'Jihad Jane' joins growing list of American terror suspects
Homegrown militants like Jihad Jane are joining the Islamist terror threat to the US. For some, it's as much about social distress as it is about radical ideology.
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•David Headley, an American citizen from Illinois, was arrested in October for plotting a terrorist attack in Denmark. He has also been charged with helping plan the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) that killed more than 170 people.Skip to next paragraph
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“American Muslim extremists are not just a serious domestic terror threat,” says Segal. “The US is exporting militants, armed with radical interpretations of Islam and US passports, overseas at an alarming rate. In addition to David Headley, the Virginia students, and others, there has been a wave of Americans traveling to Somalia to fight with Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group.”
Internet facilitates recruitment
The experiences of “Jihad Jane” and others show how advances in online communication have made it easier to recruit Americans to radical Islam.
“They have really improved their ability to radicalize people and bring them into the fight, which of course severely hampers our ability to disrupt and get ourselves involved in the process,” said Garry Reid, deputy assistant secretary of Defense, in testimony before a Senate panel recently.
A prime example, experts point out, is Omar Hammami, a 25-year-old US citizen from Alabama, who has become a primary recruiter for Al Shabab.
“Hammami is one of several American Muslim ideologues living abroad using their online pulpits to reach and influence extremists in the US with ideologies of extreme intolerance and violence,” says Segal. But he also notes that the two most deadly recent attacks were done by “lone wolves,” apparently operating on their own and therefore more difficult for intelligence and law enforcement authorities to detect and stop.
These were the attack at the military recruiting office in Arkansas by American Muslim convert Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, and the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, by suspected shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist. (Officials have not characterized the shootings at Fort Hood, in which 13 people were killed, as an act of terrorism.)
While both Mr. Muhammad and Hasan were known to have been influenced by radical Muslims, the extent to which the violence with which they’re charged was tied to any personal psychosis – perhaps more than any recruiting effort – is unclear.
That’s the difficulty with lone wolves, as it is with the pilot who flew his aircraft into an IRS office building in Texas and the man who recently shot Pentagon police officers before being killed.