Tri-State Terror Attack: A SITREP

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The following is a moment-to-moment situation report of terror attacks that occurred in New Jersey, Minnesota and New York, SEPT17. Following is commentary.

|SITREP │What We Know:

Saturday September, 17th

0930hrs: Seaside Park, New Jersey: After an initial explosion, a total of three (3) IEDs were found by investigators as “pipe bomb” devices. The IEDs were strategically placed on a 5k Charity Run course where U.S. Marines, service members and veterans were scheduled to pass (the Seaside Semper Five). Luckily, despite the very poorly executed, guerrilla / insurgent-style IED attack, the run event had not started thus, no casualties were reported.

2000hrs: ISIL-claimed combatant and suspected Somalia-born, Dahir Adan entered a Sears store in the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He asked random civilians if “they were Muslim” and stabbed a number of people when they answered, “no”. As Adan entered a Macy’s department store, off-duty Avon, MN police officer Jason Falconer engaged Adan with a pistol, putting an end to the terror. According to witnesses, the entire incident lasted minutes.

2031hrs: IED detonates in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York (23rd & 6th). 29 civilian casualties were medevac’d to local hospitals. Early reports do not indicate that anyone was KIA. All casualties were soft targets and seemingly random. Per a press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that the terror attack was indeed, “intentional” and did not connect this attack to the earlier bombing in New Jersey.

A few blocks away on 27th Street, another IED was found and safely removed. Reports indicate that two well-dressed men found a suitcase on the street, and couldn’t believe their “luck”. They emptied the contents of the suitcase into a nearby garbage receptacle, inadvertently disarming the pressure-cooker IED. After the investigators were alerted, the IED was not detonated, which allowed them to examine the cell phone trigger mechanism and other parts of the device. The investigation linked the cell phone and a fingerprint to Ahmad Khan Rahmi, a 28 year-old Afghani who was living and working in Elizabeth, NJ.

Sunday, September 18th

2045hrs: In Elizabeth, New Jersey after walking out of a local restaurant, on North Broad Street, two men found a backpack in a trash can that contained “wires and a pipe,” said Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage. The men contacted local police who discovered that there were five (5) IEDs in the backpack, artfully placed to cause casualties and damage to soft targets during the Monday morning commute into New York City.

The Newark FBI and Union County EOD teams unintentionally detonated one of the IEDs as a bomb squad robot was cutting the device to secure the area in the early morning of Sunday September 18th. No one was injured in the blast. Trains headed to New York remained halted until Monday morning.

2230hrs: Law enforcement officials said that the FBI made a “vehicle-of-interest” stop on the Belt Parkway near the Verrazano Bridge (a bridge that connects the borough of Staten Island with Brooklyn). The FBI was assisted by the NYPD and they took five (5) people into custody and were being questioned. There were unconfirmed reports of weapons inside the vehicle and that the men were all from Afghanistan. At this time, none of the men have been charged with any crime and were later released.

Monday, September 19th

0730hrs: FBI releases a photo of Ahmand Khan Rahami saying that he is “wanted for questioning,” in connection with the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey. The 28-year-old is described as a U.S. Citizen of Afghan decent and “armed and dangerous”. Rahami was seen in surveillance footage near the scenes of the Manhattan bombings. He has a history of confrontations with local police officers over his family business and has been described as being more “radicalized” upon returning from his Afghanistan visits.

1030hrs: A local resident in Linden, NJ complained of a man sleeping in a doorway of a neighborhood bar. When a police officer approached the man—now identified as being Rahami himself—and asked him to “show his hands,” Rahami pulled out a pistol and engaged the police officer. The officer was struck in the abdomen, but was wearing a vest which protected him from serious injury. Rahmi fled on foot, firing his weapon indiscriminately at passing vehicles.

1134hrs: Wounded and bleeding from the firefight with police officers, Rahami is taken into custody. There was at least one other police officer wounded in the firefight.

Commentary:

The attacks on soft targets this weekend remind me of all of the civilians in all of my deployments to combat zones, who are usually caught in the crossfire of ideologies, turned into terrorism. It is apparent that even one crazed individual can and does do harm to our morale and feeling of safety. Ahmand Khan Rahami is clearly an impressionable young man who has proven issues with authority, society and I can imagine, has perceived his place in Post 9/11 America as an outsider. Upon visiting Afghanistan, he likely heard the hate spewed towards the United States, igniting passion and rage.

I would describe what he did as using “tactics, techniques or procedures,” (TTP) as we did in the military. But the evidence shows—thus far—that Rahami is not part of a radical Islamic group or ISIL, he is not a trained soldier, and he lacks discipline and experience. To me, at this time, with the information before us, he appears as some kid who is pissed off about a lot of things, and has no outlet or mentors to channel his frustration. Yes he caused damage and injuries, but from a tactical standpoint he did a terrible job trying to get attention for his ‘cause,’ a cause that remains to be seen. Poorly built and poorly executed IEDs which—in my opinion—showcased how strong our emergency services are and how effective their investigative tools are.

Crucial is to consider that, despite the horrendous and inhuman nature of these attacks, as a country we must not assume, without more, that these attacks are more than a disturbed individual stomping his feet at intangible, unarticulated emotions, driven by a skewed perception of realty. It is quite possible Rahami is nothing more than a violent punk crying out for attention. This is why, I speculate there is no clear military strategy to analyze, or counterintelligence loopholes to figure out, “where we went wrong.” I’m confident that right now, investigators are going through every year of this 28–year-old’s life to figure out a motive and to strengthen their case.

Friends, neighbors, family and anyone else Rahami has had contact with over the past +ten years will be interviewed. Federal agents will seek to draw a connection with a stronger more organized group abroad, possibly using him as a pawn, to see if they could exploit weaknesses; a type of “recon by fire”. Regardless, he will remain in a cell where he should spend the rest of his life.

I have lived and worked in New Jersey and New York City most of my life. This is my home. I feel safe. In this area, we are resilient, tough and move forward without fear. After all I’ve seen in war, at home and abroad, Rahami will never see freedom again, and I will forget this guy by next week.

Don Johnston, for Lima Charlie News

Don Johnston (U.S. Army) is a Senior Correspondent for Lima Charlie News. SGT. Johnston served with distinction in the U.S. Army as a non-commissioned officer with tours in Central America, Africa and the Middle East, from 1994 to 2008. Don was with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) on active duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Follow Don on Twitter @DonJohnstonLC

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