Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha

Moner Mohammad Abusalha was the first U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide attack in Syria when he carried out a “martyrdom operation” in late May 2014. He had traveled to the war-torn region in January 2013 to join al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate the Nusra Front.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html.

Abusalha was allegedly associated with Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. The two men were believed to attend the same mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida. The FBI interviewed Mateen in 2014 over possible connections to Abusalha, but the case was ultimately closed. According to FBI Director James Comey, “the investigation turned up no ties of any consequence between the two of them.”Associated Press, “FBI: Orlando Gunman Had Strong Indications of Radicalization,” ABC, June 13, 2016, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/fbi-orlando-gunman-strong-indications-radicalization-39820558;
Cassandra Vinograd, “Omar Mateen, U.S. Suicide Bomber Tied to Fort Pierce, Florida,” NBC, June 13, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/orlando-nightclub-massacre/omar-mateen-u-s-suicide-bomber-tied-fort-pierce-florida-n590846.

Abusalha grew up in Vero Beach, Florida, with his Palestinian father and American mother. He reportedly enjoyed playing basketball as well as spending time at the local Islamic center.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. A former basketball teammate said, “He was a nice kid, never anything weird. Everyone got along with him. He was just a normal kid.”Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. Abusalha dropped out of Sebastian River High School to enroll in St. James Academy—which allows students to complete coursework at home—and graduated in March 2009. Abusalha then attended a series of different college programs for a brief period of time before moving to Jordan where his father had lined up work for him. He never earned a college degree.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html.

Friends have said they believe he was recruited after he left Florida.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. Leader of the Islamic community center Taher Husainy said, “He all of a sudden disappeared. Then he appeared in Jordan and said he was working at a hospital (as a nurse). After two months or so he disappeared again. Then after six months or something, he sent an email to the parents saying, ‘I’m OK, I’m happy.’”Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. Then-22-year-old Abusalha reportedly spent two months in a training camp and took on the name Abu Huraira al-Amriki before joining the Nusra Front.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. Investigators later discovered he returned to the United States for several months in 2013 before flying back to Syria for a second time.Cynthia McFadden, Pete Williams, and Robert Windrem, “Suicide Bomber From Florida Tried to Recruit Hometown Friends,” NBC News, July 31, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/suicide-bomber-florida-tried-recruit-hometown-friends-n169881.

On May 25, 2014, Abusalha drove a truck laden with sixteen tons of explosives to a mountaintop restaurant where government forces often gathered.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. A statement posted online by the Nusra Front said Abusalha was one of four suicide bombers sent to carry out an assault on government forces near the city of Ariha in northern Syria.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. The Nusra Front released a video he had recorded before his death entitled “The Story of the American Muhajir,” in which he is shown tearing, biting, and burning his American passport.Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti, “Suicide Bomber from U.S. Came Home Before Attack,” New York Times, July 30, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/31/us/suicide-bomber-from-us-came-home-before-attack.html.

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On December 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb exploded near a police post in the Iranian port city of Chabahar, killing four officers and wounding 48 other people. Ansar al-Furqan, an al-Qaeda-linked Baloch insurgent group, claimed responsibility.

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