Law Enforcement: A New Target for Domestic Islamic Extremists

  • February 2, 2016

Update: 3/17/2016 - In March 2016, the Cyber Caliphate Army, a pro-ISIS hacking group, released so-called "kill lists" with the names, addresses and contact information of law enforcement officers in New Jersey and Minnesota. The information was uploaded to a file sharing site and to Telegram.

The original version of this post was also updated on 2/19/2016.

2015 saw an unprecedented number of attacks on law enforcement officials by U.S. residents motivated by Islamic extremist ideologies and professing allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A shooting of a Philadelphia police officer in January 2016 indicates that the threat against law enforcement will continue into the coming year.

There have been eight documented instances of violence attempted or plotted against law enforcement by individuals motivated at least in part by Islamic extremist ideology since 2014:

Edward Archer of Pennsylvania shot a police officer

Edward Archer

  • January 2016: Edward Archer of Pennsylvania allegedly fired 13 bullets at a Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett. Hartnett suffered wounds to his arm. Archer claimed that he had acted on behalf of ISIS.
  • July 2015: Harlem Suarez of Florida was arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb a Florida beach. According to court documents, Suarez had also discussed placing bombs outside the houses and vehicles of law enforcement officers. Suarez had claimed allegiance to ISIS and had maintained a Facebook account on which he posted extremist content.
  • June 2015: Usaama Rahim and David Wright of Massachusetts and Nicholas Rovinski of Rhode Island allegedly plotted to behead Boston-area police officers. Rahim also allegedly drew a knife when approached by a law enforcement officer for questioning. The three allegedly claimed to be acting on behalf of ISIS and expressed some interest in traveling to join ISIS in Syria.
  • June 2015: Munther Omar Saleh of New York drew a knife and attacked a law enforcement officer who had been surveilling him. Saleh acted together with an unnamed  minor who had been with him at the time. He is separately charged with plotting a domestic attack. According to court documents, Saleh had expressed support for ISIS and posted ISIS propaganda on his Twitter account.

    Fareed Mumuni of New York

    Fareed Mumuni

  • June 2015: Fareed Mumuni of New York attacked law enforcement officers who had come to his residence with a knife. Mumuni is also charged with plotting a domestic attack together with Saleh and other co-conspirators. Mumuni had allegedly expressed support for ISIS.
  • April 2015: Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui of New York were arrested for allegedly plotting a domestic attack. Although the target had not been disclosed, court documents indicate that the two had indicated they wanted to attack a government, military or law enforcement target. Siddiqui and Velentzas had a long history of engaging with terrorist propaganda and extremist content and, according to court documents, had intended to commit their attack on behalf of ISIS.
  • February 2015: Abdurasul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhmetov of New York were charged with material support for terror for allegedly attempting to travel to join ISIS. Court documents indicated that the two had also discussed the possibility of a domestic attack that involved killing law enforcement officers, taking their weapons, and then mounting an attack on the FBI headquarters. The two had expressed support for ISIS online, where they also allegedly indicated their intent to act on the group's behalf.
  • October 2014: Zale Thompson of New York attacked law enforcement officers with a hatchet. Thompson’s motive remains unclear and he demonstrated interest in a variety of extremist ideologies; however, his online record indicated he had most recently engaged with Islamic extremist propaganda and ideology, including ISIS-specific propaganda, prior to the attack.

In addition, court documents indicate that Alexander Ciccolo, a Massachusetts resident arrested in July, had planned to attack law enforcement, military and civilians on behalf of ISIS before allegedly deciding to attack a university instead.

The upsurge in attacks against law enforcement may be motivated in part by propaganda by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has called directly for such attacks. A September 2014 speech by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad Al Adnani, for example, stated, “Strike their police, security and intelligence members….” ISIS propaganda has also called for smaller scale terrorist attacks than those Al Qaeda adherents had been known to plot. A January 2015 speech by Al Adnani, for example, called for attacks, “whether with an explosive device, a bullet, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist.” The attacks against law enforcement have primarily been attempted with small arms.