Law enforcement agencies have arrested nine Northern Virginia residents on charges of aiding the Islamic State since the terrorist group rose to power in Syria and Iraq in 2014 and launched social media propaganda to attract followers, a government message to police states.
The Northern Virginia Regional Intelligence Center issued profiles of the nine in a Dec. 21 report labeled “law enforcement sensitive.”
Such reports are designed to help state and federal agents recognize trends in the types of individuals who are influenced by the Islamic State’s message and how they communicate across terrorist networks.
A defense attorney in one of the cases accused police of anti-Muslim bias; his client later pleaded guilty.
Somalis living in Minnesota appear to receive the most press attention in the U.S. for wanting to help or join the Islamic State. The FBI arrested six residents of Somali origin in April after they made arrangements to leave Minnesota for Syria. Last December, a 20-year-old man of Somali origin was arrested on accusations of leading a group of ethnic Somalis attempting to fight for the Islamic State.
Of the nine Northern Virginians who were arrested, all but one were in their teens and early 20s. They included a police officer, a Starbucks barista, Army soldiers, bankers and a cabdriver. Four of the nine graduated from Northern Virginia high schools, one with honors. Two attended Northern Virginia Community College.
In other words, all of them appeared to have opportunities via public education to become successful Americans but instead were charged with what amounted to a devotion to violent jihad.
They are suspected of conducting terrorism planning through Twitter, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp and other platforms and apps, as well as on prepaid phones.
“Local police are in a particularly difficult situation,” said Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and researcher on Islamism who lives in Northern Virginia. “They face a severe challenge by Islamists operating in the shadows of our open society. These mostly young male Muslims become radicalized either by Islamist imams at some of the thousands of mosques across America, at school, or over the ever-present internet sites that spew anti-West, anti-Christian hatred.”