Homegrown Extremists Pose Greatest Threat to New Jersey, Study Finds

Study notes an increase in domestic terror attacks and threats of violence last year compared to 2015

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What to Know

  • Homegrown extremists are the biggest threat to New Jersey, a new study finds
  • Domestic terrorists attacks increased nearly 30 percent between 2015 and 2016
  • 60 percent of all domestic terrorist attacks in the U.S. were attributed to race-based separatist groups

Despite ISIS being an ongoing topic of discussion among U.S. Homeland Security officials, experts say homegrown extremists pose the greatest threat to New Jersey, according to a new study.

The annual study, which highlights trends in terror activities and techniques to combat extremism, was released by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) Wednesday morning.

Recent acts of domestic terrorism like the September 2016 bombings in Chelsea and Seaside Heights have elevated threats of homegrown extremism from moderate to high, the report found.

"The series of bombings in New York City and Elizabeth were a stark reminder of the very real threat we face from individuals who want to disrupt our way of life," NJOSHP Director Christopher Rodriguez said in a statement. "No longer was terrorism over there, it had arrived here in our backyard."

Domestic terrorists engaged in 22 attacks and were responsible for an additional 17 plots and threats of violence last year, a 29 percent increase from 2015, the study found.

Nearly 60 percent of all homegrown terror attacks in the U.S. were attributed to race-based separatist groups whose primary targets were law enforcement officials and minority groups. Attacks against law enforcement and minority groups increased twofold from 2015 to 2016, the study found.

The study noted that nearly 90 percent of all extremist-perpetrated law enforcement fatalities occurred following the police-involved shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

One of seven documented attacks carried out by white supremacists last year occurred in Harlem, where hate crime suspect Oliver Stewart-Vukicevic attacked detectives with a knife after they came to investigate his apartment on suspicions involving anti-Semitic letters left throughout his building.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also become a critical threat, the study says. AQAP recently cited the bombings in New Jersey as "a model for future attacks in the United States" and credited Ahmad Rahimi as a "hero of the Lone Jihad."

A group claiming al-Qaida affiliation threatened an NJOHSP official on Facebook last April, a month after a Bangladeshi pro-al-Qaida group urged militants to attack 10 U.S. universities, including Princeton. 

Rodriguez emphasized establishing community relationships and increased civilian vigilance as the major methods for combating domestic terrorism. NJOSHP's Hometown Security Initiative educates the public on recognizing potential threats and how to spot and report suspicious activity.

The director says the program is designed to "increase community resilience, readiness and overall security."

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