US sees rise in number of militant plots over last year

Between May 2009 and November 2010, arrests were made for 22 "homegrown" jihadist inspired terrorist plots by American citizens or legal permanent residents of the US, said the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its latest report 'American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat'.

The CRS, which is an independent bipartisan wing of the Congress, in its report said two of these plots resulted in attacks —- US Army Major Nidal Hasan's alleged assault at Fort Hood in Texas and Abdulhakim Muhammed's shooting at the US Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock, Arkansas -- and led to 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)," said the CRS which produces periodic reports on issues of interest to US lawmakers.

Citing the example of David Coleman Headley – the Mumbai attack accused – the report said homegrown terrorists can be nimble adversaries, because as US citizens or legal permanent residents, they can travel easily between the United States and foreign countries.

While abroad, they could receive training from foreign terrorist organisations, conduct surveillance operations against foreign targets, and plan attacks.

In the case of recent immigrants to the United States, they are particularly comfortable moving between American and foreign cultural contexts.English language skills, the ability to navigate Western culture, society, and context are likely key ingredients for successful strikes.

"On March 18, 2010, David Headley, born Daood Sayed Gilani to an American mother and Pakistani father, pled guilty to helping plan the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and for plotting to attack the offices of a newspaper in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"Headley was able to use his American citizenship and Pakistani heritage to move between the United States and abroad for seven years during which time he received terrorist training in Pakistan and scouted locations in India and Denmark for terrorist attacks," the report said.

The CRS also said that for 10 years prior to his involvement in a September 2009 plot to trigger explosive devices in New York City's subways, Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant legally present in the United States, lived in the New York City Borough of Queens and had family in Pakistan.

Although the report is largely focused on radicalisation and violent jihadist plotting, there are other illegal methods for individuals to assist terrorists.

Radicalisation may lead people to help terrorist organisations by illegally providing them material support unrelated to specific violent jihadist plots, it says.The report records at least six such of support to terrorist organisations like al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In one such drugs-for-arms case, Ilyas Ali, a naturalised US citizen born in India, admitted to conspiring in 2002 with two Pakistanis to supply Al Qaeda with anti-aircraft missiles bought using proceeds from the sale of heroin and hashish.

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