- 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.
While international terrorist organizations have encouraged HVEs to carry out attacks, in many instances, personal grievances influence their ideology, target selection, and violent acts.
HVEs can be radicalized by using mainstream and specialized social media that encourages attacks in the West or support for terrorists overseas.
Some HVEs draw inspiration from multiple terrorist organizations and adhere to Salafi-jihadism—an extremist interpretation of Islam. In his journal, Ahmad Khan Rahimi cited Anwar al-Aulaqi—a deceased al-Qa’ida cleric—and former Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propagandist Abu Mohammad al-Adnani as inspiration for his attacks in New Jersey and New York.
THREAT TO NEW JERSEY: HIGH
HVEs pose the greatest threat to New Jersey and will likely remain so this year.
- In 2016, five of the nation’s 38 HVEs were in the tri-state area, which consists of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
In September 2016, Ahmad Khan Rahimi carried out a series of attacks and successfully interdicted bombings in Seaside Park (Ocean County) and Elizabeth (Union County), New Jersey, and New York City. No injuries resulted from the New Jersey incidents, but 31 people suffered non-life threatening injuries from the explosions in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.
In January 2016, Philadelphia police arrested Edward Archer for shooting a Philadelphia police officer with a stolen firearm. Archer told responding officers he did so “in the name of Islam” and later pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
- Since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, approximately 270 Americans—120 of whom have been arrested—either traveled or attempted to travel to Iraq and Syria. The number of known Americans who attempted to travel or successfully traveled to join ISIS has decreased 78 percent since last year, from 32 in 2015 to seven in 2016.
In 2014, ISIS began directing followers to execute low-level unsophisticated attacks. After heavily favoring explosives from 2010-13, HVEs are now executing more successful small-scale attacks and using readily available handheld weapons, such as firearms and knives.