Al-Shabaab’s threat to New Jersey is low, as the group lacks the capability to direct attacks against the United States and continues to focus operations in Africa.
AQAP has demonstrated the intent and capability to act outside its primary area of operations in Yemen and has attempted to strike the United States on three occasions since 2009. The group failed to release its English-language magazine, Inspire, in 2018, the first year without an issue since the publication’s inception in 2009.
On March 15, a 28-year-old Australian male, identified as Brenton Tarrant, opened fire on worshipers at the Masjid Al Noor mosque and Linwood Masjid mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, resulting in at least 49 deaths and 48 injuries. Tarrant, a suspected white supremacist extremist, and two other alleged associates are in police custody while the incident remains under investigation.
Sovereign citizen extremists in New Jersey often rely on “paper terrorism,” such as filing fraudulent liens against public officials or self-identifying in court paperwork, but can resort to violence when challenged by law enforcement. In May 2016, legislation in New Jersey enhanced penalties associated with the filing of fraudulent liens to retaliate against public officials. Sovereign citizens have since adopted new methods to circumvent the law.
ISIS West Africa’s tactical successes and support in Nigeria have given the group the ability to expand its influence throughout the Sahel in the coming months, threatening US economic interests in the region, including direct investment opportunities. ISIS West Africa, formed in 2016 following a split with Boko Haram, operates primarily in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region and maintains an estimated 5,000 fighters, according to open-source reporting.
Anarchist extremists will mobilize in response to issues they believe are unjust, carry out criminal and violent acts during otherwise First Amendment-protected events and protests, and target perceived enemies. Throughout 2018, anarchist extremists were actively engaged in criminal activities in the tri-state region, resulting in at least 20 arrests.
HVEs pose the greatest threat to New Jersey due to their presence in the United States, ability to conduct and plot attacks using simple methods, and susceptibility to online terrorist propaganda. An NJOHSP review has identified at least 179 HVEs between 2015-18, with 34 arrested in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania for conducting attacks, organizing plots, and providing material support to foreign terrorist groups, namely ISIS and al-Qa’ida.
The 2019 Terrorism Threat Assessment is designed to give our customers an understanding of the terrorist threat to New Jersey this year. As we continue into 2019, NJOHSP will build upon this assessment through briefings, written products, and webinars to provide analysis that is relevant, timely, accurate, and insightful.