The U.S. National Guard reservist arrested this week for planning to blow up the Los Angeles subway attended a radical California-based mosque that has been home to known terrorists and other extremist Muslims deported from the United States for their ties to terror.
The FBI on Monday charged Nicholas Teausant, a 20-year-old National Guard reservist, with attempting to help al Qaeda carry out an attack on the Los Angeles subway system.
Teausant—who was found to be in possession of “lone wolf” terror manuals that teach readers how to build and detonate bombs—was known to have attended a terror-tied mosque in Lodi, a small town east of San Francisco.
The Lodi mosque has frequently found itself at the center of FBI terrorism investigations and its former imam was arrested and deported for urging his congregation to kill Americans in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.
An Instagram account believed to be Teausant’s features several images of the mosque and comments such as, “Let’s hit dis prayer!! #muslim #prayer #alhamduilliah #mashallah #makedua #inshallah #AllahuAkbar.”
Terror mastermind Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a close friend of Osama bin Laden and current leader of al Qaeda, attended the mosque prior to 9/11, according to reports.
“Every time I would go to the mosque, [Al-Zawahiri] would be coming or going,” an FBI informant testified, according to the Sacramento Bee. “He would quietly come to the mosque and leave.”
The Lodi mosque’s former imam, Shabbir Ahmed, was arrested in 2005 and accused of urging his followers to back bin Laden and kill Americans.
Ahmed was also accused by the Justice Department of having links to a terrorist group in Pakistan, according to local reports.
The imam was ultimately deported back to Pakistan as a result of his ties.
The terrorism probe was also widened to include other individuals in the community who admitted to having attended a “jihadist training camp in Pakistan for approximately six months,” according to local media reports.
Hamid Hayat, a suspect at the time who is now serving a federal prison sentence, reportedly told investigators that he and others “were being trained on how to kill Americans,” according to an FBI affidavit filed in 2005.
Teausant’s time at the mosque may have contributed to a wider pattern of radical behavior that emerged in the months before he was arrested in the terror plot.
A YouTube page believed to belong to Teausant includes videos of Anwar Al-Awlaki. He was also found with copies of al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine, which teaches readers how to commit acts of terror.
Teausant—who had expressed a desire to fight in Syria—allegedly texted an FBI informant in October of last year to say that “he had been reading Inspire and was upset and wanted to help the ‘Blind Sheikh,’” Omar Abdel-Rahman, a terrorist leader who is currently serving life in prison.
“WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING NOW!” Teausant texted to the informant, according to the FBI complaint.
Terrorism analyst Patrick Poole said Teausant’s radical online interactions were likely just as important as his personal ones.
“When you look at Teausant’s social media and the Justice Department complaint, you get a picture of someone who was participating in an online community that was contributing to his radicalization,” Poole said. “But you also see that he was heavily involved in a local community already known as a hotbed of radicalization known for anti-American sentiment, extremist speakers, terrorist fundraising, and regular themes of global Islamic grievances that contributed to that process.”
“From his own Lodi mosque you already have Hamid Hayat sitting in federal prison for spending two years at an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan,” Poole said.
“It’s pretty certain that he wasn’t planning on joining the jihadist cause by getting to Syria all on his own—he was going to need financial and logistical help and contacts once he got there,” Poole added. “Historically we know those support networks already exist in the places he was hanging out regularly in Lodi and Stockton. That’s an angle that hopefully law enforcement are already looking at in this case.”