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Made in America: Homegrown Terrorism

Suspected New Jersey terrorists Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte also felt the need to wage a domestic attack on the U.S. They traveled to Somalia by way of Egypt to train with al Shabaab. According to a friend who belonged to the same mosque, as well as an informant who tipped off the FBI, these troubled young men were talking about "waging a violent jihad." They kept saying that all Americans are their enemies, that everyone other than their Islamic followers are their enemies, and they all must be killed.17 Both suspected terrorists were funded by money raised from the sale of merchandise stolen from retailers.18

Muslim extremists do not think of themselves as members of separate countries. Rather, they belong to a greater organization whose sole purpose is to create a world free of non-Islamists. This sentiment was expressed by a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Minbullah, in Nuristan in an interview with a pro-Islamist web site. "First of all, Muslims are one," says Minibullah. "Among us there are no foreign and inlanders. We are all Muslims, and I can gladly tell you that nobody can match Afghans in fighting. No Iranians, Arabs, or anyone can fight like we do. But the important fact is that we are, thanks to Allah, Muslims. And for us Muslims, it doesn't matter if you are Afghan, Arab, Pakistani, Tajik, or whatever... and in every household in every corner weapons are present. And the expenses of these weapons are not so expensive to prevent us from financing them ourselves. We get financial aid from people...Muslims from all around the world."19

To engage in a full-out jihad, you need weapons, and weapons cost money. As funds are raised by illicit means (such as by selling counterfeit handbags, contraband merchandise, or stolen product), the money made from these illegal sales is being sent back by sympathizers. Taliban groups, such as al Shabaab and Tehreek-e-Taliban, used the funds to train people such as Shahzad in explosives training while he was in Pakistan. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, widely known as a safe haven for al Qaeda fugitives and a staging area for Taliban forces, is largely financed by smuggling goods and persons across the border.20

Likewise, two compounds were located within the U.S.—one known as "Islamberg," in Hancock, New York, and the other, a commune called "Red House," in Virginia. Both have ties to the Jamaat al Fuqra, the terrorist group known for kidnapping and killing journalist Daniel Pearl, and both were known to have their own ORC rings involved in the sale of stolen and counterfeit products. According to sources, members of the Islamberg community supplied Shahzad with explosives for his failed attempt to detonate a bomb in Times Square.21

Members of the Red House compound (an alleged Muslim 50-acre compound in Charlotte County, Virginia) were recently involved in a $7 million fraud scheme. Under the name Talib's Sportswear, they sold counterfeit-label clothing to retail merchants throughout the country. The probe into the Talib firm led to the arrests of Ronald Gerald "Talib" Roundtree and his wives Berna Robbin, Terri Lynn Singleton, and Keisha Janelle Simms, who reside on "Fatima Lane" in Red House.22

"American-based operatives of terrorist groups have increasingly turned to criminal endeavors to finance their murderous actions,"23 Stephen I. Landsman, director of National Security Law and Policy on the Investigative Project on Terrorism, told me. Whether through drug trafficking, ORC and black-market smuggling, the production and sale of counterfeit name-brand goods, or car theft rings, terrorists have demonstrated that they are willing and able to resort to the types of activities normally reserved for street gangs for financial support. U.S. law enforcement has stopped and should continue to stop these activities with the same proven techniques it has always relied on to combat illicit financial activity. Those efforts, however, must be accompanied by measures aimed at preventing the actual flow of money supporting terrorism—and thwarting the means used to recruit potential ORC ring members.24

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