Awlaki inspires another homegrown terror plot.
On Wednesday, Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo was arrested and found with a large quantity of weapons and explosives materials. The incident is a classic example of al-taqiyya, the Islamic doctrine of lying to non-believers. He publicly opposed the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and now has admitted to planning on doing a similar attack on the same target.
Abdo converted to Islam at age 17, and is described by his peers as being “kind of weird” and a loner. He joined the military, and became part of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. In June 2010, he tried to avoid being deployed to Afghanistan by applying for conscientious objector status. Major media attention followed.
“I began to understand and believe that only God can give legitimacy to war and not humankind. That’s when I realized my conscience would not allow me to deploy,” he wrote in an essay about his application. He also said in an interview that he cannot “involve myself in an army that wages war against Muslims. I don’t believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of a Muslim.” He also expressed his opposition to the Fort Hood shooting, saying it was “an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam.”
His request was denied at first, but then approved in the spring. However, things still didn’t go as planned for Abdo. His discharge from service was delayed after child pornography was found on his computer. It has now come out that the material was found after an investigation began when he made anti-American remarks in a language class. This is reminiscent of Major Nidal Hasan, who also made statements exposing his extremism in front of classmates before carrying out his attack and supported releasing Muslims from service as conscientious objectors.
Abdo went AWOL over the Fourth of July weekend. On July 3, he walked into Quantico Tactical, a firearms store near Fort Hood, asked some questions and left. He came back later in the day to try to buy a handgun, but didn’t have the necessary paperwork. On July 12, he told the Associated Press that he was thinking about buying a gun after receiving threats from fellow soldiers after he was granted conscientious objector status.
On Tuesday, Abdo took a taxi to an Army surplus store, where he purchased a military uniform with Fort Hood insignia. He then took a taxi to Guns Galore LLC, the same store that Hasan purchased a weapon from. He purchased six pounds of smokeless gunpowder, three boxes of shotgun ammunition, and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol. Alarmed by the purchases and the fact that he “didn’t know what the hell he was buying,” the store employees alerted law enforcement.
He was arrested on Wednesday at a motel only three miles from Fort Hood, and he quickly admitted that he was going to attack the base. He was in possession of four magazines, a .40 caliber pistol and a list of bomb ingredients. The authorities found enough equipment for two bombs, including a pressure cooker, 18 pounds of sugar, dismantled shotgun shells, and shrapnel. He also had Christmas lights and battery-operated clocks; items that can be used in assembling timed explosives. Documents he had indicate he wanted to set off two bombs at a restaurant frequented by the soldiers at Fort Hood, and then going on a shooting.
He also had “Islamic extremist literature,” including at least one article from Inspire, Al-Qaeda’s English-only magazine that is created by its branch in Yemen. He also mentioned the name of Anwar al-Awlaki to police, though no evidence of a direct link to the powerful Al-Qaeda official has been found so far. It is said that Abdo’s attack preparations and bomb construction came “straight out of Inspire magazine and an Al-Qaeda explosives course manual.”
The foiled plot shows how the threat from terrorism is becoming increasingly homegrown. The plots against the U.S. homeland “have surpassed the number and pace of attacks during any year since 9/11,” as Michael Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, explained. Attorney General Eric Holder likewise says, “You didn’t have to worry about this [homegrown terrorism] even two years ago—about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do.”
However, this does not mean that a law enforcement-only approach is best. Homegrown extremism is fueled by overseas sources, such as Anwar al-Awlaki. He is radicalizing a new generation of Muslims through the Internet as he escapes U.S. aerial attacks in Yemen. His sermons “surface in every single homegrown terrorism investigation, whether in the U.S., the U.K., Canada or beyond,” says terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann.
Bin Laden may be dead, but the ideology that drove him lives on.