WASHINGTON – The White House said Tuesday that no American citizen "will ever be targeted" in raids against terror suspects, a blanket statement that appeared to signal a break from the Obama administration's strategy for pursuing and targeting suspects in counterterrorism operations overseas. Under former President Barack Obama, the Justice Department had issued a legal opinion giving the U.S. the authority to target Americans who are working with terrorists abroad. White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters the Trump administration will lean on the guidance of Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but he added that "no American citizen will ever be targeted." It was not immediately clear whether Spicer's intended to recalibrate U.S. policy. The U.S. specifically targeted and killed American Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric, in Yemen in 2011.
The man who plowed a car into a crowd at Ohio State University before stabbing several pedestrians with a butcher knife on Monday is said to have referred to American-born Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a "hero" on his social media accounts. Law enforcement sources told Fox News on Tuesday that the reference of al-Awlaki on Abdul Razak Ali Artan's social media accounts is "deeply concerning" because it could suggest he was self-radicalized before launching the attack. While a motive has not been confirmed, authorities are looking into whether the car-and-knife attack by the Somali-born student was an anti-U.S. terrorist attack. The FBI is now in possession of Artan's electronic devices and will focus their investigation on whether he was reading the two recent ISIS propaganda journals that called for attacks using vehicles and knives, a law enforcement source added. In recent months, federal law enforcement officials have raised concerns about online extremist propaganda that encourages knife and car attacks, which are easier to pull off than bombings.
Investigators have found evidence that the man who plowed a car into a crowd at Ohio State University Monday before stabbing several pedestrians with a butcher knife was inspired by ISIS propaganda, law enforcement sources told Fox News. The sources did not specify what evidence was found, but investigators are inclined to believe that the attacker, 18-year-old Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was "self-radicalized." Artan also praised American-born Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a "hero" and railed against U.S. interference in Muslim lands in a series of Facebook posts, officials said. We are not weak, remember that," Artan wrote on Facebook, using the Arabic term for the world's Muslim community. The posts from Artan's account came to light after Monday's violence, which left 11 people injured before Artan was shot and killed by a university police officer.
Just two days before the bombings in New York City and Seaside Park, New Jersey, a relative's cellphone recorded suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami igniting incendiary material in a cylinder buried in a backyard, the fuse being lighted, a loud noise and flames, according to the federal complaint charging him with terror crimes. After the flames erupted, "billowing smoke and laughter" was seen and heard, the feds said in details revealed Monday. In addition, they said the bloody journal found on Rahami after his arrest included rantings plotting revenge against the U.S. government for slaughtering Muslim holy warriors. The complaint also showed that he watched jihadi fight videos in his spare time. In one section of the journal, the Afghan-born Rahami suggested he was worried police or the feds would capture him before he could carry out a suicide attack, becoming a martyr.
The 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric and U.S. citizen who was killed in a drone strike in 2011, was reportedly among those killed Sunday during a raid in Yemen. The Guardian reported that Nawar al-Awlaki was killed after suffering a gunshot wound to the neck. The girl's grandfather told the paper that he did not believe the girl was targeted. "I don't think this incident was intentional," the former government minister said. He told the paper that the location of the strike was confusing because it was not a hotbed for Al Qaeda, rathera tribal sheikhs fighting the government, which is supported by Iran-backed Houthis.