Terror in The Sunshine State.
While the multi-agency search for Afghan immigrant Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, the man believed to be connected to multiple bombings in New York and New Jersey, has safely concluded, recent arrests in Miami Beach have left South Florida residents feeling uneasy.
On Saturday, Mohamed Azab Youssef, Artur Schaback, and Ivan Suhharev were arrested following multiple reports of men dangerously wielding a firearm on a Miami Beach rooftop. Over the weekend, the men reportedly pointed an AR-15 at citizens and tourists walking from an apartment balcony at 1100 Collins Ave. At least one of the men donned a mask over his face while engaging in the act and posing for pictures, prompting multiple 911 calls.
After taking the men into custody, police searched the apartment discovering the AR-15, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, a switchblade knife, drug paraphernalia, and substances believed to be hashish, and cocaine.
The recent tragedy of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, has thrust Florida into the frontlines of the War on Terror and battle with the Islamic State. While none of the arrested men are reported to have terror connections, the erratic behavior has many residents and law enforcement officials questioning their motive.
There have been several recent local events that prompt terror concerns. On July 4, crowds gathering to watch a fireworks show erupted into chaos after a man opened fire at the Bayside market place and waterfront parks in Downtown Miami. While the shooting did not cause any fatalities, at least fifteen people were injured during the incident. In late July 2016, three South Florida men were arrested and charged with knowingly conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State.
Matthew Nieminski, an intelligence specialist elaborates on the threat to South Florida,“When people think terrorism, they generally think large international cities and political targets- they think New York and Washington, DC. However, the Islamic State has changed and evolved on traditional terrorist and guerilla tactics. The elaborate, multi-phased plots of al-Qaeda have been swapped with simpler, low-level attacks favored by the Islamic State. Now ISIS inspired attacks are occurring all over the country, from San Bernardino to Orlando and everywhere in between.”
In addition to the tactics, Mr. Nieminski notes the targets have also changed. “Government, military, and iconic targets such as the World Trade Center have been fortified and undergone asset hardening. Terrorists are now exploiting “soft targets” such as charity runs and marathons.”
While the tactics and targets have changed, responses and prevention have remained constant. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials maintain the citizenry is the most important collection agent of any security apparatus. The US Department of Homeland Security continues its “see something, say something campaign.”Civilian cooperation is essential, as even the “Sunshine State” is not immune to acts of terror and hate.