Manhattan Bomber Trying to Radicalize Inmates In Prison

Illustrative picture. (Photo: Farrokhi/Creative Commons)
Illustrative picture. (Photo: Farrokhi/Creative Commons)

The terrorist who injured 30 people in a bombing in Manhattan’s Chelsea district last year has been accused of attempting to radicalize other prisoners while incarcerated. In a letter written to Judge Richard Berman, acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim alleged Ahmed Khan Rahimi had provided other inmates with access to speeches by Osama Bin Laden and the late al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki.

Rahimi also reportedly gave them “books on jihad, bomb-making instructions and issues of Inspire, the online magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” according to The New York Times.

The materials were stored on Rahimi’s laptop. One of those he is accused of sharing the extremist materials with is Sajmir Alimehmeti, who is charged with providing material support for a terrorist organization.

Rahimi allegedly handed over the materials at the Metropolitan Correction Center during Friday prayers. Guards searched his personal effects and found a list of the names and inmate numbers of other prisoners in on terrorism charges.

Rahimi will be sentenced on January 18. The Afghanistan-born New Jersey resident faces a possible life sentence.

Radicalization has been a problem in prisons for some time. Part of the problem is inmates radicalizing each other. France began separating radical prisoners from the rest of the population in October 2014, to prevent them from radicalizing other prisoners. However, in 2015, the Controller-General Adeline Hazan warned the policy may be making matters worse. Isolating terror suspects in a specific area risks having creating “time bombs.”

The other part of the problem is institutional. Patrick Dunleavy, a former New York Deputy Inspector General in charge of Criminal Intelligence Division and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism’s Prison Connection, broke the issue down in an interview with Clarion Project’s Ryan Mauro, especially highlighting the role of ignorance.

In prisons there is a “lack of understanding by some correctional officials as to the radical theology of certain forms of Islam,” Dunleavy told Mauro. “Without that knowledge, they lack the ability to discern between literature calling for a holy life and literature calling for jihad against infidels.”

Clarion Project investigated the issue in our movie The Third Jihad. Watch the clip now:

 

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Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.