On Monday, AlertsUSA subscribers were notified of an announcement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection revealing the arrest of two men from Yemen on the U.S. / Mexico border who are listed on BOTH the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List and No-Fly list. Oddly, by mid-afternoon Tuesday, the announcement had been scrubbed from the CBP website.
On Tuesday evening, an agency spokesman said the post was deleted because it "was not properly reviewed and contained certain disclosure and policy information related to national security."
[Fortunately, the full release was archived by the Wayback Machine...]
The first arrest occurred on January 29 approximately three miles west of the Calexico, California Port of Entry. Agents conducted records checks, which revealed that the man, a 33-year-old illegal alien from Yemen, was on the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List as well as on the No-Fly list. Additionally, agents found a cellular phone sim card hidden underneath the insole of his shoe.
The second arrest occurred on March 30 approximately two miles west of the Calexico Port of Entry. Here again, agents conducted records checks which revealed that the man, a 26-year-old illegal alien from Yemen, was also on the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List and on the No-Fly list.
Both men are being held in federal custody pending removal.
Note that it is very rare for someone encountered by a Border Patrol agent or a customs officer to be found in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). According to the FBI, those in the database are "known to be or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activities."
It is even more rare for a Border Patrol agent or a customs officer to encounter someone who is on BOTH the Terrorist Screening Database and the No Fly List.
Readers are reminded that in mid-March, Customs and Border Protection reported to Congress that four people arrested at the southern border since Oct. 1 match names on the TSDB. Three of the people arrested were from Yemen and one was from Serbia.
Why So Much Concern About Yemen?
Yemen is the home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which historically has been the most active and dangerous of Al-Qaeda's branches that emerged after the weakening of central leadership.
Notable plots and attacks claimed by or linked to AQAP include:
09/2008 - Attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen
12/2009 - Attempted bombing of NW Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit
11/2009 - Mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas
05/2010 - Times Square bomb plot
10/2010 - Transatlantic aircraft parcel bomb plot
01/2015 - Charlie Hebdo attack, Paris
12/2019 - Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting
The Holy Month of Jihad (Ramadan)
AlertsUSA reminds readers that the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan begins Tuesday April 13th, and runs through Thursday May 13. Sadly, while the vast majority of Muslims around the world see Ramadan as a time for peace and spiritual renewal, there are also those who strive to make this a time for unspeakable acts of violence. Indeed, the leaders of ISIS and Al-Qaeda have openly called for violence to commemorate Ramadan with military jihad and a battle against “disbelievers.”
For example, shortly before the start of the 2016 Ramadan, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani declared;
“Make Ramadan, with God’s permission, a month of pain for infidels everywhere.”
ISIS responded to his call by killing hundreds with ferocious attacks in multiple locations, including Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka, Medina, and Baghdad.
Again, in 2017, the start of Ramadan coincided with several attacks by ISIS. A gunman attacked Coptic Christians in southern Egypt on the eve of Ramadan, killing 28 civilians. This was followed by suicide bombings in Baghdad, a truck bombing in Kabul, an armed arson attack in Manila, a van rampage and stabbings in London, and twin attacks in Tehran. Together, these attacks resulted in the death of more than 100 civilians.
Here in the U.S., Ramadan 2020 was marked by a shooting at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi in Texas. In that incident, Adam Salim Alsahli tried to drive onto the base at the North Gate. When a female security officer approached him he shot her in the chest with a handgun. She was wearing body armor and sustained only minor injuries. The suspect then exited his vehicle with a rifle and was immediately shot and killed by military police. The FBI called the incident terrorism related.
Overall, despite the pandemic, Ramadan 2020 saw ~30% more jihadist attacks than in 2019.
Readers should also recognize that threats towards Muslim communities and religious facilities during Ramadan remain a concern. Oddly, the vast majority of attacks carried out during Ramadan are against other Muslims.
Absent any current specific or actionable threat intelligence, AlertsUSA urges readers to maintain an increased level of situational awareness during the next four weeks, particularly when in large public or religious gatherings and high-profile events.
AlertsUSA continues to monitor the domestic and international threat environment around the clock and will immediately notify service subscribers, via SMS messages to their mobile devices, of new alerts, warnings and advisories or any developments which signal a change the overall threat picture for American citizens as events warrant.