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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat

Jerome P. Bjelopera
Analyst in Organized Crime and Terrorism

Mark A. Randol
Specialist in Domestic Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism


Between May 2009 and August 2010, arrests were made for 19 “homegrown,” jihadist-inspired terrorist plots by American citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. Two of these resulted in attacks—U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan’s alleged assault at Fort Hood in Texas and Abdulhakim Muhammed’s shooting at the U.S. Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock, Arkansas—and produced 14 deaths. By comparison, in more than seven years from the September 11, 2001, terrorist strikes (9/11) through May 2009, there were 21 such plots. Two resulted in attacks, and no more than six plots occurred in a single year (2006). The apparent spike in such activity after May 2009 suggests that at least some Americans—even if a tiny minority—continue to be susceptible to ideologies supporting a violent form of jihad.

This report describes homegrown violent jihadists and the plots and attacks that have occurred since 9/11. “Homegrown” and “domestic” are terms that describe terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States. The term “jihadist” describes radicalized individuals using Islam as an ideological and/or religious justification for their belief in the establishment of a global caliphate, or jurisdiction governed by a Muslim civil and religious leader known as a caliph. The term “violent jihadist” characterizes jihadists who have made the jump to illegally supporting, plotting, or directly engaging in violent terrorist activity.

The report also discusses the radicalization process and the forces driving violent extremist activity. It analyzes post-9/11 domestic jihadist terrorism, describes law enforcement and intelligence efforts to combat terrorism and the challenges associated with those efforts. It also outlines actions underway to build trust and partnership between community groups and government agencies and the tensions that may occur between law enforcement and engagement activities. One appendix provides details about each of the post-9/11 homegrown jihadist terrorist plots and attacks. A second appendix describes engagement and partnership activities by federal agencies with Muslim-American communities. Finally, the report offers policy considerations for Congress.

There is an “executive summary” at the beginning that summarizes the report’s findings, observations, and policy considerations for Congress.



Date of Report: September 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 128
Order Number: R41416
Price: $29.95

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