, go after them, those boys in blue. Cause, ah, it’s the easiest target.” Rahim and Wright had used the phrase “going on vacation” repeatedly in their conversations as a euphemism for violent jihad. During this conversation, Rahim told Wright that he planned to attack a police officer on June 2 or June 3. Wright then offered advice on preparing a will and destroying any incriminating evidence.
Based on this threat, Boston police officers and FBI agents approached Rahim to question him, which prompted him to pull out one of his knives. After being told to drop his weapon, Rahim responded with “you drop yours” and moved toward the officers, who then shot and killed him. While Rahim’s brother, Ibrahim, initially claimed that Rahim was shot in the back, video surveillance was shown to community leaders and civil rights groups, who have confirmed that Rahim was not shot in the back.
70. Munther Omar Saleh – June 2015. On June 13, 2015 the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in New York City arrested Munther Omar Saleh and charged him with providing material support to the Islamic State (ISIS). Saleh and two co-conspirators were conducting reconnaissance on various landmarks around New York, had downloaded and studied plans for building a bomb, and told a confidential source that they were planning an “op” in New York. Saleh and one co-conspirator were arrested early in the morning on June 13 after charging with knives at a police vehicle following them. Another co-conspirator, Fareed Mumuni, was arrested on June 16, but not before trying to stab an FBI agent who had come to arrest him. When interviewed after his arrest, Saleh said that his group planned to bomb a location, use a vehicle to run down police officers, and then use their weapons to attack others.
Law enforcement was alerted to Saleh when, in late 2014 and early 2015, Saleh began making radical statements online through social media. Saleh called al-Qaeda “too moderate,” and expressed support for the caliphate that the Islamic State claims to have established in Iraq and Syria. He expressed support for the recent attack on the Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas and also began to translate ISIS and other radical videos and material into English. The FBI began watching Saleh and his computer activity through judicially authorized surveillance, and in March twice found him suspiciously examining the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey. The JTTF interviewed Saleh, who denied supporting ISIS or holding any radical, violent beliefs, but provided access to his computer containing radical material, which he then denied reading or translating.
In May, Saleh began to research weapons, training, and equipment that could be used to carry out violent attacks and bombings. He downloaded instructions for building a pressure-cooker bomb; researched weapons including knives, axes, and firearms; researched surveillance and disguise equipment and electronics; and continued to look at a variety of New York landmarks, likely as research for which targets to attack. During this time, Saleh was also enrolled in an electrical engineering course that would teach him skills useful for building a bomb. When approached by a confidential informant, Saleh said he was “in NY and trying to do an Op,” a reference to his terrorist operations and plotting. He would not communicate further with the informant, however, because he was ordered by officials he believed to be part of ISIS not to communicate with others.
Very early in the morning on June 13, Mumuni picked up Saleh and the other co-conspirator and began to perform anti-surveillance measures, such as driving without lights, not stopping at stop signs, and erratically pulling over and speeding up. At around 4 a.m., they stopped at a red light, and Saleh (with knife in hand) and one other individual got out of the car and charged a law enforcement vehicle tracking them. With their surveillance operation blown, the police moved in and arrested Saleh and the other conspirator who ran at the police vehicle. After questioning Saleh, the FBI learned that the group had planned to use a bomb, run over law enforcement that responded with a car, and then take their weapons to attack others. Saleh pledged full allegiance to ISIS and claimed that his co-conspirators had also. When the FBI went to arrest Mumuni on the morning of June 17, Mumuni stabbed an FBI agent multiple times, but the agent’s vest prevented the knife from doing any serious injury.
71. Justin Sullivan – June 2015. On June 22, 2015 the FBI charged Justin Sullivan with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group as well as two weapons charges. Sullivan was planning to attack a public venue, such as a bar or a concert, with a rifle in support of the Islamic State (ISIS). This is the 71st Islamist terrorist plot or attack against the U.S. homeland since 9/11 according to publicly available information. It is the third plot foiled this month alone and part of an ongoing spike in terrorist activity within the U.S.
In April 2015, Sullivan’s father called 9-1-1 after Sullivan began to destroy various household items, particularly religious items, seemingly in support of ISIS. Sullivan’s father said that they were “scared to leave the house.” Following this incident, the FBI assigned an undercover agent (UC) to communicate with Sullivan. Sullivan praised ISIS and swore his allegiance to it, describing himself as a “mujahid,” a guerilla fighter engaging in violent jihad.
Sullivan told the UC that the two of them should remain in the U.S. to support ISIS since they would likely be captured if they tried to travel. Instead, Sullivan had settled on attacking a U.S. target with a gun, saying that “[yo]u only need 600 dollars… for the gun and bullets.” Sullivan said that he would be purchasing an AR-15 rifle “in about two weeks” at a nearby gun show, promising that “I’ll kill people this month.” Sullivan estimated that he and the UC could kill 1,000 people with AR-15s.
Sullivan then began to talk about firearm silencers and poisons that could be used on the bullets or in a bomb. He asked if the UC could make the silencers for use in June or possibly July. In addition to seeking out a silencer and poisons, Sullivan also sought 100-round drum magazines for the AR-15 as well. After gaining as much information as possible from Sullivan, the FBI then provided him with a silencer that Sullivan believed was homemade on June 19. The FBI then raided the Sullivans’ house, finding the silencer and arresting Sullivan. Sullivan admitted that he was planning to use the silencer during an attack on a bar or a concert between June 21 and June 23. He intended to buy a rifle from a gun show on June 20.
72. Alexander Ciccolo – July 2015. On July 4, while most Americans were celebrating with friends and family, law enforcement officers were arresting Alexander Ciccolo for taking possession of firearms in order to carry out a terrorist attack. Ciccolo was also building pressure-cooker bombs and Molotov cocktails and planned to use them to attack a nearby college or college bar, potentially taking hostages and streaming the executions over the Internet. After he was taken into custody, Ciccolo attacked a nurse with a pen. Reportedly, Ciccolo’s father is Boston Police Captain Robert Ciccolo, who alerted the FBI to his son’s radicalization and desire to fight for the Islamic State (ISIS).
According to the FBI’s memorandum for the court, a close acquaintance (believed to be his father) told the FBI that Alexander wanted to go overseas to fight with the Islamic State, believing that “faith is under attack” and that America was “Satan.” Ciccolo’s Facebook page praised the Islamic State and indicated that he was training with a machete in the forest. The FBI had a cooperating witness meet with Ciccolo, who told the witness that his plan was to attack bars, police, and military personnel using pressure-cooker bombs or other improvised explosive devices together with firearms. He then changed his target to focus more on universities since they have more people. Ciccolo also wanted to take hostages and conduct live executions. He planned to launch his attack before Ramadan was over (July 17) but no later than July 31, saying, “We win or we die.”
Ciccolo said he had grown up with firearms and knew what he was doing. He also appeared to have a working knowledge of various explosive devices, planning to get black powder from fireworks, and details regarding the use of pressure-cooker bombs. He purchased pressure cookers from Walmart and said he was making firebombs as well.
Through the confidential witness, Ciccolo arranged to acquire two rifles and two handguns, which he received on July 4. Since Ciccolo had been convicted of a felony, he was legally prohibited from buying these firearms. Following the purchase, the FBI arrested Ciccolo on the weapons charges and found partially constructed Molotov cocktails. While being processed, he continued to express support for the Islamic State and stabbed a nurse in the head with a pen, thankfully causing only a minor injury.
73. Harlem Suarez (aka Almlak Benitez) – July 2015. In April 2015, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by an individual who claimed to have received a Facebook friend request from an Almlak Benitez that “included extremist rhetoric and the complainant believed the user… was attempting to recruit the complainant to join the Islamic State.” The sheriff’s office shared the information with the FBI, who found Benitez had made several statements supportive of the Islamic State and had expressed a desire to bring the caliphate to the U.S. by means of violence. Later in the investigation, the FBI also found beheading videos and additional pro-IS material on his Facebook page. With assistance from Facebook and AT&T, the FBI was able to identify and locate Harlem Suarez, a 23-year-old living with his parents in Key West, Florida.
An FBI confidential informant then approached Suarez through Facebook. Suarez was wary of giving his location and of Facebook reporting his communications, but he did say that he had two handguns and was looking for a long gun and possibly a bulletproof vest. Suarez was attempting to recruit others and invited the informant to his town in May. Around that time, Suarez purchased an AK-47-style weapon. He also told the informant that he wanted to “learn how to make a controller bomb,” meaning a bomb that was remote-controlled. The informant met Suarez in person, and they discussed bomb making, weapons, and making a recruitment video. They met again later to make at least one recruiting video.
The FBI would later introduce a second confidential informant to Suarez, who he was led to believe could supply him with explosive devices. He considered bombing police or military targets or softer targets like hotels or 4th of July celebrations. Suarez also considered building a car bomb, though he decided on backpack bombs for at least the first bomb. He provided the FBI informants with galvanized nails, a backpack, a cell phone, and $100 in cash for the building of the first devices. He continued to ask about learning to build bombs, acquiring additional weapons, and recruiting more terrorists. On July 27, Suarez met with a third confidential informant to pick up what he believed was a working bomb, but was actually an inert device. After receiving the device and walking away, he was arrested.