Cam­pus at­tack could be lat­est ter­ror case in heart­land state

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing ter­ror­ism as a pos­si­ble mo­tive in the car-and-knife at­tack on the Ohio State Univer­sity cam­pus, the lat­est in a se­ries of cases in­volv­ing young men who ap­par­ently be­came rad­i­cal­ized in the heart­land state.

They are still piec­ing to­gether in­for­ma­tion on the ac­tiv­i­ties of Ab­dul Razak Ali Ar­tan, the Ohio State stu­dent killed Nov 28 by a po­lice of­fi­cer af­ter he ran his car into oth­ers and be­gan slash­ing with a butcher knife.

Among other re­cent cases that left peo­ple close to the sus­pects stunned, one man has been sen­tenced to 20 years in prison, an­other will be sen­tenced Mon­day and an­other was ar­rested last month. Their cases have sim­i­lar­i­ties, but also dif­fer­ences, un­der­scor­ing the chal­lenges to un­der­stand­ing what causes some­one to em­brace Is­lamic State calls to vi­o­lence and how to spot home­grown ter­ror­ists.

“The fact is, any­body can be a ter­ror­ist,” said James For­est, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Ter­ror­ism and Se­cu­rity Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts-Lowell. The pro­fes­sor said re­search has shown a broad spec­trum for how long it takes some­one to be­come rad­i­cal­ized. Some­one liv­ing a seem­ingly nor­mal life can be “de­railed” in a mat­ter of days or weeks.

Cit­ing Ar­tan, whose act ap­par­ently had lit­tle fore­shad­ow­ing, For­est said: “How could you iden­tify this per­son on the street as a po­ten­tial threat?” Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, 22, faces sen­tenc­ing Mon­day for a plot to as­sault the US Capi­tol in sup­port of the Is­lamic State group. Mu­nir Ab­dulka­der, 22, of the Cincin­nati sub­urb of West Ch­ester Town­ship, was sen­tenced Nov. 23 to 20 years for an IS-in­volved plot to kill a mil­i­tary vet­eran and at­tack a po­lice sta­tion. In Colum­bus, Aaron T Daniels, 20, was ar­rested in early Novem­ber at the air­port on his way, au­thor­i­ties said, to fly to Libya to fight for the Is­lamic State. A look at the re­cent cases:

The al­leged plots

Cor­nell wanted to go into the Capi­tol build­ing dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union ad­dress and shoot the pres­i­dent and oth­ers in­clud­ing mem­bers of Congress, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. Ab­dulka­der wanted to be­head a mil­i­tary vet­eran while tap­ing for a pro­pa­ganda video, then storm a po­lice sta­tion with guns and Molo­tov cock­tails. Daniels planned to go to Libya to fight to help es­tab­lish an Is­lamic State caliphate there, pros­e­cu­tors have said.


Ar­tan was born in the east­ern African na­tion of So­ma­lia, lived with his fam­ily seven years in Pak­istan and re­set­tled with them in Dal­las in 2014 and then Colum­bus. He was raised as a Mus­lim. He grad­u­ated with hon­ors from Colum­bus State Com­mu­nity Col­lege, and was in his first se­mes­ter at Ohio State. Cor­nell is a Cincin­nati-area na­tive who lived with his par­ents and brother in a Green Town­ship apart­ment. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school, he be­gan iden­ti­fy­ing as a Mus­lim; grow­ing his beard long, wear­ing tra­di­tional garb and call­ing him­self Ra­heel Mahrus Ubay­dah. Ab­dulka­der was born in the tiny east African na­tion of Eritrea. Raised in sub­ur­ban Cincin­nati as a Mus­lim, he stud­ied chem­istry at Xavier Univer­sity.

Daniels had grad­u­ated from Early Col­lege Academy, af­ter at­tend­ing an al­ter­na­tive high school in Colum­bus. His mother told The Colum­bus Dis­patch the fam­ily wasn’t Mus­lim, but he had be­come in­ter­ested in Is­lam years ago.


Ar­tan re­port­edly posted on Face­book about the treat­ment of Mus­lims, such as the killing of mi­nor­ity Mus­lims in the south­east Asian na­tion of Myan­mar, and warn­ing that the United States should leave their coun­tries alone. In­ves­ti­ga­tors say they haven’t yet found any di­rect con­nec­tion to the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists. “We only be­lieve he may have been in­spired” by the group, said FBI spe­cial agent An­gela By­ers. Ar­tan also might have been in­flu­enced by An­war Al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric with a lead­er­ship role in Al-Qaeda be­fore dy­ing in a 2011 US drone strike in Ye­men, By­ers said.

Cor­nell’s at­tor­neys say he self-rad­i­cal­ized and lived a fan­tasy life on his com­puter, read­ing ISIS pro­pa­ganda and con­spir­acy the­o­ries on­line. They say he was steered in his vi­o­lent plot­ting by an FBI con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant. Ab­dulka­der be­gan post­ing mes­sages of sup­port for ex­trem­ists on so­cial me­dia in 2014, and com­mu­ni­cated with Ju­naid Hus­sain, an IS re­cruiter re­ported killed last year in Syria in a U.S. drone strike. Au­thor­i­ties say Hus­sain helped him de­velop his plot, although his at­tor­ney also blamed an FBI con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant for push­ing him.

Daniels be­gan in 2015 post­ing so­cial me­dia mes­sages in sup­port of ji­had and in­sur­gency in Afghanistan and against Russian-Ira­nian in­volve­ment in Syria, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties said. They said Daniels was en­cour­aged by an Is­lamic State re­cruiter, Abu Isa Al-Am­riki, who was killed in May by an airstrike in Syria. An un­der­cover agent helped in­ter­cept Daniels, au­thor­i­ties said.

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