New Jersey Jihadists Radicalized by Cleric Anwar Awlaki
June 7, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-Two New Jersey-based American citizens were arrested at JFK airport on Saturday evening, as they prepared to board separate flights to Egypt and later travel to Somalia to join the Islamic terror group al- Shabab. The men, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, 20, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 24, are part of a growing and disturbing group of young Americans influenced, by radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar Awlaki. To date, Awlaki has been linked to the Fort Hood shooter, the failed Christmas day bombing and to Faisal Shahzad’s foiled attempt to ignite a car bomb in Times Square.
Alessa was born in the U.S. to Palestinian and Jordanian parents. Almonte is a naturalized citizen who was born in the Dominican Republic. Alessa and Almonte were charged by federal authorities with conspiring to kill, maim and kidnap people outside the United States. According to the 17-page criminal complaint, “they periodically listened to Anwar Awlaki, a U.S.-born, Yemen-based Islamic cleric who preaches jihad…”
Federal authorities have been tracking the pair, since 2006 when a relative notified the F.B.I. that they frequently scoured the Internet for terrorist videos. The investigation was aided by an undercover New York cop. Alessa and Almonte traveled to Jordan in 2007 to become mujahedin fighters, but returned home after failing to become recruited.
Although the investigation did not turn up any concrete plans by the pair to engage in terror activities within the U.S., the risk was certainly present:
‘”They only fear you when you have a gun and … when you take their head and … behead it on camera…. We’ll start doing killing here if I can’t do it over there,” Alessa allegedly told Almonte and the undercover agent in November.”
Meanwhile, Anwar Awlaki remains in hiding in Yemen and is considered to be such a lethal threat to America, that he has become the first American placed on the C.I.A.’s shoot to kill terrorist list. Awlaki lures young recruits to his cause using the Internet. His radical videos and lectures are easily accessible, and are responsible for radicalizing many young American Muslims, with his violent rhetoric and hate for America:
‘“America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil,” he said in a statement posted on extremist Web sites in March. Though he had spent 21 of his 39 years in the United States, he added, “I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.”’
Charles B. McKenna, director of Homeland Security’s New Jersey office, issued a statement pointing out the growing concern among law enforcement officials, of young Americans becoming radicalized to turn against their own country. “The radicalization of our youth, like gang recruitment, is real and continues to pose concerns,” said Mckenna. “We must be vigilant in stopping our young men and women from being co-opted and trained to do us harm.”
Aless and Almonte are due to be arraigned in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, on Monday.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons/Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.