An NJOHSP review of violent protests nationwide indicates an increase in confrontations between white supremacists, militia members, and counter-protesters—including anti-fascist anarchist extremists. Since 2016, there have been at least 11 violent protests in the United States, resulting in one death, at least 75 injuries, and over 300 arrests.
In the past six months, Vanguard America—a white supremacist group—has expanded beyond Internet-based activity to attending violent protests nationwide, distributing propaganda, and intimidating minority populations. The leader of the group claims there are approximately 200 members in 20 states, including New Jersey.
On August 18, ISIS claimed responsibility for two vehicle-ramming attacks that occurred last week in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain, that killed 15 and injured over 100. These incidents are the seventh and eighth such attacks in Europe in 2017 and highlight the threat posed to public assembly areas.
On June 1, federal authorities arrested two individuals tied to Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO)—which is responsible for planning intelligence-gathering, counterintelligence, and terrorist activities on behalf of the group internationally—for attempting to provide material support, among other charges. Ali Mohamad Kourani conducted surveillance on a variety of targets in New York City, including FBI offices, an Army National Guard facility, a US Secret Service facility, a US Army armory, and John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport.
Terrorists—particularly homegrown violent extremists (HVEs)—will likely continue using vehicles as weapons based on foreign terrorist organizations promoting this tactic, the success of past attacks, and the ease of vehicle acquisition. An NJOHSP review of vehicle-ramming attacks in the West over the last 10 years shows increases in this tactic and resulting casualties.
NJOHSP assesses the recent uptick in propaganda from Hamza bin Ladin is an attempt to inspire sympathizers to execute attacks in the West, secure his position as a future al-Qa’ida leader, and attract supporters. Since Hamza’s public introduction in 2015, he has produced six audio messages—two were released in the past month.
NJOHSP assesses al-Qa’ida is attempting to reform its operations in Syria following a split with its affiliate, the Nusrah Front. Since 2012, al-Qa’ida has maintained an active presence in Syria, taking advantage of the multi-faceted conflict; however, in 2016, the Nusrah Front broke with al-Qa’ida and is focusing its efforts on the Syrian conflict.
On May 4, ISIS released the ninth edition of its online magazine, Rumiyah, which featured an article on detaining people during an attack—stating the purpose is “not to hold large numbers of the [disbelievers] hostage in order to negotiate demands…the objective is to create as much carnage and terror as possible.” The article also praises the attacks at the Bataclan theater in Paris and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando as examples for sympathizers to emulate.
A Point Pleasant (Ocean County) man faces federal terrorism charges after a family member notified law enforcement of his erratic behavior—underscoring the role friends, relatives, and close associates play in countering violence. According to authorities, Gregory Lepsky plotted to build a pressure-cooker bomb and detonate it in New York City to “kill as many people as possible” in support of ISIS.
Anti-fascist groups, or “Antifa,” are a subset of the anarchist movement and focus on issues involving racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, as well as other perceived injustices.
To appeal to new audiences susceptible to its radical messaging, the national white supremacist movement has tried to deemphasize hate symbols and attacks against non-white communities. These organizations have “rebranded” since at least last year, when they took a more high-profile role with conferences and rallies, official statements, and recruitment efforts.
Although there are no specific or credible threats to New Jersey, recent events, including the 2016 bombing in Seaside Park, demonstrate terrorists continued targeting of large public events. Event organizers are encouraged to implement risk mitigation measures to enhance the safety of participants, staff, and spectators of outdoor endurance events such as running or cycling races.
For the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) will provide a new service—storm surge watches and warnings—which will alert the public about life-threatening inundation caused by hurricanes and other tropical cyclones.
On May 25, ISIS released a video calling on supporters to conduct assaults and justifying the killing of innocents during Ramadan, the most sacred month in Islam, which runs from May 27 to June 24. Historically, ISIS and its predecessor groups have called for an offensive campaign during this month.
Since late February, two mosques and four Islamic centers in New Jersey have received letters with crude drawings of individuals being beheaded from an unidentified perpetrator using the pseudonym “Muslim slayer.” These acts are occurring against the backdrop of national threats against the Muslim community, including arson attacks and vandalism, and an increase in bias crime reporting.