The 2018 Terrorism Threat Assessment is designed to give our customers an understanding of the terrorist threat to New Jersey this year. As we continue into 2018, NJOHSP will build upon this assessment through briefings, written products, and webinars to provide analysis that is relevant, timely, accurate, and insightful.
Terrorist organizations in North Africa—namely al-Shabaab, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Boko Haram—continue to kidnap Westerners for political leverage and fundraising, potentially
impacting business operations for New Jersey-based companies with locations in the region. At this time, NJOHSP has no specific or credible information that these groups are explicitly targeting New Jersey companies or their employees.
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.
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.
NJOHSP encourages the public, law enforcement, first responders, and our private- and public-sector partners to report suspicious activity that could be related to terrorism. In the last few years, such reports in the tristate area led to investigations that thwarted several terrorist plots. Here are a few incidents where a suspicious activity report helped uncover and frustrate possible attacks.
Recent attacks in the West and renewed US raids in AQAP-controlled areas have prompted al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to disseminate new propaganda aimed at inspiring and providing tactical guidance to sympathizers in the United States. In January, Nawar al-Aulaqi—the eight-year-old daughter of deceased US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi—was killed when US forces raided an AQAP-controlled area in a remote desert region of Yemen. AQAP has since leveraged this operation to spread anti-American rhetoric and motivate supporters in the West.
On April 20, ISIS claimed responsibility for a shooting against law enforcement officers in Paris, killing one and injuring two, declaring the perpetrator a “fighter of the Islamic State.” This is the second ISIS strike this year against police officers in Europe. At this time, there are no known or credible threats to New Jersey.
After foreign terrorist calls to attack shopping malls in the West, which has been circulating in propaganda since 2015, the Limbecker Platz mall in the western German city of Essen closed on March 11. Two men were arrested after German police received a tip that ISIS contacted followers in Germany to attack the mall—the second terror plot against malls in the country since December 2016.