Fourteen U.S. residents from 7 states have been linked to terrorist activity inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) this month alone.
Of the 14, five primarily were arrested for attempting join ISIS (some of them also discussed possible attacks in the event that their travel plans failed), one for recruiting for ISIS and eight for their roles in domestic plots that included a plot to behead Boston area law enforcement officers, one to bomb New York City landmarks, the shooting in Garland and another to shoot people and detonate a bomb in North Carolina.
Three of the individuals allegedly used knives in confrontations with law enforcement officials who were monitoring or attempting to question them (Fareed Mumuni, Munther Omar Saleh, and Usaama Rahim; see below). A fourth individual, Amir Said Abdul Rahman Al-Ghazi, had also purchased a knife but did not use it.
ISIS has popularized the use of knives in its propaganda, both through its use of knives in beheading videos and through direct calls for supporters to arm themselves with knives or any other weapons available. A speech purportedly by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad Al Adnani in September 2014, for example, told supporters, “If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of his allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car....” That same speech also directly encouraged targeting law enforcement officials, stating, “Strike their police, security and intelligence members….”
A January 2015 speech purportedly by Adnani called for attacks, “whether with an explosive device, a bullet, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist,” and a video released in April 2015 stated, “Your neighbor is a kaffir (apostate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”
All 14 of the individuals linked to terror in June appear to be motivated by ISIS and nearly all appear to have been influenced by ISIS’s online propaganda and social media presence.
Since ISIS announced its independence from Al Qaeda in 2014, 86% of U.S. residents engaging in activity on behalf of foreign terrorist organizations since 2014 have been linked to ISIS.
A total of 54 U.S. residents have been linked to Islamic extremist activity in the first half of 2015 – more than double the number of individuals in 2014.
The FBI, which has indicated that it has ongoing ISIS-related investigations in all 50 states, has issued a warning regarding increased security concerns over the July 4th weekend.
The activities of the 14 U.S. residents arrested in June, as described in court documents, are detailed below.
- Usaama Rahim, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen from Massachusetts, was killed on June 2, 2015, when he drew a knife after being approached by law enforcement officials. Rahim had allegedly conspired with David Wright, a 25-year-old U.S. citizen from Massachusetts arrested later that day on a charge of conspiracy to behead Pamela Geller, head of the anti-Muslim organization Stop Islamicization of America. The two later shifted their plans and discussed beheading police officers. Alleged co-conspirator Nicholas Rovinski, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen from Rhode Island, was arrested June 12. Rovinski had also allegedly hoped to travel to join ISIS.
- Reza Niknejad, an 18-year-old U.S. citizen from Virginia, was charged in absentia on June 10, 2015 with providing material support for ISIS. Niknejad, who is presumed to have joined ISIS, had allegedly been encouraged to travel by Ali Shukri Amin, a 17-year-old U.S. citizen from Virginia who had been arrested in February.
- Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem (Decarus Thomas), a 43-year-old U.S. citizen from Arizona and a convert to Islam, was arrested on June 10, 2015, for allegedly aiding Garland shooters Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi. Soofi and Simpson were killed when they shot at a Texas community center in May. Kareem is believed to have opened his home to Soofi and Simpson to discuss their plot and to have supplied the rifles they used in their shooting.
- Akmal Zakirov, a 29-year-old U.S. resident from New York, was arrested on June 11, 2015, for funding travel plans for Abdurasul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhmetov, New York residents arrested in February for attempting to join ISIS. Juraboev and Saidkhmetov had also allegedly discussed the possibility of shooting police officers and shooting the FBI headquarters. Juraboev had also allegedly suggested that he would attempt to shoot President Obama on behalf of ISIS.
- Munther Omar Saleh, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen from New York, was arrested on June 13, 2015, for allegedly conspiring to bomb an unspecified landmark in New York City. According to reports, Saleh had researched how to acquire materials for and build a pressure cooker bomb online. Saleh was arrested when he attempted to attack a law enforcement officer who had been monitoring him. Salah was arrested together with an unnamed 17-year-old co-conspirator. Saleh’s other alleged co-conspirator, Fareed Mumuni, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen from New York, was arrested on June 17, 2015. Mumuni also attempted to attack a law enforcement officer who had come to his residence to question him.
- Samuel Rahamin Topaz, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen from New Jersey and a convert to Islam, was arrested on June 18, 2015, for allegedly attempting to travel to join ISIS. Topaz had engaged in conversations with Saleh and Mumuni, who allegedly encouraged his plans. Topaz had also been in contact with Alaa Saadeh, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen from New Jersey arrested on June 29 and Saadeh’s brother, a U.S. citizen and former New Jersey resident who was arrested in June in Jordan, allegedly on his way to join ISIS. Topaz and Saadeh had both reportedly planned to meet Saadeh’s brother in ISIS controlled territory together with Munther Saleh
- Amir Said Abdul Rahman Al-Ghazi (formerly Robert McCullum), a 38-year-old U.S. citizen and a convert to Islam from Ohio, was arrested on June 19, 2015, on charges of providing material support to ISIS, being a felon in possession of a weapon and distribution of marijuana. Al-Ghazi had attempted to recruit for ISIS by creating pro-ISIS propaganda videos. He had purchased the gun for which he was charged as well as a machete for his propaganda videos. Al-Ghazi had also expressed interest in undertaking a domestic attack involving the derailing of a train.
- Justin Nojan Sullivan, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen and convert to Islam from North Carolina, was arrested on June 22, 2015, on charges of providing material support to ISIS. Sullivan allegedly planned to attack local establishments, allegedly for training, and follow them up with a bombing. Although the target for his bombing was unspecified, Sullivan expressed intent to kill 1,000 people.