Katherine Zimmerman,Dominic Lisanti | Critical Threats Project
On Tuesday, two Americans were arrested on terrorism charges. An FBI affidavit accuses the pair of planning to “travel from the United States to Mauritania intending to prepare to wage violent jihad.” Mauritania, their travel destination, was not the final destination. Instead, Randy (Rasheed) Wilson and Mohammed Abdul Rahman Abukhdair planned to cross the desert into northern Mali, now largely controlled by militant Islamist groups.
Wilson and Abukhdair met online between February and November 2010. Both were already exploring opportunities to take up jihad abroad. Wilson had been the roommate of Omar Hammami, who left for Somalia in 2006 and is currently a member of al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate there. He had discussed following Hammami to Somalia with another friend, but ultimately, they never acted on it. Abukhdair moved to Cairo, Egypt in February 2007 and then to Alexandria in February 2010. Egyptian authorities arrested him in November 2010 on suspicions of being active in a terrorist group and he was deported to the U.S. in January 2011. By late October 2011, Abukhdair had moved in with Wilson’s family in Mobile, Alabama, and the two men had already begun talking about where to go fight jihad.