Arrests in US, Yemen sharpen focus on 'homegrown terrorism'
Recent arrests in New York, Texas, and Yemen could support the trend of Americans heading abroad for terrorism training. But do the US and Yemen have conflicting security interests?
If the arrests also end up confirming heightened activity by American citizens in extremist activities, they would also buttress US intelligence and counterterrorism officials’ intensified focus on so-called “homegrown terrorism.”
US officials on Monday confirmed the arrest of a dozen Americans in Yemen. Last week Yemeni officials reported the arrests of foreigners as part of a Yemeni roundup of individuals suspected of taking part in a surge of Al Qaeda planning and organizational activity in the desert country over recent months.
Those arrests, which come as the US provides Yemen with millions of dollars in counterterrorist assistance, follow the indictment June 3 of a Texas man the FBI believes was trying to deliver money and materials to the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The FBI says the Texas man, Barry Bujol Jr., had been under investigation since 2008, over which time he had communicated by e-mail with the American-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki seeking advice on how to contribute to “jihad.”
Mr. Bujol, who was arrested May 30 as he boarded a ship in a Texas port, is accused of seeking to deliver money and devices including GPSs and cell phone chips to AQAP – the same organization that claimed a role in the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner.
On Saturday, two New Jersey men were arrested at Kennedy International Airport in New York as they sought to board a flight to Egypt on their way to Somalia. Federal authorities said the men, under investigation since 2006, hoped to join Al Shabab, the Somalian extremist group aligned with Al Qaeda.
At the State Department Monday, spokesman Philip Crowley refused to discuss specifics of the arrests in Yemen of American citizens, confirmed last week by Yemeni security forces. But Mr. Crowley used the topic of what he said were 12 arrested Americans to praise US-Yemeni cooperation in the counterterrorism field.