Historically, white supremacist extremists have leveraged alternative social media platforms to espouse their ideologies, interact with like-minded individuals online, and attempt to radicalize others. On October 27, Robert Bowers, a suspected white supremacist extremist who espoused anti-Semitic comments online, shot and killed 11 people and injured six at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Al-Qa’ida released a video on September 11 of a 30-minute speech with English subtitles called “How to Confront America” through its as-Sahab Media Foundation commemorating the 17th anniversary of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. In the 14-point speech, al-Qa’ida’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called for Muslim brothers worldwide to wage jihad against the United States, specifically in the Islamic Maghreb and the Sahara, the Sahel, and West Africa.
Zawahiri called for unity among Muslims worldwide and continued the tradition of his deceased predecessor, Usama bin Ladin, by stating waging jihad on America will disrupt the country’s economy and cause great military losses, using the wars in Vietnam, Aden (Yemen), Iraq, and Somalia as examples. Zawahiri accused the United States of religious enmity against Islam and referred to America as “the number one enemy of Muslims.”
Although al-Qa’ida nor its affiliates have attempted to conduct an attack in the United States since 2009, the number of affiliates has grown since 9/11 with an estimated 25,000 fighters. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has been active, while al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has suffered leadership losses through ongoing drone strikes.
Recently, Zawahiri called for unity among Muslims in a video speech entitled “The Battle of Awareness and Will: The Solid Structure.” The five-minute video produced by the as-Sahab Media Foundation was released on August 23. Zawahiri called for all Muslims to unify after decades of fragmentation, presumably referring to ISIS and its failure to maintain a caliphate.
Implications for New Jersey
While there are no known or credible threats to New Jersey, homegrown violent extremists remain the greatest threat. The upcoming holiday season is marked with numerous festivals, outdoor gatherings, and large-scale events that offer attractive targets for terrorist organizations and extremists.
Al-Qa’ida supporters are producing and disseminating propaganda targeting women amid losses to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leadership.
Last week, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a new speech, “Give Glad Tidings to the Patient,” through the group’s official media outlet, the al-Furqan Foundation.
Since July, authorities in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania have arrested several individuals for threatening government officials and law enforcement online. Each of these individuals leveraged social media and email platforms to target public officials, including a US Congressman, a US Senator, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, court officials, and law enforcement officers.
Environmental rights extremists view manmade threats to the environment as so severe that violence and property damage are justified to prevent further destruction.
White supremacist extremists continue to leverage social media to communicate, organize, and spread propaganda, despite the efforts of mainstream social media companies to remove extremist content from their online platforms.
ISIS’s female sympathizers in the United States are likely to provide material support as they encourage supporters to conduct attacks on the group’s behalf, fundraise for its operations overseas, and issue threatening rhetoric online. An NJOHSP review of 11 out of 13 incidents highlighted that female homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) supported ISIS, despite recruitment tactics targeting female sympathizers from other foreign terrorist organizations.
In 2017, domestic terrorists were responsible for a total of 45 attacks, disrupted plots, threats of violence, and instances of weapons stockpiling, including four incidents in New Jersey. NJOHSP defines domestic terrorism as violence committed by individuals or groups—including race-based, single-issue, anti-government, and religious extremist ideologies—associated primarily with US-based movements.
Homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) are individuals inspired—as opposed to directed—by a foreign terrorist organization and radicalized in the countries in which they are born, raised, or reside.
HVEs pose the greatest threat to New Jersey and will likely remain so this year.
HAMAS, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya, or the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” founded in 1987, is an offshoot of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood.
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) is a Pakistani-based Islamic extremist group founded in the late 1980s as the terrorist wing of Markaz ud Dawa ul-Irshad, a Pakistan-based Islamic fundamentalist mission organization, according the US State Department.
Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden,” is an Islamic extremist organization based in northeastern Nigeria that pledged allegiance to ISIS in March 2015. In August 2016, ISIS unilaterally announced that Abu Musab al-Barnawi would replace Abubakar Shekau as the leader of Boko Haram. Shekau refused to cede authority, and Boko Haram militants remain factionalized in their loyalties.
The US Department of Homeland Security divides the Commercial Facilities Sector into eight sub-sectors that encompass public assembly and outdoor events.