• Jim Leach



Shortly after the tragedy of 9/11 we began producing seminars regarding extremist behavior in conjunction with the University of Tennessee and later on, with the Memphis Police Department and others. One of the observations we made early on was that things global terrorists groups did in Iraq and Afghanistan spread to other parts of the world. Such things as car bombings, suicide bombers, and later on, vehicle and chemical attacks took place throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe frequently. We could only expect that what we were seeing “over there”, would one day be taking place “over here”. Obviously, that day has come.

This article discusses the two latest extremist incidents in New York City.

On 12/11/17 a 27 year old Bangladeshi born man who entered the United States in 2011 through our Chain Immigration program equipped himself with a pipe bomb and attacked the subway system in New York City. Through social media he pledged allegiance to ISIS, although he had no direct contact with the group. He also said he was upset over Israeli actions in Gaza. His wife says he gave no indication he was going to do anything like this, but the family went on to say he had attempted to radicalize them. The attacker taunted President Trump on social media shortly before the attack. He had no criminal history and was not listed on any FBI or New York Police watch list. Reports indicate he worked in the area where the attack occurred and stole some of the materials used to build the bomb from his worksite. Reports indicate he may have had a second bomb on his person but for whatever reason he failed to detonate the device. Apparently it is easier to build an improvised explosive device than it is to set it off! In the 1990’ and in the early years of this century, some of the operatives were missing fingers, hands, and eyes because of their inability to safely handle explosives. We have seen their expertise grow over the last two decades because of all the practice they have had in the Middle East.

He took two subway transports before detonating the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) on one of the loading platforms. The explosion injured 5 people, as well as the would – be murderer, but killed no one. The attack would probably have been more effective if the attacker had detonated the device while he was in transit in the contained environment of a subway car. The bomb was composed of a 12” pipe containing black powder, bolts, and screws. It is believed he learned how to construct an IED by researching information readily available on the internet.


Extremism reared its’ cowardly head again yesterday in mid – afternoon when an attacker drove a rented truck into a group of bicycle riders and pedestrians killing 8 people and sending 12 others to the hospital. He chose Halloween as the date for the murders because he thought there would be more people on the street on that day. The attack occurred in downtown New York City not far away from where Twin Towers once stood before Al-Qaeda terrorists flew hijacked jet airliners into them on 9/11/2001. This was the most deadly terrorist attack in New York since that murderous attack.

Authorities say notes found in and near the truck were hand written in Arabic and said the attack was carried out in the name of ISIS. The writings emphasized that the Islamic State (ISIS) will last forever. Police also recovered a pellet rifle, a paint gun, and numerous knives at the crime scene near the truck. These murders were accomplished in the exact fashion ISIS outlines in their social media publications, such as Inspire. The attacker said he rented a truck a couple of weeks before the incident to make a practice run and see if his plan was feasible and how much effective security was in place in the target area. Evidence indicates he planned the attack for a year, that he acted alone, and this was a single attack and not part of a continuous pattern of attacks, although he said he also wanted to attack the Brooklyn Bridge.

The murderer is a permanent, legal resident of the United States who emigrated here from Uzbekistan as part of the Diversity Lottery Program enacted in the mid 1990’s. He left his home country in 2010. He was not the focus of any investigation being conducted by the FBI, Homeland Security, or the New York Police Department. Investigators will do in depth background inquiries with the killer’s family and associates to determine his prior communications and activities. He had been employed as an Uber driver for the last six months and obviously passed that company’s pre – employment screen. He only had a few traffic citations on his record and no record of violence in our country. It is difficult to be certain what his criminal history may have been in his home country.

One of the primary questions is whether he was “directed” or “inspired” by ISIS. The investigation has already shown he may have been “inspired” by ISIS but more information must be discovered to indicate whether or not he was directed by the terror group. Being inspired by the extremists means he was brainwashed by their propaganda to attack enemies of the Islamic State in the best way he could. He probably researched prior successful attacks and used this information as a guide to put together his own plan. If he was directed by ISIS that would mean the group told him exactly what to do, where to do it, and when to do it.

In analyzing what information we have at this point, it would seem he was inspired by extremist philosophy rather than being specifically told what to do by any particular group or individual. It has been said by authorities that he was “Domestically Radicalized”, which indicates he was influenced by social media or personal contact with radicals within the United States. It is believed he was inspired by videos he saw on his phone. Some 3800 images involving ISIS were found on his cell phone. No evidence has been uncovered showing he traveled outside our country to meet with or be trained by extremists. Please understand that saying no evidence has been discovered to show he traveled to another country to be trained, doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen! It simply means we haven’t found any evidence yet.

The suspect was captured, which is unusual. In cases of this nature, the subject normally ends up in a suicide situation or commits “suicide by cop”. Police gave the murderer his rights, and that was smart. He is being charged in U.S. Federal Court, not as an “Enemy Combatant”, so our criminal procedure laws, such as the Miranda warning, apply to any prosecution that will take place. The killer is cooperating with police to some extent. At least he is talking to investigators. He says he felt good about what he did and asked to have an ISIS flag hung in his hospital room. The killer has shown no remorse for his actions.

Everything he says will be checked out very thoroughly before it is believed. This nut may want to embellish what he did or diminish what he did. Questioners will pay attention to what activities or people he lies about. They will also observe his demeanor when certain topics or associates are discussed. If you are an interviewer, many times, figuring what the interviewee is lying about is the next best thing to listening to them tell the truth! He may want to protect such things as important people, specific methods of operations, other operations he planned for or may know about, or locations that were used in preparation for the attack. If investigators can determine he is being deceptive when asked certain questions, that provides a clue that more emphasis may need to be placed on investigating the things he is trying to hide.

Some observations:

Both attackers were in the U.S. for several years before conducting an attack. The evidence and, their statement, indicates they were inspired by ISIS and not directed by ISIS. This technique is referred to as being radicalized and the process may be used successfully by such groups as ISIS or Al Qaeda, as well as the Aryan Brotherhood or the KKK. In the radicalization process, the group preys on people, usually young people, who suffer from feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, or despair. Many times the young person may be looking for a cause to support. The extremist group attempts to provide the “recruit” with emotional support and convince them that the target (in these cases, the U.S.) is evil and committing all manner of atrocities.

Both attackers actually entered our country legally.

Neither attacker died which means they can provide information to investigators.

Both utilized social media to review the tactics that were successful in previous attacks and to learn how to build explosive devices. In teaching classes dealing with extremism, we often refer to a particular issue of Inspire magazine which gives detailed information on how to build a car bomb. Inspire is an ISIS backed publication.

One attacker conducted a practice run and the other worked in the target area which provided him with an excellent opportunity to conduct physical surveillance of the future attack site.

Neither of these attackers showed any significant criminal history in our country and at this point the investigations have revealed very little conduct which would have indicated their violent intentions.

We should all pay attention to the actions taken by these criminals so that if we see or hear activity similar to their behavior, we will recognize this behavior as a possible sign of violent intentions.

These two attacks occurred in New York City, but please do not think you must live in a major city to be a victim of an extremist attack. Over the years these murderers have apparently learned it is easier to hit a “soft target” than a target that is more heavily secured. At some point extremists may decide that hitting smaller communities in rural areas would be simpler than attacking a metropolitan area. Remember, they want to kill and intimidate. The latest attack in New York killed eight people. There is probably a place in every town where a group of eight people could be attacked at one time. In addition, if small town America is shown to be at risk, nobody in the country feels safe and we are all intimidated.

This phrase has been used a lot, but it is great advice. If you see something, say something.

The author, Jim Leach, formerly served as Director of Criminal Investigations for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. His first book, “You Can Tell ME, a simple guide to effective interviewing”, can be found at

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