Fatal Terrorist Attacks in the United States Carried Out by Refugees

Refugee resettlement in the US

An article in The Washington Post confirms the information in the graphic above.

And going back further, CNN notes that three refugees from Cuba killed a total of three people in a terrorist attack, prior to new legislation being introduced in 1980 to screen refugees more thoroughly.

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  • MrD

    Hi James,
    Why do you think it is that there’s such a difference between the American experience and what we are seeing in Europe, where they clearly have some serious issues with first and especially second generation Muslim immigrants?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t feel well poised to offer an answer, since my knowledge of the European situation is anecdotal. Do you have any statistics about how many refugees have been arrested for or found guilty of involvement in terrorist attacks in specific countries in Europe?

      • MrD

        There was the Madrid train bombing in 2004 (191 killed, 2050 injured), 2005 London bus bombing (56 Killed, 784 injured). In France we saw both Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan attacks during 2015 for another 150 or so killed, and then the Nice truck attack last July with 87 killed and 434 injured. The Brussels airport was bombed (35 killed, 340 injured) and in Germany there was the Berlin market attack that killed 12 people and injured another 56. Recently we’ve also seen the arrests of a number of people well into the planning stages of additional attacks.
        These may not be proper statistics, and I don’t have any numbers regarding arrests, but these were all perpetrated by Islamic extremists, in the name of Islam, and taken together are fairly convincing anecdotal evidence that something is going very wrong with Islamic immigrants in Europe.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You have still not provided any evidence that the individuals responsible were refugees.

          • MrD

            No I haven’t, nor do I contend that they were all refugees. I think that if one were to go looking, their identities and backgrounds are fairly well known for the most part, but I’m not going to bother trying to research how many were refugees and how many arrived as children or were born in Europe to immigrant families, although I suspect many will fall into the last category. My point is simply that things are going terribly wrong with these communities in Europe, and I wonder if we are simply behind the curve over here or if we are actually doing something differently that is making a difference. And if so, what is that thing?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Sorry, since you didn’t indicate a change of topic, I had assumed that you were intending to comment on the topic of the post.

          • MrD

            I didn’t think I had wandered too far afield. Sorry if I’ve been a distraction though.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Oh, I don’t think it is so far afield as to be inappropriate. I just assumed that your initial comment was engaging directly with the chart, and so it took me a while to figure out that that was not the case.

          • MrD

            I guess that I just think the chart is a bit simplistic and meaningless when taken on it’s own. I would like to get in behind it and find out why it is true when things are seemingly so different elsewhere. Is it because “the Atlantic Ocean” or better vetting of immigrants in America, or better cultural integration of them once here? I legitimately don’t know the reasons, but it’s a natural question raised by the image, and I think there’s a great deal of value in knowing the answer, which is why I was trying to see if we could pull it out a bit.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I think those are important questions. I don’t have the answers to them but would be interested in hearing from others who may have done systematic research to pursue them!

          • arcseconds

            What the chart is responding to is the Trump administration ban on refugees, not some more general point about Islamic culture on a different continent. I don’t think it’s failure to address your concerns is really a valid criticism, is it?

            It is surely neither simplistic nor meaningless to point out that refugees pose no significant danger to Americans (assuming the past is any guide, and I don’t know what else you’d base such an assessment on), so the ban is pointless from a security perspective and therefore harms people for no reason.

            I don’t actually know which is worse: the Trump administration cynically preventing actual refugees from a safe haven as a demonstration to their base (who wrongly believe themselves to be in danger from Muslims and refugees) or the Trump administration actually believing that refugees pose any kind of significant risk to Americans, let alone one that is on par to the risk to the refugees themselves. The choice is between cynical malevolence or epistemic incompetence.

            As far as your point about something going terribly wrong with Muslim communities in Europe, looking at the number of victims is surely getting the wrong end of the stick. To take an extreme, movie plot example, a single psychopath with an WMD could kill millions of people, but that doesn’t mean his home community is somehow worse than one that produces two psychopaths that only manage to kill a few dozen. Whereas a community where ordinary murder was rife might be deemed to be significantly sicker.

            So we should look at the number of perpetrators. There are about 50 involved in the incidents you mention, and there are approximately 10 million Muslims in the countries involved.

            I wonder whether such a low rate as 5 in a million is actually proof that the community really has something terribly wrong with it. That’s about the level of manufacturing defect the very best manufactures in the world meet.

            (If an average manufacturer was making people, and defects were mass killers, that ‘community’ would be producing around 6000 mass killers per million. )

            However, if that is the margin that we regard as diagnostic of something going very wrong, then there have been around 500 incidents of mass shootings (defined as four or more victims) in the USA in the last 3 years, for a total of about 15 for every million people. Do we conclude that there is something terribly wrong with American culture?

            The way this normally works in public discourse is that anything a Muslim does reflects somehow on Islam, and we need to Seriously Reflect on What That Means — but anything done by a white American is the actions of a lone madman, which doesn’t reflect on anyone but themselves, and anyone who suggests otherwise is ‘politicizing a tragedy’. Hopefully you can see how blatantly two-faced that framing is.

          • MrD

            First of all, I don’t see that it has anything to do with Trump. I can understand how current events may lead you to pull him into it, but he isn’t referenced in the graphic and really doesn’t have anything to do with the number of terrorist attacks in the US over the past 16-years.

            It wasn’t my intention to criticize the chart or to disprove it in any way. I was saying that if this chart is true, why is it true in America but not Europe. When looking at the overall number of successful and foiled attacks in Europe, you apparently feel they are statistically insignificant and so not much of a problem to worry about. But if there are 3.3-million Muslims in America, then the rate here (using the number from the chart of 3 perpetrators) is about 0.9 in a million, meaning the rate is more than 5x higher in Europe. And since this is people’s lives we’re talking about, not simply a manufacturing defect, I think it is a fairly significant difference and worth trying to understand what is going on.

            BTW, with regards to the amount of domestic non-Muslim violence, yes I do conclude that there is something terribly wrong in American culture, but that’s a different conversation.

          • arcseconds

            First of all, I don’t see that it has anything to do with Trump. I can understand how current events may lead you to pull him into it, but he isn’t referenced in the graphic and really doesn’t have anything to do with the number of terrorist attacks in the US over the past 16-years

            Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that Trump has banned refugees from Syria, stopped the refugee admission process for four months, and halved the number of refugees that the USA will accept into the country, do you think? And the fact he says this is about keeping America safe?

            As for him not being referenced in the graphic, I’m not sure what infographics you’re used to, but the ones I see don’t tend to be rife with citations telling you exactly what it is they’re responding to. You kind of have to figure that out by context.

            You have to compare like with like. You seemed to be aware of this before, but you appear to have forgotten this in your latest comment. That chart is about refugees, and the incidents you mention were not caused by refugees for the most part, and you seem to be aware of this.

            As far as I can work out, there’s one refugee amongst the perpetrators of the crimes you mention. Most of them were in fact born in Western Europe. So it may in fact be the case that there is less terrorism committed by refugees in Europe, but when the numbers are so tiny it really isn’t worth commenting on. With three people things are very influenced by idiosyncratic factors. The rate and absolute number of refugee terrorism in the States is approximately the rate and exactly the number of Nobel Prizes awarded to New Zealanders: is that evidence of a Nobel Prize phenomenon that merits discussion? What is going on with the NZ community, that they produce so many Nobels?

            If this is about human lives, why do you suppose the discussions about Muslim terrorism is completely out of proportion with the actual risk? Everyone discusses Muslim terrorism all the time. As soon as he was in power, Trump took action to protect America from it, and it was a major feature of his campaign. But no-one talks about American domestic abuse and neglect, and nor did Trump sign an executive order as soon as he got into power to combat it. Yet over the last decade it’s claimed approximately 100 times as many lives as American domestic terrorism (and 160 times as many lives as American domestic jihadist terrorism).

            If this was only about saving American lives, there would be a hundred times the effort and interest put into combating and discussing domestic abuse and neglect.

          • MrD

            I’m pretty sure I dislike Trump and his (now invalid) temporary travel ban as much as you. I’m not sure that there’s a yuuuuge amount of disagreement between us on some of the important issues, but at the same time we seem to have a slightly different focus in this thread which leads to us talking past each other, and since I don’t find that to be very profitable, I’ll bow out for now.

            I don’t content that Muslim immigrants should be demonized and feared, but I do think there are lessons to be learned by looking at Europe and it is just as foolish to downplay what is happening there and pretend there’s nothing wrong as it is to over state it and fear monger.

  • Gary

    “people who by definition as refugees must show that they fear death or persecution in order to have an opportunity to come into this country…”

    Curious that many refugees that fear death or persecution, once settled in the U.S, find it necessary to travel multiple times back to the country that they “fear death and persecution” in. And these people, seem to be the ones predominately radicalized.

    The graphic representation is simplistic, and does not carry the main point of the article, which is:

    “This is a highly technical issue with various definitions and distinctions, mainly: how an individual obtained refugee status and whether their terrorism charge posed a threat posed to the U.S. homeland. The latter, in particular, is a subjective call.”

    A prime example, from CNN:

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/17/us/tennessee-shooter-mohammad-youssuf-abdulazeez/

    “The man who killed four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee…”

    “Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait in September 1990, during the Iraqi invasion of that country, Kuwait’s Interior Ministry said. The ministry didn’t explain how Abdulazeez came to be born there but said he holds Jordanian citizenship.
    Jordanian sources, however, denied that he was a Jordanian citizen, but rather a Palestinian who carried a Jordanian travel document. The sources said he was born Mohammad Youssuf Saeed Hajj Ali on September 5, 1990, but that his father changed his name that year to Abdulazeez.”

    “U.S. law enforcement officials said he was a naturalized U.S. citizen.”

    “Jordanian authorities say an individual with the same name as Abdulazeez traveled in and out of Jordan several times over the years. However, the traveler used a U.S. passport, not a Jordanian one…”

    I draw one conclusion from this.

    It’s impossible to track people with such an obscure past. Only after a terror attack can the true history of the person be analyzed.

    The final excerpt that is rather scary,

    “Abdulazeez previously worked as an engineer with FirstEnergy nuclear power plant in Perry, Ohio, but was dismissed after 10 days in 2013.
    According to FirstEnergy spokesperson Todd Schneider, it was determined that Abdulazeez did not meet minimum requirements for ongoing employment.”

    Working at a nuclear power plant? I think, perhaps, we really dodged a bullet with only 5 military personnel being killed.

    • arcseconds

      What is the risk of dying in a terrorist attack in the USA?

      ‘Miniscule’, I would say. Around 3000 died in 9/11, and over the decade and a half since then the number is more like 100.

      By comparison, 42 2000 people died on the roads in the USA in 2001 (so in September 2001, roughly as many people died on the roads as died of terrorism). About 300 people died of lightening strikes 2006-2015.

      And the great majority of the terrorist attacks were conducted by US citizens.

      By comparison, the death toll in the Syrian civil war has been estimated to be around 400,000.

      It’s indisputable that a Syrian is vastly, vastly more likely to die in the civil war than an American is likely to die in a terrorist attack conducted by a Syrian refugee.

      So if your worries about who is really a refugee and the difficulties of assessing their past are about saving lives, then you can stop worrying!

      You should be vastly more worried about both of these things:

      1) the risk to Syrian’s lives as a result of the civil war
      2) the risk to American children’s lives as a result of neglect and abuse.

      Obviously stopping refugees coming from Syria negatively impacts on (1).

      • Gary

        You seem to have missed the point of the Washington Post article.

        “Along the lines of being a nation of immigrants, we must underscore that we respect and understand the need to be accepting of refugees into our country — people who by definition as refugees must show that they fear death or persecution in order to have an opportunity to come into this country; 750,000 refugees have been resettled in America since 9/11. Not a one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges in the United States of America.”
        –Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), news briefing, Nov. 17, 2015

        “We award Becerra — and whoever made this social card in the first place — Two Pinocchios for using technical terminology that is not clear to the public, and creates a misleading impression.”

        Concerning Syria, if we were not bombing their cities, maybe there would not be so many Syrian refugees. I suspect most would be perfectly happy to live under ISIS, if they weren’t being killed by U.S., Russian, and Syrian Army bombs.

        If you are so concerned about Syrians dying in a civil war, I’d suggest you support pulling all American troops, and the phony American “trainers”, and American contract “security” forces (all of whom are actually “troops on the ground”) out of Arab countries,
        And quit bombing every city we can, and stop killing both terrorist and civilians with drones. Then maybe you have a point about taking in civilian refugees without better vetting. In the mean time, the example I gave was a refugee would became a citizen, then traveled all over the Middle East with no restriction, then returned to the U.S. With effectively no vetting.

        You should experience the vetting that Israeli security puts on travelers in Tel Aviv airport. I think they know how to vet much better than we do.

        And I think I would be very concerned about a potential terrorist working in a nuclear power plant. Citizen or not.

        • Gary

          How about a little plastic explosive, smuggled into a nuclear power plant. Placed on the control rods and cooling containment of the nuclear pile? Pleasant thought. We dodged a bullet, whether you think so or not.

          • arcseconds

            The way to secure nuclear power plants from the actions of their employees is clearly to focus on the employees and other things to do with the power plant directly, like internal security and safety procedures.

            This is particularly so given the reality of home-grown terrorism, as you seem to recognise.

            And it’s entirely possible that internal procedures did their job in this case. He worked there for 10 days, and was dismissed: this could easily be because his employers decided he was a risk. Of course they’re not going to say they had their suspicions.

          • Gary

            “like internal security and safety procedures”…
            Sounds like vetting to me. And yes, I don’t consider our current vetting as adequate. As I said, you should try Israeli vetting at airports.

        • arcseconds

          I’m certainly for the USA not waging war by proxy methods.

          Are you telling me the USA does not vet its new citizens? That seems very difficult to believe, given the massive investment in intelligence and concern about terrorism in the country. No security measure is perfect, so of course there will be the occasional problem, but does it need to be perfect given the comparatively huge risk that Americans pose each other?

          Once someone has become a citizen, then of course they should be permitted to travel wherever they like without restriction, just like any citizen can. If they can’t, then you’re essentially proposing two classes of citizen: ‘real’ Americans who are allowed to travel where they like, and sorta kinda a bit Americans who aren’t allowed to make trips in ways that worry you.

          Or maybe you’d be more comfortable in a Soviet-style society where everyone has to get the permission of the State to travel anywhere?

          • Gary

            “Or maybe you’d be more comfortable in a Soviet-style society where everyone has to get the permission of the State to travel anywhere?”

            You mean, like in the U.S., to travel to Cuba or (use to be) China? Heck, before Nixon, we didn’t even admit that Red China existed. We’ve restricted travel before for U.S. Citizens. So our whole society is not going to fall apart if some common sense restrictions were considered. May not work, but the original stop for immigration included a small number of countries for a very limited period of time, until they come up with reasonable vetting. The fact that the UN selects refugees ought to cause some concern in itself. But obviously citizens should be vetted when coming from terrorist states, as well. That goes for me, if I travel as well. I have nothing to hide. So others shouldn’t mind it either.

          • Gary

            Just so you understand when I say “vetting” of citizens returning from a terrorist state. This goes for Lilly white Caucasian U.S. Citizens like me. If I returned from a nice little vacation from Sudan, I would expect U.S. Customs to ask me, “where have you been?”, “who have you visited?”, “was it work related?”, “did you take pictures anywhere?”, who where your contacts?”, etc. A good interviewer, as with the Israeli’s, will find out truth or lies. I guarantee, this type vetting is non-existent in the U.S., since people with something to hide, will say their rights are being violated. Seems like now, U.S. Citizens seem to only want to obey the laws that they agree with, and ignore the ones that they don’t like. Case in point – freedom of speech in Berkeley, means OK, if you are liberal, but you get rocks thrown through store windows if you are conservative.

  • Cannonkat

    Try Europe.