ATbar The Terrorist Attack in Orlando – Preliminary Conclusions
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The Terrorist Attack in Orlando – Preliminary Conclusions

16/06/2016 | by Ganor, Boaz (Prof.)  

First publish in Hebrew on Ynet

What conclusions can be drawn from the little information coming out of the terrorist attack at an LGBT club in Orlando; an attack in which the terrorist, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, burst into the Pulse nightclub and murdered 50 civilians, held hostages and injured dozens more over a period of approximately three hours before security forces stormed the club and killed him? Already at this early stage of the investigation one can find oversights and mistakes in judgement made by various authorities that enabled the execution of the worst terrorist attack to take place in the United States since September 11, 2001: intelligence oversights, operational oversights, a limited understanding of the threat facing the US and the entire western world, all heavily and dangerously cloaked in political correctness.

With regard to the intelligence oversight, the information published thus far reveals that Mateen was the son of immigrants from Afghanistan who settled in the town of Port Saint Lucie. In a study that I published in 2011, in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, titled, “An Intifada in Europe?”, I point out the danger stemming from the radicalization process of second and third generation Muslim immigrants to western countries due to the cynical and intentional exploitation by terrorist organizations of social dissonances, the emotions and impulses of these young people that are channeled into Islamist radicalization, and in many cases their willingness to carry out terrorist attacks. Mateen apparently fit this terrorist profile. Moreover, Mateen’s dangerous profile was not foreign to FBI agents, as evidenced by the fact that he appeared on their intelligence radar at least twice and they carried out various kinds of surveillance on him. The first time was in 2013 when his coworkers complained about concerning statements that he made, including support for the Islamic State and for jihadist Islam. Mateen was taken at least twice for questioning but security officials said, in their defense, that a person cannot be arrested solely for making such statements. We do not know exactly what was said there, but we may need to reconsider the question of whether a person can be arrested for statements, at least for those that express support for, or incite, violence and the execution of terrorist attacks. The second time that Mateen emerged on the FBI’s radar was a year later when he was suspected of having ties to Moner Mohammad Abusalha – the first American suicide terrorist in Syria who took the name “Abu Huraira al-Amriki” and released two video clips before carrying out a suicide attack. In the videos, he boasted about his intention to carry out a suicide attack and explained, among other things: “When I came to Syria I had nothing. I had no money to buy a gun and ammunition. Now God has given me all of that and much more...I want to rest in the world to come. This world is nothing, my heart does not rest here, in this life…” Al-Amriki, 22, from Florida (who lived approximately 130 miles from Miami, likely close to where Mateen’s parents live in the town of Port Saint Lucie) drove a truck laden with tons of explosives outside a restaurant where Syrian soldiers were dining in Idlib and blew himself up among them. In 2014, FBI agents were concerned that there was a connection between the American foreign fighter who killed himself in Syria and Mateen, but they were unable to pinpoint the connection and, therefore, he was not arrested. The question arises as to whether FBI agents took pains at any one of these stages to confiscate Mateen’s computer and cell phone, and to examine in-depth which radical Islamic Web sites he visited, what he learned there, which global jihad networks he was a member of, and what topics he discussed with his peer groups. It is reasonable to assume that such an examination, which is probably in progress now after his death, would have revealed a great deal of information that would have enabled legal proceedings to be opened against him. This is the place to note that if, after all of this, the FBI would not have been able to arrest Mateen, then there is a problem with the American legislation as it is does not adequately address the security threats facing America, at least in the field of terrorism. Moreover, Mateen’s ex-wife testified that he was a violent person prone to outbursts and suffering from bi-polar personality disorder. The combination of this information together with Mateen’s proven radicalization and, if that was not enough, the fact that he earned a living as a security guard, serves as a particularly explosive recipe and it is no wonder that when it reached a certain boiling point, it exploded. In such cases, administrative detention must be implemented at least for a limited period of time in order to carry out an in-depth investigation into the circumstances and the characteristics of the individual.

It is interesting to note that the suicide terrorist, Abusalha, who was probably an acquaintance of Mateen, was not a member of the Islamic State in Syria but rather was a member of its rival organization – Al-Nusra Front. Here the question arises as to what extent Mateen was a member of the Islamic State, as he indicated in his final telephone calls to the Orlando Police. The fact that Mateen described himself as a member of the Islamic State, and even the fact that the Islamic State declared that he was one of its fighters, are not yet sufficient in and of themselves to determine if this really was an Islamic State attack.

In general, terrorism can be classified into three models:

  • “Lone wolf” attacks – the personal initiative of terrorists who underwent a personal radicalization process either via acquaintances or through the Internet and, at a certain stage, decided to implement what they learned and carry out a terrorist attack;
  • Independent network attacks – the “local initiative” of several acquaintances (usually relatives – brothers, cousins, husband and wife, or friends) who underwent the radicalization process together and made a joint decision to carry out a terrorist attack, perhaps inspired by some terrorist organization but without membership in, or an organizational connection to, the organization;
  • “Organized attacks” – attacks that are initiated, planned and carried out by members of a terrorist organization.

It is important to note that, in many cases, the lone wolves see themselves as agents of one organization or another and even declare it openly, as was the case with the terrorist who seized control of a café in Sydney in 2014. The terrorist took hostages and hung the Islamic State flag on the windows despite the fact that he was never a member or fighter of the organization. In general, the Islamic State does not take credit for such attacks although in many cases it does offer praise for them. It seems that this time the organization had a different policy as it declared that the terrorist was an Islamic State fighter. Despite this declaration, it should be viewed as an attempt by the Islamic State to exploit the success of the terrorist attack, and it is important to note that Mateen was not a terrorist who was recruited into the ranks of the organization, nor was he a foreign fighter who underwent training and took part in the war in Syria or Iraq and then re-entered the US in order to carry out an attack there. It is more likely that he was a lone wolf who acted under inspiration from the Islamic State but without any involvement from, or operational subordination to, the organization. The lack of clarity in the early stages of the attack, and the fact that the attack was carried out against an LGBT club, enabled US government officials to wrap the incident in a cloak of political correctness for hours, initially referring to the attack as a “hate crime”, which – as opposed to a terrorist attack – is a criminal act that is handled at the local level. Later, American spokespeople referred to the incident as a “domestic terrorism” attack in a last ditch effort to differentiate the incident from the various aspects of global jihad attacks and from Islamic State terrorism. However, the statements made by the terrorist himself regarding his loyalty to the Islamic State undermined the guise of political correctness, and showed the full severity of the problems and dilemmas facing the United States and the western world. With regard to the question of whether this was an Islamist-jihadist terrorist attack or a homophobic attack directed against the LGBT community, the answer is both. Global and local jihad factions, in their war of incitement against the infidels, including members of other religions and even moderate Muslims who do not subscribe to the radical religious worldview of these organizations, have always viewed members of the LGBT community as deserving of death. In a sermon given only three months ago in the “Husseini Islamic Center”, Dr. Farrokh Sekaleshfar, who came to the center from Britain, preached to his flock to kill gays and lesbians: “The sentence is death, there is nothing to be ashamed of, the sentence is death. You must kill them out of pity”. Islamic State officials, like other Islamist terrorist organizations such as Hamas in Gaza, execute people suspected of being homosexual in cruel ways often involving torture. It seems that leading up to the current attack, Mateen was not only exposed to Islamist incitement but was also exposed to such calls to kill members of this community. These calls resonated with his problematic personality traits, and he decided to answer the religious call and the interpretation of these preachers to fulfill what he understood to be Allah’s will and to cloak it in religious justification and Islamic State support.