The newest terrorists against America are potentially a bigger threat since they come from within, according to a series of NPR reports recently published.
One such example is Adnan Shukrijumah, who is considered the highest-ranking American in al-Qaeda and believed by Intelligence officials to be the successor of the mastermind of the September 11 terror attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Adnan Shukrijumah was born in 1975 and grew up in Trinidad and Saudi Arabia. In the 1990s he began to occasionally visit Brooklyn and eventually moved with his mother and five brothers and sisters to Florida. He even took classes at Broward College for several years, where he studied chemistry in the late 1990s and never graduated.
Shukrijumah was recently implicated in a plot to bomb transportation targets in and around New York City. The suspect in that case, longtime American resident Najibullah Zazi, had traveled to Afghanistan in hopes of fighting US troops there, but was convinced by an American al-Qaeda operative to return to the US and strike there instead. That operative was Shukrijumah, who was identified through a videotape of a presentation he gave in an English class at Broward College.
As Joe Billy, former assistant director of the counterterrorism division at FBI headquarters in Washington, told NPR, operatives like Shukrijumah are particularly dangerous because they chooses operatives “who know their targets. [Shukrijumah’s] philosophy has been, even years ago, to select and use operatives who come from the area they hope to launch attacks against. And I think his strategies now are being employed more so than they have in years past.”
Billy explained that this strategy is showing up across the board, and that the reason for it is that terrorist groups were having so much trouble getting operatives into the United States that they have decided to find US citizens who would perform attacks. Zazi, for example, was a permanent resident who could come into the US as he wished.
Shukrijumah himself, Billy said, is an example of that same strategy: He is a naturalized American and has been able to travel anywhere and slip in and out of countries as he wished. His physical appearance assists him in doing this, since his father is from Guyana and his mother is from Yemen, thus giving him a Hispanic look. He speaks nearly perfect English, has a US Social Security card and Florida driver's license.
It is believed that a trip to Afghanistan in the fall of 1998 or early 1999 is what inspired Shukrijumah to join al-Qaeda. According to Intelligence officials, he had been to an al-Qaeda camp, where he had started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to study how to handle automatic weapons, as well as topography, clandestine surveillance, and explosives. After he returned to the US, he would disappear for weeks at a time, scouting for al-Qaeda, according to officials.
According to Intelligence, Shukrijumah was behind the foiled 2004 plot against financial targets in New York and New Jersey, was tied to the plot to try to ignite fuel lines at John F. Kennedy airport in 2007, and of course, the subway plot, in which he has been indicted and the US government has placed a $5 million bounty on his head.
Meanwhile, Californian Adam Gadahn, who is considered al-Qaeda's American mouthpiece, urged on Saturday wannabe terrorists to act alone instead of trying to join terror cells.
“My brothers: know that Jihad is your duty,” Gadahn ranted in Arabic during a 40-minute video. “You have an opportunity to strike the leaders of unbelief and retaliate against them on their own soil.”
Gadahn’s message is considered significant as al-Qaeda’s goal has long been to kill hundreds of Americans in simultaneous multiple attacks, while Gadahn has called on individual jihad. Officials estimated that the message is also likely a result of al-Qaeda being under pressure in Pakistan from CIA drones.
Last March Gadahn sent out a similar message. He has been wanted by the FBI since 2004 and was charged with treason in 2006 for joining Al-Qaeda. There is a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
Several weeks ago, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released the second issue of its English-language magazine called Inspire. The 74-page edition featured an article entitled “I Am Proud To Be a Traitor to America”, written by a 24 year-old former resident of North Carolina and New York City named Samir Khan. Some have speculated that Inspire’s intent is to recruit American-born and UK terrorists.