ISIS Fighter Claims Attack Plot Via Mexico, Underscoring Border Vulnerability
The vulnerability of the U.S. borders to possible exploitation by terrorists – particularly in light of the heavy migration flow toward our southern border, either by those claiming asylum or relying on smugglers to cross into the country undetected – has been a border enforcement and policy concern since at least 9/11. While the administrations of both President George W. Bush and President Obama took a series of executive immigration and border enforcement actions to respond to the flaws of our immigration and border enforcement system, such as placing emphasis on deporting individuals considered national security risks, gang members, and other dangerous felons[i], a huge controversy erupted, especially among Democrats, in response to the Trump administration introducing a number of more restrictive immigration measures, namely the prospect of building a wall along the border with Mexico and instituting a travel ban against countries from which terrorists might arrive.
In the past, terrorists have managed to infiltrate Europe through irregular immigration routes, such as in the case of the November 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels airport and metro attacks.[ii] The nature and the extent of such threats in the United States, including measures put in place to address them, remains a point of contention for many. For instance, in January, the White House said 4,000 “known or suspected terrorists” were prevented from crossing into the United States via the U.S.-Mexican border in 2018.[iii] A later report disputed such claims, noting that they were based on 2017 data, that the number refers to the total security stops made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and that these were primarily made at airports versus at the southern U.S. border.[iv] While figures remain speculative, we have learned in our in-depth research interviews with over 160 ISIS defectors, returnees and imprisoned ISIS cadres to date about multiple individuals who knew of, or were themselves offered, or pressured by the ISIS emni (intelligence) to return to Europe to mount attacks at home. We have not however, found in our research interviews, until now, any instance of ISIS cadres who were prepared to be sent by ISIS to attack inside the U.S. This may be because there were so few Americans who made it all the way to Syria and Iraq, many being stopped by the FBI before departing the country, or because we simply had not run across those with such knowledge.
However, this past May, while finishing up a research interview with a Canadian imprisoned ISIS cadre detained in Rojava, Syria, by SDF forces, we learned that, indeed, there was at least one ISIS plot for their cadres to travel from Syria to penetrate the U.S. southern border by infiltrating migration routes. Whatever one thinks of President Donald Trump’s heightened rhetoric about the U.S.- Mexico border and his many claims that it is vulnerable to terrorists, ISIS apparently also thought so, as knowledge of this ISIS plot came from the mouth of a now-repentant ISIS cadre.
Abu Henricki al Canadi[v], a Canadian with dual Trinidadian citizenship who was detained by the SDF in Rojava, Syria, spoke with ICSVE researchers for about 1.5 hours on May 12, giving his firsthand account of being attracted to, traveling, joining and serving in the Islamic State Caliphate, first as a fighter and later designated as unable to fight due to chronic illness. As we were about to bring the interview to a close, Abu Henricki suddenly decided he trusted us enough to unburden himself of something that he claimed had been troubling him for some time.
“There’s something that’s kind of like was playing in the mind in the past a little while now,” he told us. “I have been contacted by two organizations from the U.S. and Canada to help stop foreign attacks. The one guy in Canada wants to take me under his wing,” he explained, his eyes widening. “Another one [the American intel] wants me to go around to people I met, Americans from Texas.” That foreign intelligence also interviews the imprisoned ISIS cadres we talk with and tries to learn from them, and perhaps also recruit them as informants, is no surprise to us, as we frequently hear about it from those we have interviewed in SDF and Iraqi prisons. “You met Americans in ISIS?” we ask, surprised, as most often our interviewees have no, or only very sparse, information about American ISIS members.
Nodding, he answers, “There was a Bengali American. Abu Adam.” Trying to recall the others’ names, he adds, “Two cousins. They were from New York. One was American, but Turkish – Abu Ilias. He was from Texas. He was killed in Baghouz in a drone strike.” We ask how he knows for certain this American ISIS cadre was killed, as ISIS had a habit of declaring cadres they hoped to send back home to attack as dead – creating an “ISIS undead” attack force of sorts. “I didn’t see his body, but others did,” Abu Henricki confirms.
Abu Henricki then opens up about a plot in which he said he and other Trinidadians were invited to attempt to penetrate the U.S. borders to mount financial attacks on the U.S. When asked how this occurred, he explains, “The emni [ISIS intelligence arm] was inviting us,” which matches other cases we and others have uncovered, in which the ISIS external emni identifies ISIS cadres willing to go home or attack in countries outside the Caliphate.[vi] When asked if he can identify the emni member who invited him, as they routinely wore masks covering their faces, Abu Henricki answers, “He speaks English. He was Tunisian, maybe. I don’t know. He approached the guys, and they approached me. He didn’t come directly to me.”
This was in the end of 2016. “They, what they will have, what they wanted to do, basically, is they wanted to do financial attacks. Financial attacks to cripple the [U.S.] economy,” Abu Henricki explains. “Apparently, they have the contacts or whatever papers they can get to a false ID, false passports [to send me out for this kind of attack],” he adds. “They have their system of doing it. So that’s maybe the way that I could have gone out with other individuals. It wasn’t me alone. They were sending you to Puerto Rico and from Puerto Rico [to Mexico].”
“One reason while I was also put in [ISIS] prison in 2016, I was asked to leave [ISIS] to go to America because I’m from that area. Cause they wanted [and] planned to do something and I refused.” Abu Henricki explains. “I refused to do it. That is why also I’m put into [ISIS] prison and been tortured.”
Earlier in the interview, Abu Henricki had told us about being imprisoned by ISIS at the end of 2016 and in early 2017, along with his Canadian wife. An hour earlier he was too afraid to share the real reason, telling us only that he was becoming disillusioned of the Islamic State and was then accused of being a spy. Abu Henricki was severely tormented inside the ISIS prison in Manbij. “They tortured me,” he explains. “They beat me a lot. [I was] suspended from the back, standing on my toes, given no food for a few days, waterboarded – while blindfolded, and they put a bag over your head. They found nothing on me, so I was released,” Abu Henricki had explained an hour earlier. Abu Henricki’s Canadian wife, whom we know through other sources, had openly criticized ISIS and was also imprisoned, but not tortured. However, she heard the torments of others who were, so she suffered a psychological torture of sorts. After both were released, Abu Henricki recounts that his wife miscarried her pregnancy as a result of distress, and Abu Henricki went on to get a chronic, life-threatening, stress-related illness.
Now he is opening up to us about the whole story of his time under ISIS and the horrific mission they were allegedly trying to force him to undertake. “I knew I went to prison because I said no [to their offer of an external attack mission,]” Abu Henricki now explains. “But they wouldn’t say that.”
When asked about the ISIS plot, he explains, “They were going to move me to the Mexican side [of the U.S. southern border] via Puerto Rico. This was mastermind[ed] by a guy in America. Where he is, I do not know. That information, the plan came from someone from the New Jersey state from America. I was going to take a boat [from Puerto Rico] into Mexico. He was going to smuggle me in,” Abu Henricki explains. “I don’t know where I’d end up.” Abu Henricki was not pressed further on why Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, was not chosen as a point of entry to the mainland United States.
“Please be advised, I was not willing to do it,” Abu Henricki adds, wanting to be sure we don’t think he was willing to attack innocent civilians inside the U.S. “But this is one of their wicked, one of the plans that they had,” he explains, “and which I would like to think I foiled the plan by not being part of it.”
While Abu Henricki said he was told that the aim of the plot was to attack the financial system, as is often the case, the full details of the plot were not disclosed to him. “All I could think of was a bombing mission,” Abu Henricki explains to us, his face becoming deadly serious. Given that the mastermind was from New Jersey, it may have been aimed at New York financial targets.
When asked about the others who had been approached, Abu Henricki recalls, “I think they died. I think they also refused. They were still around [inside the Caliphate], in late 2017, and then were killed, hit by airstrikes,” he explains. “My Trinidadian [friends] were approached to do the same thing,” he explains. “The Trinidadians, [like me,] also refused,” he states and lists their ISIS names: “Abu Rahman, Abu Fukai and Abu Salahi, Abu Ana – all dead. I came in [to the Caliphate] with them.” When asked how he knows they are actually dead, as opposed to the “ISIS undead”[vii] who still pose a threat to Western countries, he answers, “Abu Rukiah was hit by a sniper.” Given that the others were bombed, we ask how he knows they were actually killed. “I was in the vicinity. I saw their dead bodies and went to their burials,” he confirms.
“They wanted to use these people [to attack inside the U.S.] because they were from these areas [i.e. North America and English-speakers],” Abu Henricki explains.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The alleged plot described by the ISIS suspect is a claim by this single individual only, and has not been corroborated by intelligence sources; some of these sources have noted to HSToday details in the account that are unlikely to be true from a logistical and tactical perspective. While Abu Henricki’s case in regard to his admission of aiding a terrorist group has yet to be adjudicated, it is important to note that it is not uncommon for terror suspects hoping for leniency to craft stories claiming that they had a reduced role in the group or were instrumental in preventing an attack. We recommend that readers keep this in mind while weighing the veracity of this admitted ISIS fighter’s claims.
ISIS Fighter Affirms What JW Exposed Years Ago—Terrorists Enter U.S. Via Mexico
Five years after a Judicial Watch investigation uncovered evidence of Islamic terrorists infiltrating the United States through Mexico, a captured ISIS fighter is providing details of a plot in which jihadists enter the country through the southern border to carry out an attack. The terrorists begin their journey in Central America and exploit vulnerabilities in the Mexican border to reach the U.S., according to Abu Henricki, an ISIS soldier captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces in Rojava, Syria. Henricki and 160 of his fellow terrorists were interviewed at length by a research group called the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. The nonpartisan organization published its findings recently in an alarming report that includes a video of the interview with the captured terrorist, who is Canadian and has dual Trinidadian citizenship
“They were going to move me to the Mexican side [of the U.S. southern border] via Puerto Rico,” Henricki says about the ISIS plot. “This was mastermind[ed] by a guy in America. Where he is, I do not know. That information, the plan came from someone from the New Jersey state from America. I was going to take a boat [from Puerto Rico] into Mexico. He was going to smuggle me in,” Henricki explains. “I don’t know where I’d end up.” In the report, the researchers reveal that the ISIS fighters were to travel from Syria to penetrate the U.S. southern order by infiltrating migration routes. “Whatever one thinks of President Donald Trump’s heightened rhetoric about the U.S.- Mexico border and his many claims that it is vulnerable to terrorists, ISIS apparently also thought so, as knowledge of this ISIS plot came from the mouth of a now-repentant ISIS cadre,” the report states.
Judicial Watch has reported this for years as part of an ongoing investigation into the national security crisis created by the dangerously porous southern border. Judicial Watch has interviewed local, state and federal law enforcement officials as well as U.S. and Mexican military sources and has traveled to remote Mexican border towns to interview American ranchers. When the Central American caravan got started last fall, Judicial Watch deployed an investigative team to the Guatemala-Honduras border after Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales confirmed that nearly 100 Isis terrorists had been apprehended in the impoverished Central American nation. Judicial Watch’s reporting has confirmed that ISIS has a training cell just a few miles from El Paso, Texas in an area known as “Anapra” situated just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. We also verified that Mexican drug cartels are smuggling foreigners from countries with terrorist links to stash areas in a rural Texas town (Acala) near El Paso. Back in 2014 Judicial Watch reported that four ISIS soldiers, who entered the U.S. through the Mexican border, were arrested in McAllen and Pharr Texas.
Two years ago, Judicial Watch exposed a plot involving Mexican drug traffickers that help Islamic terrorists stationed in Mexico cross into the U.S. to explore targets for future attacks. Among the jihadists that travel back and forth through the porous southern border is a Kuwaiti named Shaykh Mahmood Omar Khabir, an ISIS operative who lives in the Mexican state of Chihuahua not far from El Paso. Khabir trained hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen and at the time lived in Mexico for more than a year, according to information provided to Judicial Watch by high-ranking Homeland Security officials. Khabir trains thousands of men—mostly Syrians and Yemenis—to fight in an ISIS base situated in the Mexico-U.S. border region near Ciudad Juárez, the intelligence gathered by Judicial Watch’s sources reveals.
The U.S. government—under both Republican and Democrat administrations—has long possessed intelligence indicating that Islamic terrorists exploit the southern border. In fact, Judicial Watch uncovered State Department records confirming that, for more than a decade, the government has known that “Arab extremists” are entering the country through Mexico with the assistance of smuggling network “cells.” Among them was a top Al Qaeda operative wanted by the FBI. Some Mexican smuggling networks actually specialize in providing logistical support for Arab individuals attempting to enter the United States, the government documents obtained by Judicial Watch say. The top Al Qaeda leader in Mexico was identified in the September 2004 cable from the American consulate in Ciudad Juárez as Adnan G. El Shurkrjumah. The cable was released to Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act.
Just last year a Jordanian man was arrested by federal authorities for smuggling six citizens of Yemen—an Al Qaeda hotbed—into the U.S. through Mexico. The smuggler, 31-year-old Moayad Heider Mohammad Aldairi, conspired with others to sneak the six Yemeni nationals across the Texas border for a fee, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) statement. Weeks later a group of migrants from a terrorist nation managed to infiltrate the U.S. through Mexico, though the Border Patrol subsequently apprehended the men. All were from Bangladesh, a south Asian Islamic country that’s well known as a recruiting ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Earlier in the year, Judicial Watch had reported on the epidemic of Bangladeshi nationals getting smuggled into the country via the porous southern border, especially through Texas.
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