The subtle emergence of “home-grown terrorists”

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

27 January 2007: The case of 20 year-old Juan Rafael DIAZ of Kissimmee, Florida is receiving scant media attention. Perhaps it is because nothing blew up, or maybe it is because of his boyish, non-threatening appearance, and possibly, few would believe that this young man would actually have the means to carry out the things he threatened to do. DIAZ is currently in the Osceola County Jail after leaving a series of threatening notes at a number of locations, including the First Christian Church that stated:

first-christain-photo-2Above: First Christian Church, Kissimmee, Florida, reported target of Juan Rafael DIAZ
Photograph by Randy Taylor ©2007“The city of Kissimmee is going to be bombed by al Qaeda, God willing.”
The Northeast Intelligence Network reported on this incident as it began to unfold this week, but hardly anyone seemed too concerned over the matter, despite the references to al Qaeda, and despite that one of the intended targets of his bombings is a Christian Church. Although it might be concluded through an investigation that DIAZ is incapable of carrying out acts, or perhaps found that he is simply mentally incompetent, there is a larger issue that we must not ignore: the profile of the “home-grown” terrorist.

As counter-terrorism analyst Randy Taylor succinctly stated about this matter, “someone put these thoughts into this kid’s head.” Exactly. Mr. Taylor should know, as he sees the ideology of Islamic jihad spreading throughout the Internet in his daily research and investigations. In fact, all analysts, investigators and researchers of the Northeast Intelligence Network have seen ample Islamic terrorist propaganda that is being spread throughout the Internet, much of it directed to recruiting, training and motivating people inside North America, encouraging them to join the cause of Islamic jihad. From the partially successful, if only temporary disembodiment and disruption of the operational aspects of Islamic terrorist groups like al Qaeda, the emergence of the “home-grown terrorist” is becoming more evident.

In general, the profile of a “home-grown” Muslim terrorist is a Muslim who was born and raised in the U.S., has no previous inclinations towards crimes of violence, no (or relatively minor) criminal history, yet suddenly appears active in terrorist-related activities. The only common factor linking “home-grown” Muslim terrorists is their belief in Islamic jihad, and that jihad is duty of the orthodox Muslim in the war against the U.S. and the West. Most individuals who fit this profile often surprise even those who seem to know them well, such as their friends and neighbors.

Using materials readily available on Islamic terrorist web sites, or in some cases, receiving training from Muslims who have underwent paramilitary training and have relocated inside the U.S., these home grown terrorists share ideas and gain inspiration from these same sources. In most cases, these home grown terrorists are self-executing, not relying on direct instructional commands from any organized terrorist organization.

The speed at which these growing number of individuals or loosely knit groups of people with seemingly no ties to al Qaeda or other Islamic terrorist organizations, and no previous history or propensity to violence are popping up is causing law enforcement to do a “double-take.” Despite its apparent suddenness, however, it has been brewing for some time. Examples of “home-grown terrorists” are becoming more plentiful, and can be found in the numbers of Muslim-Americans who have been arrested since 9/11, including but not limited to loose knit groups such as the men arrested last June for plotting to destroy Chicago’s Sears Tower and other public buildings.

Another, more recent example can be found in the story of Derrick Shareef, a/k/a Talib Abu Salam Ibn Shareef, who planned to set off at least four and possibly more hand grenades and improvised explosive devices at the CherryVale Shopping Mall on December 23, 2006. Other, less evident examples can be identified by the targets of choice, including Christian Churches and Jewish Synagogues.

We can laugh off these seemingly amateurish plots like that of Juan Rafael DIAZ and dismiss them as being non-threatening, or we can more appropriately recognize them as a warning sign of events to come. We can get caught up in the misdirection of Muslim organizations and their representatives, who seem to be purposely shifting the focus away from the existence and persuasive “Islamic call to jihad” by discounting a person or group’s ability to carry out terrorist acts. When talking to the media about the arrest of the group of Muslim men who planned to bomb the Sears tower and other buildings, M. Ali Khan, the director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago was quoted: “But… did they have the means to do what they were talking about?”

Mr. M. Ali Khan, much like other Muslim leaders, appears quick to discount the intent of the men, the existence of the growing numbers of Muslims who are embracing the cause of jihad against the U.S., the existence of pro-Muslim, anti-Western web sites that serve to recruit, train and motivate Muslims in the West, and even the existence of Muslim religious leaders who tacitly endorse such activities. Instead, Mr. Khan redirects the focus on whether the group had the ability to carry out their plot at the time of their arrest. Many people have apparently accepted this argument, one that could have applied to the 19 hijackers months or even weeks before 9/11. And we all know what happened on that day.