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NJ ready for possible new terrorism after death of the blind sheik

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New Jersey homeland security officials are on a heightened state of alert following the death of Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel Rahman a few days ago.

Rahman, known as the Blind Sheikh, was sentenced to life behind bars in a federal prison for inspiring the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist actions.

“His death is a cause for concern, because after the announcement last weekend we saw several overseas terrorist organizations, namely Al Qaeda affiliates like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, issuing statements for retaliatory attacks in response to the death of Omar Abdel Rahman,” said Rosemary Martorana, the director of intelligence for the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

She said those statements were “stressing and encouraging followers to execute Rahman’s will and urging fighters to take revenge, and I quote, in the most vicious way possible.”

Martorana stressed there are no specific credible threats right now, “but we do know foreign fighter terrorist propaganda like this can be used to inspire individuals here.”

She noted “homegrown violent extremists, or HVE’s in particular often can act on behalf of these foreign terrorist organizations.”

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She said HVE’s can be radicalized using mainstream or specialized social media.

“A homegrown violent extremist, or HVE, is an individual who is inspired, as opposed to directed by a foreign terrorist organization, and they’re radicalized in the countries in which they are born, raised or reside,” she said.

Martorana pointed out last year there were about 40 HVE arrests nationwide, and a handful were in this region, including Ahmad Khan Rahimi, who set off bombs in Seaside Park, Elizabeth and New York City.

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So what kind of an individual would become an HVE?

Martorana says they can be dedicated students of a particular movement, marginalized outcasts, or a combination of the two.

“Often these HVE’s draw inspiration from multiple terrorist organizations, and they adhere to this Salafi jihadism, or an extremist interpretation of Islam.”

“We often see these HVE’s choosing which ideologies and propaganda they want to act out on or behalf of, and so it’s kind of a mixed bag.”

She stressed New Jersey residents should be aware of this treat and report anything suspicious on a hotline.

“The number is 866-4-SAFE-NJ, or they can email tips@njohsp.gov and report anything suspicious,” she said.

“We often stress that the public is our first line of defense, and we can’t stress that enough, we need information from the ground so that we can have a better understanding of our threat environment.”

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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