New Jersey men arrested at JFK on way to join Al Shabab in Somalia
The two New Jersey men arrested en route to Somalia to join the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab insurgency share at least one trait with other American jihadis: inspiration from Yemen-based US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
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Their airport arrest was the culmination of a nearly four-year-long investigation by state and federal authorities – dubbed “Operation Arabian Knight” – that followed an anonymous tip in Oct. 2006. Key to that operation was an undercover police officer of Egyptian descent in his mid-20s who befriended Alessa and Almonte and secretly recorded hours of their conversations, according to the New York Daily News:Skip to next paragraph
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"Obviously, we can't put out his name, but he did really excellent work here," [Police Commissioner Raymond] Kelly said.
Alessa and Almonte met at Alessa's place Saturday afternoon so Alessa's parents could drive them to JFK. They had return tickets for July 11.
Cops greeted them at the gate.
"When Alessa and Almonte schemed to engage in violent jihad, we were listening. When they attempted to leave the country, we were waiting," said New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman.
Alessa and Almonte spoke with the officer about many of their terror-related goals: their plans to train with Al Shabab and their previous attempts to join the jihad against American forces in Iraq, their desire to kill US troops, and their feelings about Yemen-based US cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.
The Daily News reports that he is seen as a major influence on the men, and that they hoped to outdo the work of another American who famously fell under Mr. Awlaki’s sway: Major Nidal Malik Hassan, a US army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 soldiers at Fort Hood military base in Texas in a shooting spree last November.
In a special report in December, The Christian Science Monitor detailed how a steady stream of young Somali-American men have headed back to a homeland they barely know, "driven by a heady brew of nationalist and religious fervor and lured by what experts say is a sophisticated recruitment network exploiting vulnerabilities in the Somali diaspora.... Their path to radicalization, and perhaps eventually to the ranks of militant Islam, represents a pressing concern for US counterterrorism officials today."
Of note with the New Jersey men is that neither is of Somali decent. Yet they sympathized with the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents there.
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