Analysis

Could Al Qaeda Be Behind the Boston Marathon Bombings?
Runner John Ounao crying when he finds friends after several explosions rocked the finish of the Boston Marathon. At least three people were killed and over 150 wounded when two explosions struck near the finish line of the marathon. The streets were littered with debris and blood and paramedics raced off with stretchers as police locked down the area. (JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty Images)
April 16, 2013
| Security
| The Americas
Summary
SITUATION REPORT
 
U.S. government officials have given no indications of who was behind the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed at least three people and injured and maimed over 150. It is too early to determine whether this was an attack by a foreign al Qaeda-linked group, “home grown” Islamist terrorists who may have been inspired to stage these attacks by extremist Islamist propaganda on the Internet, or whether the attackers were U.S.-based persons or groups with motivations that had nothing to do with radical Islam.

That said, this attack has unmistakable parallels with the smaller scale terrorist attacks that radical Islamist groups based in Yemen and Pakistan have attempted in the United States since 2001. These groups reportedly have turned to smaller attacks on the West and attacks they can instigate using “home-grown terrorists” through extremist materials on the Internet because stepped-up security has made infiltrating the United States or staging major terrorist attacks like airliner bombings too difficult. 

A 20-year old Saudi man reportedly was taken into custody in connection with the bombing, but has been cleared and is a witness and not a suspect, according to press reports this afternoon.  The man’s apartment was raided and searched yesterday.  
Similar bombing attempts in the United States since 2001 include: 
  •   New York Subway Bombing Attempt, September 2009. Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan citizen, was arrested after trying to purchase chemicals to make a TATP bomb to attack the U.S. subway system. Al-Qaeda in Pakistan reportedly was behind this attempted attack. 
  •   Underwear bomber, December 2009. Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to destroy a civilian airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day with a bomb sewn into his underwear. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind this attack.
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