The Nature of Homegrown Terror
Since the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, there have been over sixty terrorist plots in the United States and the yearly number of foiled plots has been increasing.
In Charles Kurzman’s paper, “Terrorism Cases Involving Muslim-Americans in 2014,” “Twenty-five Muslim-Americans were associated with violent terrorism in 2014, bringing the total since 9/11 to 250, or less than 20 per year. A large majority of the cases involved travel (5 individuals) or attempted travel (14 individuals) to join designated terrorist organizations in Syria or (in one case) Yemen. Only six of the 25 individuals plotted or engaged in violence in the United States in 2014 (Figure 2), matching the lowest total since 2008. (Three of these individuals are included provisionally, as the evidence is unclear at present whether their plots ought to be characterized as terrorism.) … In 2014, four terrorism-related incidents involving Muslim-Americans – two using firearms, one a knife, and one a hatchet — killed seven people in 2014, bringing the total number of fatalities in the United States from terrorism by Muslim-Americans since 9/11 to 50. Meanwhile, the United States suffered approximately 14,000 murders in 2014 and more than 200,000 murders since 9/11.”
The United States is not the only country that is experiencing the problem of their own citizens taking up arms and committing acts of violence against the country of their birth.
Intelligence services and experts are increasingly paying attention to the threat of “homegrown terrorism,” terrorist attacks perpetrated by individuals who were either born or raised in the West. Homegrown terrorists pose a particular concern due to the increasing number of Westerners joining militant Islamic movements, and the operatives’ familiarity with the societies they are targeting.
In recent years, over two hundred men and women born or raised in the West have participated in, or provided support for Islamic terrorist plots and attacks.
“Homegrown” is the term that describes terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States. The term “jihadist” describes radicalized individuals using Islam as an ideological and/or religious justification for their belief in the establishment of a global caliphate, or jurisdiction governed by a Muslim civil and religious leader known as a caliph.
Analysts define individuals considered “homegrown” are those who either spent a significant portion of their formative years in the West, or else their radicalization bears a significant connection to the West.
Incidents of Terror
May 2002 – Muslim convert Jose Padilla is arrested at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on suspicion of planning to explode a radioactive “dirty bomb.” He becomes the first American citizen arrested on U.S. soil to be declared an “enemy combatant.”
June 2003 – Eleven men from Northern Virginia — known as the “Paintball” terrorists — are accused of being part of a jihadist network that sought to wage war against nations deemed hostile to Islam. Two others are later charged, including spiritual leader Ali al-Timimi, an Iraqi-American U.S. citizen. Eleven of the men are U.S. citizens.
November 2009 – U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the son of Palestinian immigrants who was born and raised in Virginia, allegedly opens fire at the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood in Texas. Thirteen people are killed and another 43 are injured. Hasan, a psychiatrist who was about to be deployed to Afghanistan, is shot and taken into custody.
May 2011 – Two North African immigrants from Queens are arrested in a sting operation for plotting to attack an undetermined Manhattan synagogue and the Empire State Building. Algerian immigrant Ahmed Ferhani, a permanent U.S. resident, and Mohammed Mehdi Mamdouh, a naturalized Moroccan, are accused by state prosecutors of attempting to purchase a hand grenade and guns to attack the synagogue.
July 2011 – Army private Naser Jason Abdo, who grew up in a Dallas suburb, is arrested on charges that he plotted to attack soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas with guns and a bomb. Police say they found weapons and instructions for making a bomb.
April 2013 – Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, calmly walked through the crowd of spectators at the annual Boston Marathon on the afternoon of April 15, 2013. The brothers placed two backpacks near the finish line of the race on Boylston Street, each containing homemade pressure-cooker bombs. The bombs detonated approximately 10 seconds apart, killing three people and wounding and maiming 245 bystanders.
April 2013 – Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser were arrested in April 2013 for attempting to carry out an attack on a Via Railway train traveling from Canada to the U.S. The attack, authorities claimed, was supported by an al-Qaeda element in Iran, although there is currently no evidence that it was state-sponsored. The exact route of the targeted train has not been identified, and Iranian authorities vehemently deny that al-Qaeda is operating within Iranian borders.
December 2014 – Australian authorities stormed the cafe where a self-styled Muslim cleric had been holding hostages, killing the gunman. They moved in some 16 hours after the siege began, after hearing gunfire inside the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, New South Wales.
May 2015 – Two suspects were killed after they opened fire in a parking lot in Garland, Texas where a contest for cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad. The attack raised questions about Free Speech rights vs. Hate Speech in the United States.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that there have been 63 homegrown violent jihadist plots or attacks in the United States since September 11, 2001. As part of a much discussed apparent expansion of terrorist activity in the United States, from May 2009 through December 2012, arrests were made for 42 “homegrown,” jihadist-inspired terrorist plots by American citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. Two of these resulted in attacks. Most of the 2009–2012 homegrown plots likely reflect a trend in jihadist terrorist activity away from schemes directed by core members of significant terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. However, it may be too early to tell how sustained this uptick is. While in 2010 and 2011, there were 12 and 10 plots, respectively, in 2012, eight came to light. Regardless, the apparent spike in such activity after April 2009 suggests that ideologies supporting violent jihad continue to influence some Americans—even if a tiny minority.
Homegrown violent jihadists may exhibit a number of conventional shortcomings when compared to international terrorist networks. Homegrown violent jihadists, some say, possibly lack deep understanding of specialized trade-craft such as bomb making. They may not have the financing, training camps, support networks, and broad expertise housed in international organizations. These apparent shortcomings may keep some homegrown violent jihadists from independently engaging in large-scale suicide strikes. Because of this, they may turn to violence requiring less preparation, such as assaults using firearms. These shortcomings pose challenges for law enforcement, intelligence, and security officials charged with detecting, preventing, or disrupting terrorist plots. It is likely much harder to detect smaller conspiracies that can develop quickly.
The Role of Religious Ideology
Five factors were found in terror plots show that the homegrown terrorists’ religious understanding as an important factor in radicalization. Indeed, it seems that the individuals’ theological understanding was a relatively strong factor in their radicalization. Underscoring this finding, around 20% of the homegrown terrorists examined had a spiritual mentor, a more experienced Muslim who gave specific instruction and direction during the radicalization process. Over a quarter of the homegrown terrorists in reported incidents had a spiritual mentor in their plot (an individual with perceived religious authority who provided specific theological approval for the violent activity), while just under half of the sample explicitly claimed a religious motivation for their illegal actions.
Studies to date indicate that there is no general “terrorist profile.” However, there seemed to be some commonality among the plotters. They seem to be less frequently married, come from lower economic strata, and may not have completed high school and fewer employment prospects than the general population.
Overseas training also seemed to factor into the make-up of homegrown terrorists. Over 40% traveled abroad for training or to fight jihad. It seems though that foreigners that join ISIS do not come back to their home country to commit acts of terror. ISIS fighters do not trust these people and regularly use them as suicide bombers. For terrorist wanna-bes, there overseas journey for training turns out to be a one-way trip. Also, about 12% of the terrorists traveled overseas to receive religious instruction independent of terrorist training.
An analysis of the terror plots suggests that the terrorism threat within prisons is a smaller factor than many fear. Out of the 117 individuals that have been studied, in only seven cases was there any kind of connection between time spent in prison and the terrorists’ conversion, radicalization, or the plot in which they participated.
Recent studies also suggest that the separation of ideologies between Islam and the West is an important aspect of the radicalization process, both quantitatively and qualitatively. This is one facet that is being ignored by Western governments in the name of political correctness. This in the face of increased evidence of an Islamic connection.
Grassroots attacks pose the biggest jihadist threat to Western countries, but they are also preventable. There are a large number of potential grassroots attackers and many possible targets. Foresight, planning and understanding the true nature of the threat will help prevent a future terror attack
As public debate continues over terrorism, it is worth keeping these threats in perspective. Terrorists aim to instill fear disproportionate to their actual capabilities to generate violence, and to provoke social and policy overreactions that they can use in their recruitment efforts
- ISIS Camp a Few Miles from Texas, Mexican Authorities Confirm
— Judicial Watch
- Terrorism Cases Involving Muslim-Americans, 2014
— Duke University
- Terrorist Attacks in the U.S. or Against Americans
- How France missed a homegrown terrorism plot
— LA Times
- Notable Homegrown Terrorism Plots
- Sydney siege: how a day and night of terror unfolded at the Lindt café
— The Guardian
– From Khouse.Org