By Paul Sperry
June 18, 2016
Terrorists Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, Omar Mateen and Syed Farook.Photo: AP (3)
President Obama says don’t worry, the Orlando terrorist was just another “lone actor” operating in isolation, unconnected to any larger group of supporters. In fact, these so-called “lone wolves” are running in packs, and suggesting otherwise gives the public a false sense of security.
Yet Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson echoed Obama, saying Omar Mateen was “self-radicalized” without any religious, ideological or operational support from friends, family or others in the Muslim community.
“What we do know at this point is it appears this was a case of self-radicalization,” Johnson said. “He does not appear to have been part of any group.”
A more accurate picture is that Mateen, an Afghan-American, was part of a disturbingly large Muslim family of sympathizers, supporters and even co-conspirators.
For starters, his wife could face criminal charges in the attack on the gay Orlando nightclub, the deadliest act of terrorism in the US since 9/11. Noor Zahi Salman, who wed Mateen in 2011, reportedly told the FBI she knew about her husband’s planned attack and even drove him to the site of the massacre as part of a scouting operation. She also is said to have helped him case the Disney Springs shopping complex. What’s more, Salman allegedly was with Mateen when he bought ammo and a holster used in the attack.
Prosecutors have convened a grand jury to present evidence against Salman, a Palestinian immigrant, who ultimately could be indicted as an accessory to the murders of 49 people and the attempted murders of 53 others. Possible other charges include failing to report a terrorist attack and lying to federal agents.
It appears the seeds of Mateen’s hatred were planted at home.
His Afghan immigrant father, who founded a nonprofit group to support the Taliban, preached gays should be punished. In a video Seddique Mir Mateen posted on the Web, he expresses gratitude toward the Afghan Taliban, who stone homosexuals to death, calling them “our warrior brothers.”
Other statements make it clear the elder Mateen could have passed anti-gay views onto his son.
“God will punish those involved in homosexuality,” the elder Mateen said in the wake of his son’s rampage. He seemed to rationalize the targeting of gays by pointing out that his son was offended by two gay men kissing in front of his 3-year-old son during a recent family trip to Miami.
Other Mateen videos are full of anti-US rhetoric regarding America’s military role in Afghanistan. That influence may have showed up in his 29-year-old son’s statement to a 911 operator during the mass shooting.
“He said the reason he was doing this was he wanted America to stop bombing his country,” said a survivor who overheard the conversation.
His father’s anti-American views may have seeped into the terrorist’s psyche at an earlier age. High-school classmates recall a 14-year-old Mateen jumping up and down and cheering the attacks on 9/11. “That’s what America deserves,” he reportedly exclaimed, while praising Osama bin Laden.
Mateen likely absorbed more anti-gay and anti-US messaging at the small Fort Pierce, Fla., mosque his father helped run. Authorities say the radical Islamic center has been a “breeding ground” for terrorists, including the first American suicide bomber in Syria, alongside whom Omar Mateen prayed. Mateen worshipped there for more than a dozen years, praying up to four times a week. State incorporation records show the senior Mateen served as the mosque’s vice president and sat on its board for several years.
Seddique Mateen insists he did not know his son was radicalized and was angered by his actions. “If I did know, 1 percent, that he was committing such a crime myself, I would have arrested him myself,” he claimed. Also serving on the board of his pro-Taliban nonprofit, The Durand Jirga Inc., are two daughters and an Afghan-born son-in-law, who’s also active in politics in Afghanistan.
Just weeks before the attack, property records I’ve obtained show Omar Mateen transferred his interest in a Fort Pierce condo over to one of the sisters and and the Afghan brother-in-law, a possible indication the family could have had some knowledge of his martyrdom plans. Authorities say the fatally wounded Mateen clearly was prepared to die in a gun battle.
The mysterious brother-in-law — Mustafa Abasin, aka Mustafa Aurakzai, who shows an intense hatred for Donald Trump on social media — has been questioned by federal investigators, along with other family members. I’m also told FBI agents have expanded the investigation overseas to family connections in Afghanistan. On Friday, both Mateen’s widow and father were placed on the federal no-fly list.
This family radicalization echoes other recent “homegrown terror” cases:
December 2015: San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook’s father shared his hatred for Jews and even knew his son followed ISIS, while his mother lived with him and his accomplice wife in their bomb factory they called home, and was an active member of an extremist Pakistani front group. Investigators found targets and GoPro camera packaging in mom Rafia Farook’s car. Both parents were placed on a federal terrorist watchlist. Meanwhile, his sister took target practice with him. Most recently, the FBI arrested Farook’s brother, sister-in-law and another relative on terrorism and immigration fraud charges.
July 2015: The Chattanooga, Tenn., military base shooter, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was influenced by his devout Muslim father who appeared at one point on a federal terrorist watch list and is said to also have been radicalized by a pro-jihad Muslim Brotherhood uncle in Jordan who was under terrorism investigation. In addition, Abdulazeez attended a local mosque founded and controlled by the radical Brotherhood, according to property records I’ve obtained.
April 2013: The Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were radicalized by their devout, America-hating Chechen mother, who forced them to go to an extremist mosque and study hardcore Islamic texts.
“I told Tamerlan that we are Muslims, and we are not practicing our religion, and how can we call ourselves Muslims,” Mrs. Tsarnaev said. “And that’s how Tamerlan started reading about Islam, and he started praying, and he got more and more and more into his religion.”
The change was dramatic in both boys, who stopped partying and started hating — Jews, Christians, America. Suddenly they were growing out Islamic beards and saying they were “willing to die for Islam.”
As you can see, the bad apple doesn’t fall far from the terror tree.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev appeared to have a sympathetic wife, moreover. He stored pressure cookers and bomb parts at the home where he lived with his Muslim convert spouse, who investigators suspect helped purchase the equipment from Macy’s. On the day of the bombings Katherine Tsarnaev expressed no sympathy for the victims, texting a friend that “a lot more people are killed every day in Syria and other places . . . Innocent people,” according to court testimony.
In a WhatsApp message, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan’s mother also said America “is the real terrorist” and will burn “in the flames of an eternal and terrifying fire.”
Obama’s “rogue” homegrown Muslim terrorist is a myth. In virtually every case, the terrorist suspect’s radicalization spokes off into family, local mosques and the larger Muslim community. Family and friends knew they were radicalized. And in some cases, they even helped them pull off their evil plots. The shock and denials from relatives and clergy are for the most part for public consumption.
In fact, suspects in all but a handful of the roughly 90 ISIS terror cases prosecuted in America since 2014 were part of a group of up to 10 co-conspirators who met in person to discuss their plans or who made contact via text messaging or e-mail, Reuters found in a recent review of Justice Department case files. Only 11 percent of cases involved a terrorist acting entirely alone. “Wolf dens, not lone wolves, [are] the norm in US Islamic State plots,” the wire service concluded, further casting doubt on the official White House line.
“The relationships between accused co-conspirators range from casual acquaintances to lifelong friends, from married couples to cousins and from roommates to college buddies,” said the report, which did not examine connections in the Orlando attack. In virtually every case, the co-conspirators attended the same mosques. In fact, mosques are the connective tissue in all these attacks and plots.
The president is desperately trying to disconnect these dots, but the hard truth is there’s a much broader network of support for these so-called “lone wolf” terrorists within their Muslim families and the larger Muslim community than the public is being told.
“If there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who our enemies are,” Obama lectured Americans last week in a post-Orlando speech, “that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we’ve taken off the battlefield.”
What he still doesn’t get is, “the enemies” aren’t just terrorists overseas but terrorists at home — along with their friends and relatives — and “the battlefield” is in our own communities. Until we grasp that shocking reality, we won’t be able to stop this cancer from spreading deeper into our own back yards.
Paul Sperry is author of “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington” and “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”