Shooting of two soldiers in Little Rock puts focus on 'lone wolf' Islamic extremists
Did alleged attacker Abdulhakid Mujahid Mohammed act on his own, or was he a trained jihadist?
The American-born Muslim convert who allegedly shot and killed Army Pvt. William Long and wounded another soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., mall on June 1 said Tuesday the act was retaliation for the US war on terror, "done for the sake of Allah, the lord of all the world."Skip to next paragraph
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Authorities have pegged the Memphis, Tenn., native Abdulhakid Mujahid Mohammed, born Carlos "Corey" Bledsoe, as a "lone wolf" terrorist – going to war alone against his own country, without operational guidance or handlers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has thwarted half a dozen home-grown terror cells since 9/11. Authorities say this includes the "Bronx Bombers," who were arrested last month. But lone wolves like Mr. Mohammed have proved more difficult to stop.
While the FBI has been warning about lone jihadists for years, the Little Rock shooting, experts say, is likely to hasten debate over the danger they pose and what effect Washington's shift in tone toward the Muslim world will have on public attitudes and law enforcement. Ultimately, there's also the looming question of whether a broader "force" is directing these lone actors.
"We're dealing with something much more sophisticated than just finding ... a 'conspirator,' " says Walid Phares, director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative policy institute in Washington. "Lone jihadists may really be alone as persons, but they are part of a production of jihadists with the same ideology, outlook, and engagement logic."
The Little Rock shooting touches on a number of security debates going on nationally.
This week in Los Angeles, FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the use of government informants in mosques to root out domestic terrorists, an important point since there are questions about whether Mohammed became "radicalized" in the United States or during visits to Yemen, including a stint in a Yemeni jail. On Tuesday, Mohammed told the Associated Press in a collect phone call from jail that he was not radicalized in Yemen.
Mohammed also carried a fake Somali passport at one point; US security officials are increasingly concerned about Al Qaeda's presence in the leaderless African state. Dozens of young Somali-Americans have disappeared from American cities in recent months.