For most Americans, the events of 9/11 changed the way they look at the world. Beyond the bombing of the World Trade Center years before, this was one of the first times most of them genuinely understood the threat of terrorism on American soil. Not only did it seem like time stood still that day, everything changed as far as looking at the very real threats all around towns and cities across America.
It is scary to consider at any time in the United States; there are criminals out there planning the next big attack. They seem to find new ways to do as much damage as possible to make a name for themselves. If it was not for the diligent work of local law enforcement in Maryland, another terror plot was brewing in Edgewood and would have been carried out. Mohamed Elshinawy has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his part in a local terrorist plot.
The 33-year-old Muslim man first came to the attention of the local FBI branch back in 2015. He received a money transfer from Egypt for $1,000.
Money coming in from Egypt or other parts of the Middle East can often be a sign of a terror connection. Wire transfers like this can trigger an investigation from either local police or federal authorities.
In this case, the FBI moved in to interview the suspect to see what the money was for.
While he made an almost immediate connection between the funds and ISIS, the suspect tried to spin a creative tale about what the money was for.
While it seemed to be clear that there were ties between the money and ISIS, Elshinawy wanted the FBI to believe that he was working to defraud ISIS. He created this story about actually working against the terror group to take their money.
His tale quickly fell apart. He was not collecting money under the guise of tricking ISIS but instead as a part of a ploy to perform a terror attack on U.S. soil.
The court documents, in this case, make mention of ties to terrorism here in the United States but it is not clear if there was ever an actual plan in place to act. In this case, the planning may have been merely in the early stages.
That first money transfer from Egypt was only the beginning. Eventually, Elshinawy collected almost $10,000 from foreign money transfers.
The $1,000 collected from the group in Egypt was combined with $8,700 from a UK based terror support organization. All of the funds were being used as a foundation to attack Maryland.
Up until his recent plea deal, the suspect made multiple attempts to ease the mind of the FBI agents working on his case.
Officials shared that he employed tactics to draw attention away from his real motives, which included using false information when being interviewed.
In the end, his efforts to hide his true motives did not work. He was arrested on federal charges tied to supporting terrorism in the United States.
The suspect pleaded guilty to “…providing and attempting to provide material support to ISIS, terrorism financing, and making false statements in connection with a terrorism matter.”
The plea means he will spend the next 20 years in federal prison. He is also going to be under supervision for 15 years after getting out of prison.
Beyond collecting the funds from foreign organizations, the suspect also shared with investigators that he was using his connections and business ventures to further the cause.
Many assume the issue of domestic terrorism incidents is few and far between in the United States. In all reality, this is simply not true.
Cases of home-grown terrorism are becoming more and more a routine part of the landscape of the United States. This is one reason agencies like the FBI are so quick to act on something as simple as a wire transfer coming in from the Middle East.
They can prove to be even more deadly than threats from outside of the country because they are often done by lone actors or small groups acting in areas they are intimately familiar with.
Scenes like the bombing in Oklahoma City, the horrible pressure cooker bombs left at the Boston Marathon, and even the Pulse Nightclub shooting reminds the public that the threat is very real.
The arrest made in this case may have derailed any number of terrorist attacks in the Maryland area. It is hard to say how many lives have been saved with even one person behind bars.