More Suicide Attacks Likely
On July 7, a new type of terrorist group attacked London—English natives who were sucked into an angry, anti-British subculture that drove them to attack their own homeland. Afterward, many analysts said that because Muslims in America tend to be better integrated than those in Britain, the chances of such an event happening in the U.S. were slim.
On September 1, reality displaced faulty assumptions when the U.S. attorney general said that though some believe attacks like those in London could not happen in the United States, “today we have chilling evidence that it is possible” (Associated Press, September 1).
The attorney general was referring to a foiled terrorist attack in Los Angeles that would have assaulted U.S. military facilities, the Israeli Consulate and synagogues throughout the area. Four men were indicted on charges of plotting these attacks from inside the California State Prison in Sacramento. The instigator was Kevin Lamar James, who founded the radical Islamic group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (jis) inside the prison in 1997, encouraging violent attacks on the U.S. government and supporters of Israel—or any so-called enemy of Islam.
He encouraged his followers, upon their release, to recruit supporters without criminal convictions, which they did. Two of his followers robbed a string of gas stations in Los Angeles and Orange counties to finance attacks, which were to take place on Jewish holidays to maximize casualties in the synagogues. If one of the radicals had not accidentally left his cell phone behind during one of the robberies, the plot would likely have never been detected until the attacks were launched. Without that one stroke of random coincidence, investigators would not have known this terrorist cell was operational, much less that deadly attacks were imminent.
“Make no mistake about it—we dodged a bullet here, perhaps many bullets,” Los Angeles police chief William Bratton said.
The fbi is concerned that prisoners are converting to the most radical forms of Islam. Agents have been ordered to conduct “threat assessments” of those who may engage in acts of violence in the name of Islam upon release from prison. The acting assistant chief of the fbi’s Los Angeles office, Randy Parsons, wrote that “recent investigations have identified a clear need to increase the fbi’s focus and commitment in this area” (ibid., August 31). In February, fbi director Robert Mueller warned the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that prisons are “fertile ground for extremists.” But the Senate was updated on the influence of radical Islam in prisons in October of 2003—almost two years prior to the foiled Los Angeles attack; clearly, the fact that investigators know the problem exists has not quashed it.
The U.S. is the preferred target for terrorists. The rand Corporation noted in September 2004 that suicide attacks have made a steady increase in the last decade and warned that the U.S. is next in line for more attacks. In the first quarter of 2004 alone, more than 100 suicide attacks were launched. Last year, the number of attacks deemed “significant” by the U.S. government more than tripled. This does not include attacks on military personnel, such as those in Iraq.
With a rising threat of terrorism worldwide, and a now proven potential for terrorism to grow from within the U.S. prison system, terrorism in the U.S. is more likely than ever. When seeing these attacks take place in other countries, we would do well to remember: The terrorists’ number-one target is not Britain or Egypt or Bangladesh; they want to bring down the United States of America. Next time, they might not drop a phone.