Extremists’ Steadfast Intent to Target US Aviation

Extremists continue to exploit vulnerable locations around airports, such as departure halls, baggage claims, and curbside dropoffs, because these areas are open to the public and have limited security. Last year, there were three attacks targeting the Aviation Sector in the United States, which were outside of screening areas.

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  • In October 2017, Michael Christopher Estes placed an improvised explosive device (IED) outside the entrance of Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina. While being arrested, Estes claimed he wanted to “fight a war on US soil.”
     
  • In June 2017, Amor Ftouhi—a Salafi-jihadist—attacked a police officer with a knife outside the Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. Prior to his arrest, Ftouhi yelled, “Allahu akbar,” while assaulting the officer, according to reports.
     
  • In January 2017, New Jersey native Esteban Santiago-Ruiz opened fire near the baggage claim of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, killing five and injuring 42. After the FBI arrested him, Santiago claimed he acted on behalf of ISIS.
     
  • In July 2017, Australian authorities arrested two brothers after they received IED components and instructions from Turkey. They attempted to conceal the IEDs in a meat grinder to avoid airport security and board a flight to Abu Dhabi with the devices in carry-on luggage. They failed to get the luggage on board because it exceeded the airline’s weight restrictions.
     
  • Since 2009, AQAP has plotted unsuccessfully to blow up airliners over the United States three times using various non-metallic explosive devices, which can evade security detection. The chief architect of these attacks, bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, likely remains active in Yemen.

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.