The frightening plot to kill 150 National Guard members that unraveled last week when FBI agents nabbed two Chicago-area cousins was the 64th case since 9/11 of Islamist terrorists plotting to strike on American soil, according to a new report that warns the radicalizing influence of ISIS must be dealt with in the U.S. and abroad.
Illinois National Guardsman Hasan Edmonds, 22, was nabbed last Wednesday at Chicago's Midway Airport, where he was trying to board a plane enroute to the Middle East to join ISIS, according to authorities. Jonas Edmonds, 29, intended to don his cousin's uniform and mount a one-man attack on the Joliet Armory, where Hasan’s National Guard unit was based, authorities said.
“So long as terror groups are able to conduct notable attacks and control territory, they will continue to inspire additional radicals around the world.”
- David Inserra, Heritage Foundation
Like most of the post-9/11 terror attacks planned against Americans in their homeland, the plot was thwarted. But analysts, including experts at the Heritage Foundation, which tracks each case, saythe number of attempts will continue to climb, and more plots are likely to succeed without aggressive counter-measures.
“So long as terror groups are able to conduct notable attacks and control territory, they will continue to inspire additional radicals around the world,” David Inserra, research associate in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, told Fox News. “While the U.S. and its allies must continue to try to stop terror attacks with all the tools at their disposal, the West must also defeat ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups to prevent the spread of their violent ideology.”
By the count of Inserra and co-author Peter Brookes, senior fellow for National Security Affairs at Heritage, the Edmonds' plot was the 17th aimed at the military. Some 53 of the 64 plots Heritage considers terrorism on American soil were plotted or perpetrated by homegrown extremists. The Washington think tank includes several instances not officially recognized by the U.S. government as terrorism.
Heritage's exclusive tracking of planned or consummated attacks in the U.S. includes:
- December, 2001: Failed "shoebomber" Richard Reid tried to blow up a Miami-bound flight from Paris.
- May, 2002: Radicalized former gang member Jose Padilla was arrested for allegedly plotting to detonate a “dirty bomb.”
- May, 2003: Lyman Faris of Columbus, Ohio, arrested for conspiring to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.
- June 2006: The "Liberty City Seven," members of a Florida religious cult, were arrested in a plot to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower and other government buildings.
- April 15, 2013: Ethnic Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carried out the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and wounded 260. Tamerlan was killed days after the attack; Dzhokhar's trial, in which he claimed his brother was the driving force in the attack, is concluding.
- Sept. 25, 2014: Alton Nolen, a "lone wolf" radical who had frightened co-workers at an Oklahoma meat packing company with his Islamic extremist rantings, decapitated a woman he worked with before a company executive could shoot him. He is awaiting trial.
- Jan. 14, 2015: Christopher Cornell aka Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, who the FBI said was a supporter of the Islamic State, was charged with planning to bomb the U.S. Capitol and shoot those who fled from the area.
The Heritage report said legitimate government surveillance programs and a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy are vital components of U.S. national security both home and abroad.
“Since the inspirational source of domestic radicalization and terrorism often originates from overseas, battling violent Islamist extremism abroad must be addressed in concert with the challenges presented by the terrorism at home,” Inserra and Brookes said.
Inserra and Brookes also emphasize the importance of community outreach to build trust in local communities: “If the United States is to thwart lone-wolf terrorist attacks successfully, it must put effective community outreach operations at the tip of the spear.”
Ryan Mauro, national security analyst and adjunct professor of Homeland Security for the Clarion Project, agrees the number of plots and Americans being caught trying to join Islamist terrorist groups has significantly increased in recent years, particularly with the rise of ISIS.
Additionally, there are dramatic increases in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide, the number of individual Salafist terrorists and the number of individual Salafist terrorist groups, Mauro said.
“What we see is that overall global support for Islamist extremist groups is decreasing but the rate of violence within that Islamist pool is increasing as that contraction happens,” Mauro said.
ISIS alone has drawn some 20,000 foreign fighters from as many as 90 countries to aid in its terrifying war around the globe.
And despite six months of a U.S.-led coalition air campaign, ISIS now controls one-third of Iraq and one-third of Syria, and has received “pledges of allegiance” from other terrorist groups around the world, including Africa’s most feared terrorism group, Boko Haram.
“Until the U.S. is able to effectively combat and destroy ISIS, the U.S. will remain the target of terrorists inspired by ISIS’s extreme ideology,” Inserra and Brookes said. “The U.S. cannot afford complacency, but must instead work to stop terrorists before they strike through the use of intelligence, community outreach, and efforts to defeat ISIS abroad.”
ISIS’s high profile attacks, like the one against Paris’ Charlie Hebdo, its beheadings of 21 Coptic Egyptian Christian fishermen in Syria, its burning alive of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kaseasbeh, its public crucifixions, its murderous campaign against gays and use of child assassins, have shocked the world.
“It might be argued that perceptions of the Islamic State or al Qaeda affiliates as ‘winners,’ despite their acts of brutality and terror, will serve as a powerful motivator for radicalization and violence,” Inserra and Brookes said. “Unless this perception is altered through any number of possible means, these groups will continue to attract followers both at home and abroad, ensuring a continuation of their brand of violent Islamist extremism.”
Hanan Richter, an Israeli who is president and CEO of Houston-based Instinctive Shooting International, trains U.S. military, government agencies, Department of Defense contractors and local law enforcement offers in a variety of special-ops strategies, including anti-terrorism, tactical response, urban-based policing, intelligence, asymmetric warfare, explosives and aviation security.
He believes there were likely many more than 64 attacks planned against American targets since 9-11, physical or through cyber terror, which never became public.
“Terrorism is a reality that we cannot ignore and we are playing with fire if we do,” Richter said.
“American targets, businesses, military and citizens, and are a high priority for terrorists for a simple reason: Radical Islam looks at America as the big Satan,” he said, adding that America’s ally Israel, his homeland, is considered as the “small Satan” by Islamic radicals.
Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman