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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Who Really Inspired Nasser Abdo?

New details continue to emerge regarding Nasser Abdo, the would-be terrorist who was arrested before he could carry out an attack on military personnel stationed at Fort Hood.

Abdo's own words indicate he was inspired by Nidal Hasan, the Army major and devotee of Anwar Awlaki who killed 13 people in a shooting spree in November 2009. And a search of his hotel room revealed he was also reading Inspire magazine, which is published by Awlaki and his followers and urges Americans to take up "individual jihad" by plotting solitary attacks.

But here's something else to consider. Abdo, it now appears, was planning to carry out a complex attack using a bomb, in combination with a shooting attack, while wearing a fake military uniform.

Just days earlier, Norwegian right-winger Anders Breivik had carried out a complex attack that combined a bomb with a shooting spree, employing a fake police uniform in the process.

Breivik's attack was carried out July 22. Abdo didn't purchase the guns and other supplies for his attack until July 27.

We don't know enough to draw any firm conclusions here, but I will be very curious to see how the timeline of Abdo's alleged attack plays out as his court case progresses.

One of the worrisome things about Breivik's spectacular terrorist attack is that its most successful features are relatively easy to emulate compared to the work of a bomb design genius like Ramzi Yousef, or expensive and complicated attacks like September 11 which require a robust support network.

My concern is that Breivik has provided a "proof of concept" not previously seen in the terrorist world, which shows terrorists of any ideology just how much impact one person can have. Could Abdo have been moved closer to action by this example? We don't have enough information to be certain, but it's a provocative -- and worrying -- question.

For much more about American jihadists, check out J.M. Berger's new book, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, on sale everywhere.

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Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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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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