The fatal shooting of a Muslim man on a Boston sidewalk underscores the difficulty faced by US authorities trying to counter the increasing influence of Islamic radicalization among young men and women living in the United States.
Although the full details of Tuesday’s encounter have not yet been released, authorities said the victim, Usaama Rahim, had been under round-the-clock surveillance by a terrorism task force that suspected he had become radicalized by the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS).
The group, which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, is known for its embrace of ruthless tactics – including numerous beheadings and indiscriminate suicide bomb attacks.
In addition, the group is using social media to urge like-minded Muslims beyond Iraq's and Syria’s borders – including within the US – to organize and carry out their own brutal attacks.
It is in that context that Tuesday’s lethal encounter between law enforcement and the young Muslim man occurred.
In a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said officials with the Joint Terrorism Task Force considered Mr. Rahim armed and dangerous and that he posed a threat.
Nonetheless, officials were surprised by Rahim’s alleged response. “I don’t think anybody expected the reaction we got out of him,” the commissioner said, according to The Boston Globe.
Mr. Evans said the fatal confrontation occurred at about 7 a.m. when a Boston police officer and an FBI agent sought to approach Rahim on the street to question him.
Rahim allegedly pulled out a large, military-style knife. The agent and the officer backed away and told Rahim to drop the knife, according to police. Evans said when Rahim continued to approach, both the agent and the officer fired their weapons.
Rahim was struck by two rounds. He was transported to a local hospital, where he died.
The shooting is under investigation by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley.
Rahim’s older brother, Ibrahim Rahim, offered a significantly different account of the shooting in a Facebook post.
“This morning while at the bus stop in Boston, my youngest brother Usaama Rahim was waiting for the bus to go to his job. He was confronted by three Boston Police officers and subsequently shot in the back three times,” the post says in part.
“He was on his cell phone with my dear father during the confrontation needing a witness,” the Facebook post continues. “His last words to my father who heard the shots were: ‘I can’t breathe!’ ”
Ibrahim Rahim is identified as an imam. He began his Facebook post with the notation: “Your prayers are requested.”
He ended his post with: “From Allah we come, and to Allah we return.”