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Senate moves Terrorism-Related bill - Frankfort

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FRANKFORT – A self-proclaimed terrorist living in Arkansas targeted a military recruiting center nine years ago in the Northern Kentucky city of Florence. The terrorist aborted his attack only because the center was closed when he arrived.

That’s an example of why the General Assembly needs to approve Senate Bill 57, said Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who sponsored the legislation. The measure would allow a person injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist. SB 57 would also establish the crime of terrorism as one punishable by imprisonment for life without probation or parole.

SB 57 is commonly referred to as Andy’s Law, after Pfc. Andy Long. He was fatally shot in 2009 outside of a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting office – by the same self-proclaimed terrorist.

The Senate passed SB 57 by a 38-0 vote. It goes to the House for consideration. Similar measures are now law in numerous states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and neighboring Tennessee.

The self-proclaimed terrorist, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, was born Carlos Leon Bledsoe. He was one of nine siblings from a middle-class Baptist family in Memphis, Tenn., where his father owned a bus tour company. He was described by his parents and peers as a very athletic and outgoing young man.

“However, his family noticed a different Carlos, after his first year of studies at Tennessee State University ... in the fall of 2003,” Wise said. “It was there Bledsoe’s father, Melvin, believes that his son became radicalized at the Islamic center in Nashville. And it was there Carlos listened and watched online lectures and teaching from a digital jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki.”

Awlaki's, who has since died in a targeted drone strike in Yemen, was known to have contact with the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, and Time Square foiled bomber Faisal Shahzad.

In 2007, Muhammad flew to Yemen where he planned to study Arabic and grow more as a Muslin. While there, he was arrested by Yemeni police for possession of a fake Somali identification card. The police found literature from Awlaki about manuals referencing bomb-making materials. Muhammad’s cell phone contained contacts to several Al-Qaeda militants. Muhammad was incarcerated with very harden jihadists.

“It was there he hatched his plan to unleash a holy war inside the United States,” Wise said.

When Muhammad was eventually released in Yeman, he was allowed to move to Arkansas.  Wise said the FBI “dropped the ball” by not keeping an eye on him.

“He began stockpiling weapons, ammo. Paying in cash. Making small purchases at a time. He bought one semi-automatic rifle from an acquaintance. Bought one pistol off the street,” Wise said. “He also wanted to test FBI surveillance so he went to a Walmart and there he bought a 22 semi-automatic over-the-counter at that particular Walmart. Leaving there, he noticed that no one popped up on his radar. The FBI didn’t stop him. Nothing was done.

“He thought, ‘I’m not under surveillance. Game on.’”

Wise said it this is an example of what is known as leaderless jihad – those that don’t formally belong to a group but act on their own because they have become radicalized.

Muhammad is now serving multiple life sentences in federal prison.

“I don’t want to paint a picture of disparaging the Muslim faith,” said Wise, a former FBI analyst who teaches graduate-level terrorism studies at the University of Kentucky. “That is not what I’m here to do today. I could also present to you many other situations of young men who became involved in similar background stories that became radicalized to white supremacy and also to far-right radicalism.”

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