This has been a big week on the counterterrorism front. The plots revealed this week serve as an important reminder that the war against violent political Islam is being fought right here, right now.
First, some mixed news. In the wake of the indictment against an Afghan immigrant named Najibullah Zazi, who received bomb-making training from al-Qaeda, law enforcement agents are still busy looking for possible accomplices.
A detainment motion made by the attorney general’s office against Zazi mentions that he “and others flew … to Peshawar, Pakistan.” It was in Pakistan that Zazi attended an al-Qaeda training camp and learned how to construct bombs.
While unstated, the implication is that Zazi did not go to these camps alone.
This is further alluded to in the detainment motion, which describes at least three other people in Colorado who were helping Zazi buy the materials necessary to make bombs.
As of this writing, several dozen Paksitani and Afghan immigrants have been questioned by the FBI. Only two have been arrested, although they have not been formally charged. Zazi’s father and an imam named Ahmad Wais Afzali, who tipped Zazi off that the FBI were investigating him, have only been accused of lying to federal investigators. Both arrests may be significant, but these two may have only obstructed the investigation. They have not been accused of being involved in the actual plot.
Which means that others involved may be on the loose and still intent on carrying out an attack.
That this is on the FBI’s mind is confirmed by several warnings that went out this week to law enforcement agents to be on the lookout for bombs or bomb-making materials like those Zazi planned to use. Also, a “senior counterterrorism official” told the New York Post that federal agents are not sure whether they have identified all those involved and disrupted the plot before the wheels were set in motion.
As I noted in a previous article for Pajamas Media, the imam’s tip-off that Zazi was being watched almost certainly forced the FBI’s hand and caused them to make arrests sooner than they had hoped. It remains to be seen whether the arrests sufficiently disrupted any plot in the works. If not, that is bad news indeed.
But from another point of view, the arrests may be good news. It appears that Zazi’s plot had progressed much further than many of the numerous other cases of homegrown terrorism in post-9/11 America.
The detainment motion describes how Zazi had bought some of the basic ingredients for making a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and then checked into a hotel where a stove was available — the implication being that Zazi was experimenting on his bomb design there.
Zazi also brought plans to build TATP bombs with him to New York. Before he left Colorado, he made internet inquiries into stores in New York City where the basic ingredients to build TATP bombs might be bought. This evidence suggests that the plot may have been closer to execution than the earliest reports indicated.
If the plot was successfully disrupted, then we may have dodged an attack on the scale of Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.
There is more good news. The arrest of Zazi has eclipsed a flurry of activity by federal authorities against a number of others on American soil involved in terrorism.
Islamic convert Michael Finton (aka “Talib Islam”) was arrested this week for plotting to blow up a federal building in downtown Springfield, Illinois. Finton drove a van containing what he thought was explosive material and parked it directly in front of the federal offices in the Illinois capital on Wednesday. He then tried to detonate the bomb remotely with his cell phone. Unbeknown to Finton, his accomplice was an FBI agent and the bomb a fake.
On Thursday an illegal immigrant from Jordan, Mosam Maher Husein Smadi, was arrested for attempting to bomb a downtown Dallas skyscraper. Again, Smadi’s accomplice in the plot was an FBI agent who also provided him with a fake bomb. Smadi’s brother was also arrested in California, although it’s not clear how involved he was in the plot.
Also on Thursday, an indictment was unsealed against a Brooklyn man charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. According to a press release by the Department of Justice, Betim Kaziu unsuccessfully attempted to join and train with jihadi groups abroad. He was apparently intent on fighting against the U.S. military and made several trips across the globe in furtherance of this goal. He was eventually arrested in Kosovo by local police before being sent back to the US.
Since Kaziu is a U.S. citizen, how this isn’t treason is any one’s guess.
Finally, the indictments against North Carolinians Daniel Patrick Boyd, Hysen Sherifi, and Zakariya Boyd were amended this week to include charges that they were plotting to attack the U.S. Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. Prior to the superseding indictments, the three had only been charged with plotting to aid jihadists abroad.
To recap, this week alone we have news of four separate plots by Islamic extremists to commit acts of terrorism against Americans either on U.S. soil or abroad. It was also revealed that a fifth previously disclosed plot had a domestic target in mind.
Altogether, five people were indicted this week within the U.S. on terrorism-related charges. Five more were arrested.
The best news of all is that none of them succeeded.
It is said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The number of foiled terrorism plots revealed this week serves as a reminder that the aphorism remains true. And we should be thankful for those who serve on the front line against terror. Whether they fight abroad in the U.S. military or at home in various state and federal law enforcement agencies, they are engaged in different battles of the same war.