Despite the hope and change brought along with a new administration, Americans discovered in 2009 that the threat of terrorism remained. There were several near disasters this last year along with a couple of actual man-caused disasters. While creating the following list I was surprised by the large number of arrests on American soil. I assume my surprise is due to the fact that the media generally forgets about these incidents within a very short period of time and does not make any attempt to report them as another piece of a larger puzzle.
– On May 20, 2009 three U.S. citizens (James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams) and one Haitian (Laguerre Payen) from Newburgh, New York were arrested in a plot to blow up two synagogues in the Riverdale community of the Bronx. The men allegedly placed bombs wired to cell phones in three separate cars outside the Riverdale Temple and nearby Riverdale Jewish Center. It was also alleged that they planed to shoot down military planes operating out of Stewart Air National Guard Base. Both the car bombs and the missiles were actually fakes given to the plotters with the help of an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
– On June 1, 2009 an assailant opened fire on a United States military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American who had converted to Islam, was accused of killing Private William Long. According to law enforcement officials, Muhammad had conducted research on other targets, including military sites, government facilities and Jewish institutions throughout the country.
– On July 27, 2009 seven men were arrested in North Carolina and charged with plotting to wage “violent jihad” outside the United States. Daniel Patrick Boyd, who authorities allege was the ringleader of a group of men that trained in North Carolina, was later also charged with planning to attack the U.S. Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. Boyd and another man, Hysen Sherifi, were charged with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel.
– On September 14, 2009 Law enforcement agents raided residences in New York City and later that day briefed members of Congress about their terrorism investigation. Authorities found 14 new black backpacks during the raids fueling concern the plan may have been to use them with suicide bombs. Najibullah Zazi and his father Mohammed Zazi were arrested five days later at Najibullah’s home in Denver, Colorado. FBI agents also arrested Ahmad Wais Afzali in New York. Najibullah Zazi, linked by authorities to al Qaeda, was charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
– On September 23, 2009 Michael Finton, a 29-year-old convert to Islam who went by the name Talib Islam, was arrested in an alleged plot to blow up a federal building in Illinois. Finton drove a van containing what he thought was explosive material and parked it directly in front of the northwest corner of the Paul Findley Federal Building, a courthouse in Illinois. He attempted to detonate it remotely but the explosive was actually harmless, supplied to Islam by the FBI.
– On September 24, 2009 Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested after he placed and attempted to detonate what he believed to be a car bomb in the garage of the 60-story Fountain Place office tower in Dallas. The fake explosive was given to him by an undercover FBI agent.
– On October 21, 2009 Tarek Mehanna, a Boston area man who lived with his parents and wrote a blog about Islam, was arrested for conspiring to become a jihadist and kill Americans. His alleged plots – all failed – included the assassination of prominent politicians, attacking US troops in Iraq and shooting randomly in a unidentified shopping mall.
– On November 5, 2009 a gunman killed 14 people (including one unborn baby) and wounded 30 others at the Fort Hood military base located near Killeen, Texas. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the only suspect in the crime, was radicalized by Muslim ideology. A muslim cleric said Hasan asked him in a December 2008 e-mail “whether killing American soldiers and officers is lawful or not” under Islamic law.
– On December 25, 2009 a Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate the explosive PETN on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. An apparent malfunction in the device and the quick reaction of passengers saved the airplane and 278 lives on board. After being taken into custody, Abdulmutallab told authorities he had been directed by al-Qaeda.
If the media were looking for a theme, as they always do this time of year, 2009 could be called the “Year of the Home Grown Terrorist” as six of those arrested (James Cromitie, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, Daniel Patrick Boyd, Michael Finton, Tarek Mehanna, and Nidal Malik Hasan) were born right here in the United States.