Terrorists inspired by foreign groups remain top threat
The past year has seen a spate of attacks by domestic extremists acting on political or racial biases without influence from abroad — from a deadly synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh to mail bombs targeting 16 elected officials, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
But Americans shouldn’t forget about the threat from homegrown extremists inspired by foreign terror groups like Islamic State, who remain the top threat to New Jersey, according to the 2019 Terror Threat Assessment released Monday.
“In the year ahead, homegrown violent extremists [inspired by foreign terror groups] will remain our most persistent adversary,” said Jared Maples, director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, which released the annual report. That’s because these kinds of attacks are challenging “to detect and deter,” Maples said in a statement.
The office’s annual terror threat assessment ranksthe homegrown extremist risk as “high,” but it’s just one of a list of groups that pose threats to the safety of New Jersey residents. The report also warns about groups with “wide-ranging” ideologies and ranks five as moderate risks.
They include anarchist extremists, who mobilize around perceived injustice; the Islamic State group, or ISIS; militia extremists who target Muslims and “unlawful immigration”; sovereign citizens who are anti-government groups who mainly target law enforcement; and white supremacists.
All five terror-related incidents in New Jersey last year were linked to moderate and low-risk groups, according to the report. The incidents include:
Feb. 14: Anti-abortion extremist Marckles Alcius crashed a stolen truck into a Planned Parenthood clinic in East Orange, injuring three people. Authorities believe Alcius intentionally conducted the attack and said he had researched other Planned Parenthood sites.
May 23: Courtney Alexander of Irvington, who authorities say is a sovereign citizen extremist, was arrested and charged with fraudulent filings and retaliation against a witness for a prior incident.
July 28: Authorities arrested Dereal Finklin of Plainfield, an anti-government extremist, for posting a picture of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith and making a series of death threats online. On Oct. 19, Finklin pleaded guilty to fourth-degree cyberharassment.
Oct. 9: Paul Rosenfeld of Tappan, New York, was arrested for allegedly plotting to detonate a 200-pound improvised explosive device on Election Day in Washington, D.C., to further his political views. He had ordered large quantities of black powder over the internet and transported it from Bergen County to his home in Rockland County, authorities said.
October 26: Cesar Sayoc Jr. was arrested for allegedly sending 16 mail bombs to prominent figures and supporters of the Democratic Party, including Booker. Although Sayoc expressed white supremacist views, the report labels his ideology as anti-government.