Washington: In view of the spate of arrests of home grown extremists and busting of terror plots inside the country, a top New York police official told American lawmakers that the "radicalisation to violence" is now taking place in the United States.
"Given the evidence of the past 12-month period, one must conclude that radicalisation to violence is occurring in the United States," said Mitchell Silber, director of Analysis, New York City Police Department.
The threat of home-grown terrorists has now materialised in the United States, which is reflective in the uncovering of a number of radicalised clusters of individuals intent on committing violent Jihad both within the US and abroad, told a Congressional hearing on the Fort Hood attack.
The hearing was convened by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He said that two Chicago men, David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last month on charges of plotting terrorist attacks in India and Denmark, appeared to have radicalised in US.
"This is the group that was responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Though these men seemed to be plotting against targets in Denmark, once again it appears that these individuals were radicalised in the United States," he said.
In most of these cases, which were reported in recent times, the individuals have travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan and even Kashmir to be indoctrinated in jihadi mentality, Silber said.
Approximately one year ago, in November of 2008, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a warning related to an al Qaeda-linked terrorist plot against the Long Island Railroad Commuter Network.
The origins of this plot linked directly to Bryant Neal Vinas, a New Yorker who radicalised to violence in and around New York City before travelling to Pakistan to participate in violent jihad, he said.
In April, 2009, before their arrest by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, four men placed what they believed was C4 explosives outside of a Jewish synagogue and community centre in Riverdale in an attempt to carry out a terrorist act.
These men were radicalised in the United States, he said.
Again in July of 2009, seven men were arrested by federal authorities in North Carolina. They possessed weapons and more than 27,000 rounds of ammunition and had plans to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia.
These men, known as "the Raleigh seven," were inspired by al Qaeda and also radicalised in the United States, he added.
"At least 15 men of Somali descent have radicalised in Minnesota over the last few years and have left the United States to fight in Somalia," Silber said.
"Our fear is what happens when they return to the United States. Australia has already thwarted a plot, just this year, involving individuals who fought against Al-Shabaab and then returned to Melbourne seeking to attack an Australian military base," he said.
"This past September also saw plots involving "lone wolves" in both Dallas, Texas and Springfield, Illinois. In Dallas, a large office building was targeted with the vehicle-borne explosive; in Springfield the federal building was targeted. Though these individuals were not part of any group, much of their radicalisation seems US-based," Silber said.
Further this past September Najibullah Zazi, 24, was arrested as part of an al Qaeda-linked conspiracy to attack locations in New York City with hydrogen peroxide-based explosives. It is also noteworthy, he said, that in the past year there have been a half dozen cases of individuals who, instead of travelling abroad to carry out violence, they have elected to do it here in the United States.
This is substantially different from what we have seen in the past and may reflect an emerging pattern, he said.
First Published: Friday, November 20, 2009, 14:30