Less American Muslims in US terror cases

2011-02-02 22:15

New York - The number of US Muslims accused in terror plots dropped by more than half to 20 last year, and the targets were split evenly between domestic and overseas sites, according to a report released on Wednesday by a research group that tracks domestic security.

Five of the American Muslim suspects carried out their plans, including Faisal Shahzad, who tried to launch a May 1 attack in Times Square using a car stuffed with a bomb, and three other men who joined militant movements overseas.

Two suspects, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, had acquired weapons before they were apprehended. They were charged last year as accomplices with al-Qaeda associate Najibullah Zazi in a foiled 2009 plot to blow up New York subways.

The 13 other suspects were foiled before they had obtained weapons or explosives. One of those suspects, Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman who called herself "Jihad Jane," pleaded guilty on Tuesday to her role in a plan to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had offended Muslims.

The study is from the Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a consortium of Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and researchers RTI International.

The report's authors have been analysing public records of domestic terror cases since the September 11 2001, attacks, partly to monitor the threat of extremism in the American Muslim community.

US Muslims accused of sending money to overseas terrorist groups are not part of the studies.

Researchers found the largest number of home grown terror cases in 2009, with a total of 47 suspects. The spike that year was mainly due to the cases of 17 Somali-Americans believed to have joined Somalia's militant al-Shabaab movement.

The number of American Muslims trying to join al-Shabaab dropped to six last year. Separately, a Somali-born teenager, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was accused of plotting an attack on a busy Portland, Oregon, Christmas tree-lighting ceremony last Christmas.

Charles Kurzman, a sociologist who wrote the study that was released on Wednesday, said that given the widespread terrorist recruitment on the internet and elsewhere, he considered the number of domestic terror cases relatively small. More than 2 million Muslims live in the US.

"Terrorism is a significant problem and Muslim-Americans are more susceptible to terrorist recruitment than other Americans. Fortunately, their level of recruitment is extremely low," said Kurzman, who teaches at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Since 2001, a total of 161 American Muslims have been publicly accused of planning or carrying out terror attacks, according to the study. Eleven of the suspects successfully carried out their plans, killing 33 people. The researchers included in their tally Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical, US born Muslim cleric who is believed to be hiding in Yemen and is suspected of having inspired attacks on the US.

Almost two-thirds of the cases over the last decade were stopped in the early stages. Investigators do not disclose the source of their information in about two dozen of the cases.

Triangle Centre researchers found that 48 of the suspects since 2001 had been stopped by American Muslims who alerted authorities.