The Beltway Snipers' Motives
by Daniel Pipes
When the Washington-area snipers were caught in October 2002, I criticized the media in "The Snipers: Crazy or Jihadis?" for tip-toeing around the possible Islamist motives of the two suspected perps, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo, and instead insisting on alternate explanations for their actions (making a quick buck, family problems, "stark realization" of loss and regret, a desire to "exert control" over others, Muhammad's relationship with Malvo, and so on). The operational sentence in my article was:
when Muslims engage in terrorism against Americans, the guiding presumption must be that they see themselves as warriors in a jihad against the "Great Satan."
Today comes news from the Washington Post confirming my hypothesis:
Prince William County prosecutors allege that sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad said "America got what it deserved" in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that he has expressed other anti-American and racist views.
As I keep saying until I'm sometimes blue in the face: The United States can win this war only if Americans forthrightly recognize who their enemy is. (August 19, 2003)
Sept. 3, 2003 update: The Washington Post reports today that Malvo told a Maryland police officer, Cpl. Wayne Davis, that "one reason for the shootings was that white people had tried to harm Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam."
Oct. 14, 2003 update: Evidence has emerged linking Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad, reports London's Evening Standard today, with Al-Fuqra, the violent Islamist organization with a history of violence on U.S. soil and also linked to shoe bomber Richard Reid and the murderers of Daniel Pearl. Investigators are said to suspect that Muhammad is "an Islamic terrorist and believe his insanity plea is a cover story to disguise his support for fundamentalists." The report even connects Muhammad's actions to 9/11, noting that "He bought his Chevrolet Caprice car used in the attacks on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks."
Oct. 23, 2003 update: This report in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer adds a worrisome new dimension to John Allen Muhammad's possible motives:
FBI agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force made a chilling discovery in a South King County storage locker last week: a small arsenal of weapons including the same model rifle used last year in random killings around the nation's capital.
The cache of weapons belongs to James Wilburn of Seattle, who according to court records, has a long history of federal firearms convictions. Agents and the U.S. Probation Office have uncovered some alarming parallels between Wilburn — who is behind bars after being arrested last month on a probation violation — and alleged D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad.
Like Muhammad, Wilburn, 51, is a convert to Islam. In addition to having the same model rifle allegedly used in the Washington, D.C.-area shootings, Wilburn, like Muhammad, has had a long-documented fascination with firearms. And Wilburn recently traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., where Muhammad is on trial, federal criminal justice sources said.
Among the items found in the storage locker: a sniper outfit, a range-finder scope, silencers, gas masks, road spikes, knives, guns and "a black leather bag full of ammo," according to an affidavit filed by Special Agent Fernando Gutierrez of the FBI's domestic terrorism squad."
We have assumed that Muhammad acted alone; could it be that he was part of an organized effort?
Oct. 31, 2003 update: The James Wilburn angle gets ever-more worrisome, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports today. FBI Special Agent Fernando Gutierrez paraphrases Wilburn in an affidavit saying that Wilburn "agrees with the actions of the September 11, 2001, terrorists, and that he wishes a full terrorist attack would occur in Seattle." To make matters worse, Wilburn is a suspect in the mysterious death on Sept. 23, 2003 of his girlfriend, Joleen Abbott, in Virginia Beach, Va., the same town where John Allen Muhammad, the D.C. sniper, is on trial for murder. "Wilburn fits the profile of a lone-wolf type of terrorist similar to the D.C. sniper," Gutierrez noted in his affidavit. One wonders how many more such individuals are on the loose out there.
Lee Malvo's jailhouse picture of Osama bin Laden
Lee Malvo's jailhouse picture of Osama bin Laden
May 24, 2006 update: The snipers are back in the news, now that John Allen Muhammad is on trial in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Lee Boyd Malvo is for the first time testifying against him. Malvo had much to say during his five hours of testimony, including these points, quoted from a Washington Post report: John Allen Muhammad on trial.
John Allen Muhammad on trial.
The National Post adds:
Comment: The only item in this list of Islamic, Islamist, and Nation of Islam influences that requires explanation is the strict diet of only one meal a day. This derives from Nation of Islam practices as explained in a two-volume book by Elijah Muhammad, How to Eat to Live (Atlanta: Messenger Elijah Muhammad Propagation Society, 1967-72), which set out his very detailed (and very un-Islamic) notions concerning food. Operating on the assumption that "the less you eat the longer you live" (vol. 2, p. 176), Elijah Muhammad demanded that members of the Nation of Islam eat only once a day, in the late afternoon. He even recommended that they eat not more than once every two, three, or even seven days. NoI followers who follow this diet, he insisted, can live a thousand years. Also, any sickness can be cured by abstaining from food: "Fasting is one of the greatest 'doctors' we have." In other words, John Allen Muhammad was here echoing the classic NoI viewpoint.
Nov. 19, 2007 update: The Site Intelligence newsletter (not accessible online) inSite provides many details of jihadis discussing J.A. Muhammad as a lone wolf Islamist terrorist.
Nov. 11, 2009 update: John Allen Muhammad was executed by lethal injection this evening at 9:08 at the Greenville Correctional Center in Virginia. The remarkable thing about the coverage is how the words jihad and Islam did not come up. Take the CNN report by Jeanne Meserve, "Sniper John Allen Muhammad executed": we learn that he professed his innocence to the end and referred to his "innocent black ass," that he opted not to meet with a spiritual adviser before going to his execution, that his last meal consisted of chicken, red sauce, and cakes, that one of his lawyers called Muhammad a "severely mentally ill man who also suffered from Gulf War Syndrome," that one of his two ex-wives considers herself Muhammad's real target, that he did not make a last statement, and that he died "very peacefully."
Comment: Muhammad died as he lived, in a fog of denial about his motives.
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