The FBI has concluded that Faisal Mohammad, who stabbed four people on the University of California, Merced campus last year, was inspired by ISIS. Mohammad’s attack becomes the 5th ISIS inspired attack on U.S. soil since 2014.
On November 4th, 2015, 18-year-old Faisal Mohammad stabbed four people before he was shot and killed by police responding to the incident. All of the victims of the attack survived. Friday, the FBI announced it had found evidence Mohammad was self-radicalized and likely was inspired by ISIS:
The FBI said Thursday that Faisal Mohammad, 18, had visited websites for ISIS and other terrorist organizations before the attack, concluding that “he may have self-radicalized and drawn inspiration from terrorist propaganda.”
What is most striking about this story is how different today’s announcement is from what authorities said immediately after the attack. On November 5th, one day after the attack, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke told reporters a written plan had been found on Mohammad’s body which indicated he intended to kill a lot of people because he was angry about being excluded from a study group. Sheriff Warnke emphasized that the the motive had been settled and that there was no evidence of any kind linking Mohammad to terrorism. From CNN:
“There is still nothing to indicate anything, and I mean anything, that this is other than a teenage boy that got upset with fellow classmates and took it to the extreme,” the sheriff said.
“During the course of their investigation, they have found nothing in this person’s history, personal belongings, electronic devices, or any other items to suggest anything other than this was an act of an individual for a vendetta,” Warnke said.
“There is nothing to indicate that there is any political or religious motivation pertaining to what he did yesterday,” Warnke said.
About a week later something changed. On November 11th the FBI and the UC Merced police department issued a joint statement which read in part:
The FBI has assisted the ongoing investigation and continues to do so in a collaborative effort to find answers to many questions. Without the ability to ask him directly, investigative efforts focus on fully examining all available evidence to ascertain his motives. As an active, ongoing investigation, the FBI will not release details regarding searches or evidence collected during the course of the investigation at this time. The FBI is in search of answers and will not speculate about a motive and appreciate the public’s patience as we continue this significant task.
That statement came the same day that several news outlets, including the NY Daily News revealed Faisal Mohammad had been carrying a printed copy of the ISIS flag in his backpack during the attack. That detail is itself curious because stories from the day after the attack included a detailed description of items found in Mohammad’s backpack, but none of those initial stories mentioned the ISIS flag. It’s hard to believe authorities found the other items in the backpack, including zip ties and a glass breaker, but somehow missed the ISIS flag. Did someone find it and fail to tell Sheiff Warnke about it before he held his press conference talking about the motive? If so why? And why did it take almost a full week for the FBI to pull back on his claims? There seems to be a lot more to this story that we haven’t heard yet.
This is the 5th ISIS inspired attack on the U.S. since 2014. Here, via CNN, are the other four attacks:
In the fall of 2014, authorities said U.S. citizen Zale Thompson attacked four police officers with a hatchet in New York. He was believed to have been self-radicalized. The attack left two police officers wounded, and a civilian was accidentally wounded by bullets fired by officers who killed Thompson.
Seven months later, in May 2015, gunmen said to be inspired by ISIS opened fire in Garland, Texas, outside a cartoon contest featuring images of the Prophet Mohammed. The gunmen,Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, wounded a security guard before police shot and killed them
On December 2, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook killed 14 people and injured 21 others at a gathering of government workers in San Bernardino, California.
In January, a man named Edward Archer shot and wounded Philadelphia police Officer Jesse Hartnett. After his arrest, Archer allegedly told police, “I pledge my allegiance to the Islamic State, and that’s why I did what I did.”
This list does not include two attacks in Canada in 2014. An attack on a Canadian Forces recruiting center in Tornoto Monday has not been confirmed as terrorism yet.