The FBI Believes Militia Extremists Are Beginning to Target Muslim Institutions

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A “free speech” rally held at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix on May 30, 2015 featured numerous attendees dressed in camouflage, wearing tactical gear and carrying loaded weapons.  Photo via Reuters.

An intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division in late May warns that so-called “militia extremists” are likely to begin targeting Muslim institutions, including mosques and other religious facilities.  The bulletin titled “Militia Extremists Expand Target Sets To Include Muslims” was obtained by Public Intelligence after being released to law enforcement in late May, just days before a planned “freedom of speech” rally outside a Phoenix mosque which attracted numerous individuals dressed in camouflage, tactical gear and carrying loaded assault weapons.

Based primarily on a “large body of source reporting generated mainly since 2013,” the bulletin states that militia extremists are “expanding their target sets to include Muslims and Islamic religious institutions in the United States.”  The recent targeting of Muslims augments prior FBI analysis, contained in a January 2015 report, which found that “established militia extremists target government personnel and law enforcement officers, perceived threats from abroad, and individuals or institutions that seek to constrain Second Amendment rights.”

Multiple FBI “sources with varying levels of access” report that militia extremists have been conducting surveillance of “diverse locations including Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Montana, New York, North and South Carolina, Utah, and Texas.”  This reporting indicates that extremists have often focused on targeting Islamic facilities, such as mosques or community centers, though some have discussed targeting individual Muslims within their community.  In September 2014, a source with “good access” reported to the FBI that “militia extremists in Mississippi discussed kidnapping and beheading a Muslim and posting video of the attack to the Internet.”  Likewise, another source reported in early 2015 that the leader of a militia extremist group expressed “interest in training members for direct action against ISIS and associated ISIS locations.”

The FBI concludes that increased targeting of Muslims is being fueled by two fundamental misconceptions that are described as “salient perceptions within militia extremism that contribute toward an anti-Muslim bias”:

(U//FOUO) Islam represents a foreign threat, equivalent to those which emanate from illegal immigration or international terrorism.

(U//FOUO) The President of the United States not only sympathizes with Islamic extremists but directs US Government policy to align with their goals.

These misconceptions are often held by “adherents of a militia ideology who seek validation of anti-government conspiracy theories” including that the U.S. government allows “allows the group Muslims of the Americas (aka Jamaat ul Fuqra, hereinafter referred to as MOA) to operate terrorist training camps at dozens of locations across the United States.”  Citing videos and articles from the Christian Action Network, Pamela Geller and World Net Daily, the bulletin says that similar claims “periodically surge” following acts of Islamic-inspired terrorism.  The bulletin also cites a restricted 2006 report published by Public Intelligence from the Regional Organized Crime Information Center that “identified the location of seven MOA ‘training compounds'” within the U.S.

The FBI ultimately states that the “incorporation of anti-Islamic attitudes” serves to “dilute core militia ideological beliefs” and that signs of this “fragmenting ideology” could include “a noticeable reduction in rhetoric pertaining to the traditional core concern over Second Amendment rights” as well as the “addition of new types of targets, and actions or decisions made based upon current events rather than ideology.”

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