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Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Look Into The Troubled Mind Of Jihadist Emerson Begolly

Prosecutors this week filed a raft of documents to support the detention of Emerson Begolly, a Western Pennsylvania jihadist arrested January 4. Begolly bit two FBI agents who were arresting him, drawing blood. The biting was a diversion as he attempted to draw a loaded 9-millimeter concealed on his person.

Exhibits in support of detention of Emerson Begolly (PDF)

Begolly, who used the online handle "Abu Nancy" (a reference to his "imaginary daughter," Nancy), disclosed a lot of interesting information about himself in chats with an online associate. They discussed "lone wolf" attacks such as loading a car with propane tanks and crashing it into a wall. His chat partner claimed to be stockpiling weapons and supplies for a "special project." A YouTube user with the same handle as the other person subscribes to a number of Islamic and jihadist-oriented channels.

Another of Begolly's chat partners claimed to have been in communication with Colleen Larose, aka Jihad Jane, who was indicted for taking part in a plot to kill Dutch cartoonist Lars Vilks for depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Like many would-be jihadists, Begolly had a fetishized view of women, relating at one point a dream in which he saw one of the "houri" who await Islamic martyrs in heaven. "She said she will marry me if I am shaheed (a martyr)," Begolly wrote.

While he was having these dreams, "Abu Nancy" wrote, he was sleeping with a loaded AK-47 next to his bed. He told his online friend that when "they" found his martyred corpse, it would have a "smile a mile wide" and "a bulge in my pants."

His chat partner speculated that Adam Gadahn, Anwar Awlaki and Osama bin Laden "surely yearn" for the houris as much they did. (I'm sure he's right about one out of three.) The two then took part in an interesting conversation in which they tried to justify why the three Al Qaeda figureheads had not taken part in martyrdom operations themselves. The discussion (on page 23 of the PDF linked below) is fodder for those working on deradicalization and narrative-adjustment.

Another relevant comment in this vein: "If America were not at war with Islam, I would not hate it."

Begolly is also an interesting case study in the confluence of fringe right-wing thinking and radical Islam. He repeatedly states in chat that he hates Mexicans. In one transcript, he says his father is "presumably" a member of a militia that "thinks Obama wants to kill white people." Begolly said that if the FBI tried to arrest him he would "make Waco look like a tea party."

Begolly also discussed killing children in the name of jihad. "Please don't think I'm a psychopath," he wrote, "but would you object to a child or unarmed non-combatant [as a target]?" His chat partner felt there were causes which would justify killing children, such as the release of Muslim prisoners, suggesting that it would be acceptable to take hostages at a school and exchange the children for prisoners. "And I would not call you a psychopath for doing as you believe is right and proper."

For more about American jihadists, check out my new book, "Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam," the first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of American jihadists from the 1970s to the present. The book is scheduled to be released in April/May 2011. Pre-orders are available now. For information about review copies or for media interviews on American jihadists, contact me here.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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