Reports emerged last month that a Boston college graduate and computer science major Ahmad Abousamra was allegedly using his American education to head the Islamic State's social media propaganda operation from an undisclosed location inside Syria. Abusamra, a dual American-Syrian citizen, has been evading a massive FBI manhunt since 2009 and is alleged to have attended the Islamic Society of Boston in Cambridge.
The Islamic Society of Boston is the same mosque that alleged Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his deceased brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, attended in the past. Though the mosque has said it has no record of Abousamra attending services there, it has had a long history of allegations tying it to terrorism.
The mosque has been the focus of media attention since it was discovered that its founder, Abdulrahman Alamoudi — who was an open supporter of the Palestinian Islamic terrorist group Hamas — was also connected with an assassination plot against then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, now the king of Saudi Arabia. Other imams and mosque leaders have come under scrutiny for their alleged ties to terror organizations overseas.
These are just some examples of a growing jihadi movement in Boston that one moderate Boston Muslim who spoke to TheBlaze TV's For the Record and was identified only as "Khaleed" called a "disease." Several other Muslim sources described a "criminal" growing recruitment and anti-Western sentiment being nurtured by Muslim leaders in the community. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution, said the city's law enforcement and FBI outreach is playing right into extremists' hands.
"Boston has a disease," Khaleed told For the Record, which aired "The Boston Blueprint" Wednesday on TheBlaze TV.
"The [Boston] bombing points to a disease that has been growing for 20 years. Maybe now America is coming close to understanding it and how widespread it is. … To think that the majority of Muslims want one caliphate is wrong, it is not true. The people who say they want a caliphate is a very small minority, and that minority is disconnected from most Muslims. The minority is a fascist, criminal organization which poses itself as an Islamic institution," the source said.
On Wednesday, a gunman killed a Canadian soldier guarding a hallowed war memorial in Ottawa before storming into Parliament, where he was fatally shot by the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms. Police identified the shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a recent convert to Islam. Canada had raised its domestic terror threat level the day before in response to increased chatter from radical groups, and after another recent radicalized convert to Islam, Martin Rouleau, drove over two Canadian soldiers, killing one. Rouleau was fatally shot by police.
These acts of violence exemplify why the moderate Boston Muslim sources who spoke to TheBlaze said they fear for their safety if their identities were revealed. They said extremist leaders within their community also would ostracize them. The problem is coupled by their own perception of law enforcement: they don't trust the police.
An Ottawa police officer stands guard after a shooting at the National War Memorial near the Canadian Parliament, Oct. 22, 2014. (Mike Carroccetto/Getty Images)
Kieran Ramsey, an assistant special agent in charge at the FBI’s Boston office, said he understands the horror of a city under siege by terror. The FBI's Boston office led the manhunt with local law enforcement for the Tsarnev brothers after the marathon bombing, though the agency was criticized for failing to heed warnings from Russian officials that Tamerlan was believed to be an Islamic radical.
Ramsey told TheBlaze that if members of the community feel there is a threat from within, they need to share it with federal law enforcement.
[sharequote align="center"]"We absolutely need to have that community engagement."[/sharequote]
"If people feel that way, they certainly haven't brought that to the attention of the FBI," Ramsey said. "Our community engagement effort is based on the tried-and-true fact that the dialogue can only serve to enhance public safety. Public safety isn't just the responsibility of the FBI or local law enforcement — it's the responsibility of the entire community. We absolutely need to have that community engagement so perhaps we can be in the mode of preventing that threat of criminal activity or national security threat or the like, rather than simply reacting to it."
Muslim sources charged to TheBlaze that the FBI has been dealing with the wrong Islamic leaders with regard to their outreach programs.
Ramsey said for those who question the FBI's community outreach, he would ask the same question back: "Would you propose we not have community outreach or not engage with the community? I think that's kind of a preposterous position to tell us not to be engaging. We absolutely must engage."
Ramsey noted that the FBI doesn't just engage with mosque leaders but "across ethnic and cultural associations as well, and some may cross over with the Muslim religion or associations that are solely ethnic- or community-based. We can't just engage with one segment of the community, but we need to engage with the whole community."
Community outreach allows the FBI to open channels of communication that could lead to investigations or pre-empting attacks, he said.
Terror analysts and intelligence officials who spoke to TheBlaze said they are carefully monitoring and scouring the Internet as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and its offshoots continue to build radical followers on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks around the world. But the Islamic State and Al Qaeda also appear to be actively recruiting from within Western nations "embedding their followers in mosques and communities throughout the United States and Europe," a Western intelligence official who deals primarily in the Middle East and terrorism told TheBlaze.
"We need to target these individuals, root them out and at the same time counteract their extremist teachings," the official said. "This is going to last decades and the danger is very real."
While the intelligence official believes in outreach, he said "you can't ignore the reality that there are religious leaders who cross what we know to be the ethical line from teacher to a jihadist recruiter, solely determined to destroy the West. There should be no politics in [terrorist] investigations."
[sharequote align="center"]"There should be no politics in [terrorist] investigations..."[/sharequote]
Ramsey said agents' workloads and investigations have increased sharply since the 9/11 attacks.
"We are using everything that we have so that they are not able to attack the United States interest overseas and that we keep Americans safe across the board," Ramsey said. "People don't look at our community outreach as some pretext, because they're not. It's very genuine and to think otherwise speaks of the mistrust that still exists out there. ... Look, we're trying to protect Americans [is] the long and short of it. That's our job."
♦ ♦ ♦
What We Know:
- Ahmad Abousamra is a Boston College graduate sought by the FBI thought to have been trained by Al Qaeda and now alleged to be working with the Islamic State in Syria. Sources told For the Record he attended services at the Islamic Society of Boston, the same mosque attended by accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his deceased brother, Tamerlan, though the mosque has denied this.
- Tamerlan Tsarnaev had traveled to Dagestan, a republic of Russia, where he met with radical Islamic leaders before returning to the United States. Russian intelligence officials warned the FBI multiple times that Tamerlan was a threat, but agents who interviewed him in 2011 did not come to the same conclusion. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
- Abdurahman Alamoudi is the founder of the American Muslim Council and was an Islamic Affairs adviser for the Clinton administration who was connected with an assassination plot against then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, now the king of Saudi Arabia. He was convicted of terror financing and sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2004.
- In September 2014, the Justice Department announced its new pilot program to counter violent extremism in Boston as well as other cities across the nation, though without any mention of Islam radicalism.
- The Islamic Society of Boston sent thousands of dollars to support the Holy Land Foundation, which in 2008 had five of its leaders indicted on terrorism charges by the FBI. The U.S.-based Muslim charity was discovered to be funneling more than $12 million to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. A jury found the charity guilty on all 108 counts of terror financing.
- Hossam Al Jabri, former president of the Muslim American Society's Boston chapter, now a board member for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, allegedly donated money to the Holy Land Foundation while it was sending funds to Hamas.
- Jamal Badawi, an Islamic Society of Boston trustee, was a frequent speaker at Holy Land Foundation fundraising events. The FBI listed him as an unindicted co-conspirator during the trial.
- Osama Kandil, a former Islamic Board chairman who founded the Muslim Arab Youth Association, provided venues for fundraising events for the Holy Land Foundation. Hamas members made explicit calls to murder Israelis at these events, according to reports. The youth organization was also listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial.
Follow Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) on Twitter