ISIS’ insidious network reaches far beyond the Middle East. Hundreds of American men and women have been taken in by the terrorist group’s cruel dogma. A 26-year-old man who grew up in New Jersey is now a prominent ISIS commander. His American upbringing didn’t save him from falling prey to Islamic state recruiters.
Zulfi Hoxha graduated from a New Jersey high school eight years ago. His mother, Albanian immigrant Ltefaji Hoxha, still lives in the state. She gave her first media interview this week. “I am upset… No good. I’m very upset,” she murmured.
Zulfi Hoxha traveled to Syria a few years ago and became Abu Hamza al-Amriki, a crazed Islamist.
“Liberate yourself from hellfire by killing a kafir [non-Muslim],” al Amriki shrieked in an ISIS propaganda video.
“Are you incapable of stabbing a kaffir with a knife, throwing him off of a building, or running him over with a car?”
In the sickening video, al Amriki is seen beheading multiple prisoners.
Men like al Amriki represent a grave threat to the world. The government has almost no way to identify the so-called “lone wolf” attacker. If those around him are willing to shield him, there’s not much that law enforcement can do.
ISIS is dying, but they’re not defeated. The group is losing territory while at the same time honing its recruitment skills.
“This is so far the only instance in which the U.S. government has confirmed the name (and American citizenship) of an Islamic State member who appears in one of the group’s media products,” notes The Atlantic.
“While a number of Americans have appeared in terrorist propaganda videos over the years, law enforcement rarely comments on their identity. Moreover, the government does not often publicly release its assessments of American Islamic State members’ role or rank. Hoxha’s apparent status in the group places him in an elite category of the group’s American members who have risen to some level of leadership.”
ISIS fighters have been purged from Syria, but their insane ideology lives on in men like al Amriki. The war on terror isn’t even close to being over.
“We know he was very active online. We have court records and transcripts of him trading ISIS videos back and forth with two or three other Americans. And so you clearly saw an individual who was part of an online network and used that online network to facilitate his offline travel,” Seamus Hughes, deputy director at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, told NPR.
“The federal government and the FBI in particular shuts down networks before they form. You know, if you’re in the U.K., you see these clusters of folks. In the U.S., you’re talking about ones and twos of individuals that are drawn to the ideology. There’s a use of informants. There’s a use of FISA. There’s a whole…ability of the tools that we have in the U.S. that European or other Western countries do not have.”
What compelled al Amriki to abandon his country and devote himself to evil? Not much is known about his upbringing. His mother hinted that he was often angry while growing up. He also frequented the local mosques.
Now that ISIS is losing territory in the Middle East, there are fears that men like al Amriki will return to their countries and try to carry out their missions there.
“As the physical caliphate quickly disappears, media reports speak of foreign fighters, including Americans, attempting to lay low in Turkey before deciding their next move. Others have returned to their home countries, much to the concern of law-enforcement officials,” writes The Atlantic.
“However, for the time being, the once-feared ‘wave’ of returning Western foreign fighters has only amounted to a trickle. Yet even from afar, Western isis recruits wield influence on their sympathizers back home”
The Trump administration hasn’t officially commented on al Amriki’s case.