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“You think you are safe where you are in America,” he said, threatening his own country and a half-dozen others.
“You are not safe.” By then, Abusalha had made two trips to a conflict zone seen as the largest incubator of Islamist radicalism since Afghanistan in the 1980s.
(Manara al-Bayda via AP) Despite that expanding surveillance net and more than a dozen prosecutions in the United States, the outcome for Abusalha depended more on the priorities of his al-Qaeda handlers than U. “It is extremely difficult for the FBI to identify individuals in the U. who have this kind of goal,” said George Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami field office, which led the Abusalha investigation. A wayward youth who cycled through three Florida colleges without earning a degree, he appears to have stumbled into the ranks of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria rather than being recruited, let alone groomed as a high-level operative. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss aspects of the investigation and family matters. By the time he killed himself, he was already on the U. no-fly list, added to that terrorism database after the FBI fielded a tip that Abusalha had gone to Syria.
“It requires a loved one or really close friend to note the changes. But other cases are incomplete, based on false names or partial identities assembled from references on social media or U. Still, there are other reasons to regard the Abusalha case as a close call.
As the 22-year-old Florida native made his way through a U. border inspection, officers pulled him aside for additional screening and searched his belongings. officials said, Moner Mohammad Abusalha was waved through without any further scrutiny or perceived need to notify the FBI that he was back in the United States.
air marshals watching the newly clean-shaven passenger on the transatlantic flight, no FBI agents waiting for him as he landed in Newark in May 2013 after returning from Syria’s civil war.
They called his mother in Vero Beach to check on his claim that he had merely been visiting relatives in the Middle East. Earlier this year, after returning to Syria, Abusalha became the first American to carry out a suicide attack in that country, blowing up a restaurant frequented by Syrian soldiers on behalf of an al-Qaeda affiliate.
His death May 25 was accompanied by the release of a menacing video.
At the center of that effort is a task force established by the FBI at a classified complex in Virginia that also involves the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center. officials who said there are undoubtedly Americans in Syria and Iraq who have not surfaced. “Given the nature of the traveler threat, I don’t sit with high confidence that I have complete visibility,” Comey said in a briefing at FBI headquarters. And, obviously, who are we missing who is in the midst of trying to go?A video released in July by Manara al-Bayda, the media arm of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, shows Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who in May became the firs t American suicide bomber in Syria. FBI officials involved in the case said it exposed vulnerabilities that can be reduced but not eliminated. Abusalha was part of that invisible category until shortly before he recorded his farewell videos and stepped into the cab of an armored dump truck packed with explosives. ” Aspects of Abusalha’s case make it tempting to play down the threat he posed. officials and family members who provided the most detailed reconstruction to date of Abusalha’s case. passport, destroying a document that would have been critical if his al-Qaeda handlers had any impulse to employ him in a plot against the West.