Home inSight There’s Nothing “Homegrown” About the Boston Terror Attacks

There’s Nothing “Homegrown” About the Boston Terror Attacks

Shoshana Bryen

The discovery that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lived in the United States for a decade produced a spate of theorizing over “homegrown” terrorism and terrorists. Baseball, Google and iPhones are homegrown. There is nothing “homegrown” about Islamic terrorism, which is taught, bought and paid for by international sponsors, primarily Iran and Wahabi Saudi Arabia. The fact that jihadists buy people living in the United States — often immigrants or first generation Americans — doesn’t make the terror less a foreign import.

A 2007 NYPD study Radicalization in the West: the Homegrown Threat concluded that “Susceptible people seek an identity or a cause and often self-identify before finding compatriots.” Such people may first drop into Internet sites and chat rooms that are trolled by people — professional jihadists — looking for potential recruits. The report called the Internet “an enabler, providing an anonymous virtual meeting place.” Most people, the report concluded, drop out of the radical orbit at various points, but not all.

What if Tamerlan Tsarnaev never dropped out?

According to the International Business Times Tamerlan listened to Feiz Mohammad on YouTube. Feiz, a radical imam born in Australia to Lebanese parents, played the sermons of Anwar al Awlaki, preached that women are responsible for rape, and Dutch politician Geert Wilders should be decapitated. In a 2007 documentary, he told children, “There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a Muhajid.” Feiz’s whereabouts are unknown – he may be in Lebanon or perhaps in Malaysia. But it doesn’t matter – his Internet presence lives around the world.

Praise for The Black Flag of Khorasan, a reference to Muslim Armageddon in jihadist ideology, appears on what is said to have been on Tsarnaev’s Facebook page. Assuming it was his, it is important to understand the shift in the Chechen wars from nationalist to Islamist, precipitated by waves of Saudi money and ideology.  In 2011, Bill Roggio of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies wrote in Long War Journal:

  • Jihadists based in the Afghan-Pakistan region who claim to be members of the ‘Caucasus Mujahideen in Khorasan’ issued a  videotape to their “brothers” in the Islamic Caucasus Emirate and their emir, Doku Umarov… “Praise be to Allah, we are thankful for  our Emirate,” Abdullah continues. “We have announced the enemy of the Muslims to be our enemy, and we fight for the word of Allah. We are setting our nation not for worldly purposes, but in the name of an Islamic Caliphate and an Islamic State.”

The Economic Warfare Institute (EWI) described the Saudi Umar Ibn al-Khatib, who went to Chechnya in 1997 and became the leader of the foreign mujahideen, running training camps and receiving favorable fatwas from al Qaeda leaders.  Al-Khatib called the Chechen war “not just a Chechen matter but an Islamic matter, like Afghanistan.”  EWI cites Matthew Evangelista of the Brookings Institution writing in 2002:

  • “They [the Wahabis] went to the market and they paid with dollars. There was no power here; there was disorder everywhere, and their influence was very strong,” said a Chechen administrator exemplifying the Wahhabis’ modus operandi in Chechnya. “The poor Chechen people were already suffering so much, and our young guys simply couldn’t think. They were ready to accept any ideas.”

Saudi money and Saudi Wahabi ideology were gasoline on the fire. If they moved the Chechen uprising into Sunni expansionist jihad, they could also have sponsored the Tsarnaev brothers in the U.S.  Tamerlan, an aspiring boxer, appears to have had no job; Dzhokhar was a student. Their parents had returned to Russia and they were estranged from their uncle. How did they pay rent and tuition?  Or pay for the white Mercedes Tamerlan was reported to drive? Tamerlan told his uncle, “God will provide.”

God? Or jihad?

This raises two more questions. Are there accomplices or masterminds still in the United States? And who is Abdul Rahman Ali Issa Al-Salimi Al-Harbi?

The British newspaper The Daily Mirror (British papers, oddly, have been ahead of American papers at many points) reports that Boston police and the FBI are indeed hunting for accomplices and, perhaps, for the mastermind. “A source close to the investigation said: ‘We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices… were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google… Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.'”

This leads to the question of the injured Saudi national called a “person of interest” in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.  Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal arrived in Washington the next day, had an unscheduled meeting with President Obama, and a meeting with Secretary of State Kerry that was abruptly closed to the press. Counterterrorism expert Steve Emerson, citing sources in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the result was that Al-Harbi would leave the United States. “This is the way things are done with Saudi Arabia,” he said. “You don’t arrest their citizens, you deport them because they don’t want them to be embarrassed.”

The Saudi news site Okaz.com has a picture of a smiling, attractive young man in a hospital gown sitting in a chair with only a red spot on his hand as evidence of injury, making you wonder why he wasn’t released. The Blaze translates the Arabic story, saying the young man said he was “grateful” to American authorities for the treatment he received and that they had “apologized profusely” to him for searching his apartment. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was extremely irritated by questions about him asked during a hearing in the House.

She shouldn’t be.  The obligation of the Department of Homeland Security is to protect the people of the United States from terrorism, “homegrown” — or in this case, it appears, not.