CHICAGO - Two new investigations of American terrorists portray a chilling image of terrorists living in our midst, and concentrated in the Midwest.
Targeting the jihadist next door in the Midwest would have to become a priority according to new data compiled by House Homeland Security investigators. They lay out an "unprecedented spike in the homegrown terror threat, primarily driven by the rise of ISIS." That, along with a new University of Chicago report on the American face of ISIS, paint a frightening picture of the threat growing among us.
First for Al Qaeda and now for ISIS, Chicago is a crossroads of home-grown terrorists.
According to new findings by the House Homeland Security Committee, the tentacles of terror cases in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin since early 2016 touch Chicago.
"ISIS has learned to penetrate our already-strong immigration defense through social media, and especially through its propagation of video propaganda," said Kevin Ruby, researcher at the University of Chicago.
At the University of Chicago, the Project on Security and Threats examined 112 cases of American jihadists who have been indicted the past year and a half. Project director Robert Pape came to a stunning conclusion.
"The ISIS terrorists in the United States are strikingly normal," Pape said.
According to the university's findings, the average American jihadist is a 27-year-old male with no criminal record or mental illness history, college-educated, employed and a recent convert to Islam.
Among the accused plotters in the Midwest identified by the I-Team is 18-year-old Akram Musleh. Authorities said Musleh tried to fly from Chicago to Iraq, booking three separate one-way tickets. He was stopped at O'Hare due to improper travel documents and arrested in June 2016 at an Indiana bus station headed to New York with a plane ticket to Morocco.
Federal agents said he had been shopping for pressure cookers after researching explosives online.
Two Milwaukee men are accused of plotting to travel overseas to join ISIS. Authorities said one of them previously threatened to kill a federal judge and blow up the courthouse.
Finally, in Michigan, Khalil Abu-Rayyan was arrested in February 2016 for a planned attack on a Detroit church. Federal authorities said he told an information, "I would gladly behead people if I needed to. It is my dream to behead someone."
House Homeland Security investigators concluded that their findings make the "forecast from 2017 look alarming." The University of Chicago's experts also said the core threat is home-grown and not from abroad.