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The Special Case of Jihadist Terrorism


Terrorism and religiously motivated violence are not recent phenomena in American history, and are not unique to Islam.  But the emergence of a global jihadist movement in the late 20th century presented the United States with a unique challenge.  Although never more than a fringe movement among Muslims around the world, this deadly threat persists today, even after the death of Osama bin Laden and the waning of al-Qaeda’s influence.

Dating back to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, extremists inspired by global jihadism have committed at least eight successful or partially successful terrorist attacks within the United States.  At least 40 additional serious, yet ultimately unsuccessful, jihadist terrorist plots have targeted U.S. territory.  

Jihadist Terrorism in America

See full chronology: 1993-2012 (PDF)

  • Plot to Bomb Federal Reserve in New York – In October 2012, FBI agents arrested Quazi Mohammad Reswanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man who attempted to detonate what he believed was a 1000-pound bomb outside the New York Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan.  According to authorities, the Nafis entered the United States in January 2012 on a student visa with the intent of carrying out a terrorist attack.  In July, an FBI informant, whom Nafis had contacted in an effort to form a terrorist cell, introduced him to an undercover agent posing as a facilitator for al-Qaeda.  He then developed a terrorist plot, deciding to bomb the New York Federal Reserve Bank after determining that security around the New York Stock Exchange was too tight.  The FBI supplied him with (inert) explosive materials, from which Nafis constructed a bomb.  FBI agents arrested him after he parked a van carrying the bomb outside the bank building, then attempted to detonate the inert bomb by dialing a number on his cell phone.
  • Car Bomb Plot in ChicagoIn September 2012, authorities arrested Adel Daoud, an 18-year-old U.S. citizen of Egyptian origin, after he attempted to detonate a car bomb outside a Chicago bar.  The bomb, supplied by undercover FBI agents, contained inert explosives and did not pose a threat the public.  The FBI had identified Daoud as a potential threat when he began writing online in 2011 about his desire to engage in violent jihad against America.  Undercover agents, posing as members of a terrorist group, contacted Daoud in May 2012 to investigate his willingness to carry out a terrorist attack.  On several occasions afterward, Daoud expressed a desire to kill on a mass scale as revenge for U.S. persecution of Muslims.  According to authorities, the suspect selected the target and conducted research and surveillance for the attack.
  • Plot to Bomb Civilian Aircraft In April 2012, a double agent working with British and Saudi intelligence services thwarted a plot by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner.  The agent infiltrated AQAP and posed as an aspiring terrorist willing to conduct a suicide bombing.  After taking possession of a specially designed bomb constructed by an AQAP bomb-maker, he delivered the device to Saudi authorities, who then handed it over to the United States for analysis.  The CIA cooperated with Saudi and British intelligence services in tracking the terrorist plot, which was foiled before a specific aircraft was selected as a target.
  • Attempt to Attack the U.S Capitol In February 2012, authorities arrested Amine el-Khalifi, an illegal immigrant from Morocco, as he approached the U.S. Capitol building to initiate a shooting spree, to be followed by a suicide bombing.  El-Khalifi, who had been living illegally in Virginia for more than ten years, sought assistance for a terrorist attack from undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda operatives.  He was arrested a few blocks from the Capitol after taking possession of an (inoperable) MAC-10 automatic weapon and an (inoperable) suicide bomb vest from undercover agents.  According to law enforcement officials, he identified the target and the means of attack on his own.
  • Multiple Attacks Planned in Florida – In January 2012, FBI agents arrested Sami Osmakac, a naturalized American citizen from Kosovo, for planning a series of terrorist attacks in the Tampa Bay area.  Authorities arrested Osmakac after he took possession of inoperable firearms and explosives from an undercover FBI agent and attempted to arm a car bomb (also rendered inoperable).  Prior to his arrest, Osmakac made a video of himself saying he was willing to die to avenge wrongs committed against Muslims.