Another terrorism plot has been thwarted, thanks to law enforcement. And once again the threat originated close to home, just 60 miles to the east in Rochester.
The threat has been even closer. The convictions of the Lackawanna Six, Yemeni-American men who went to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaida before the 9/11 terror attacks, still loom over Western New York. The idea of potential terrorists living among us is unnerving, and serves as a reminder of the need to be vigilant. Those who suspect anyone of possible terrorist activity should immediately contact the authorities.
Terrorism has evolved, thanks in part to the Internet. Terror organizations have almost unlimited access to potential recruits, extending an invisible hand across the network in attempts to lure often vulnerable young people. The results can be deadly for intended targets and the perpetrators, themselves.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, encourages “lone wolf” attacks such as the recent one in San Bernardino, Calif. These attacks are harder to prevent than ones involving communication among many plotters.
In the Rochester case, Emanuel L. Lutchman, 25, an ex-convict, “hated everything” about the United States, according to an article in The News. He connected online with a sympathetic correspondent who claimed to be with ISIS in Syria.
Lutchman converted to Islam in prison. His New Year’s Eve plot was to attack a Rochester-area restaurant, where he would kill “American unbelievers” while proving his loyalty to ISIS and earning assistance traveling to Syria to join the fight there.
He boasted of “brothers” who had the know-how and resources to run the terrorist operation. Fortunately, the “brothers” worked for the FBI. Lutchman was arrested Dec. 30 by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and charged with attempting to provide material support, that being himself, to a foreign terrorist organization. He was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson the next day and is due back in court Friday.
Lutchman faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine if convicted.
This case is a reminder that “homegrown terrorist” could mean our own backyard.
Mufid Elfgeeh, 31, a Rochester pizzeria owner, recently admitted trying to recruit ISIS sympathizers to join ISIS and fight overseas. Two of the three would-be recruits were FBI informants. And Arafat M. Nagi of Lackawanna was arrested in July after an FBI investigation found he was preparing to leave for Turkey and eventually travel to Syria. His goal: to serve with ISIS.
Once again, law enforcement officials deserve credit for heading off a possible tragedy. The rest of us can do our part by going about our lives as usual, while remaining vigilant for suspicious activity.