Stewart Scott

On the evening of Sept. 15, Adel Daoud parked a Jeep Cherokee loaded with a large explosive device outside a bar in downtown Chicago. As he walked down the street away from the vehicle, he activated a trigger to detonate the bomb. The bomb, however, was inert, and FBI agents positioned nearby immediately took Daoud, an 18-year-old from the Chicago suburbs, into custody.

Daoud had been the subject of a four-month FBI investigation and sting operation, during which undercover agents had been communicating with Daoud and recording his statements. Sting operations have become the tactic of choice for the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement organizations when investigating would-be jihadists. As U.S. law enforcement agencies perfect their sting operations to identify aspiring jihadists and prevent attacks, jihadists, too, can be expected to innovate and evolve alternate means of communication and vetting of those with whom they collaborate.

Details of Daoud's Case

Daoud was a typical aspirational jihadist. He read Inspire magazine (an online jihadist publication), watched jihadist training videos, cited arguments from the late Anwar al-Awlaki, participated in jihadist forums denouncing U.S. policy and justified attacks against U.S. citizens. He was not shy in voicing his intent to kill Americans in retaliation for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Daoud tried to recruit at least six people over the span of seven months to help plot an attack against the United States before he crossed paths with an undercover agent on the Internet around May 2012. Based on records later obtained by investigators, Daoud did not appear to have any hard skills to conduct a bombing attack. He downloaded several instructional documents and videos on how to make explosives and build bombs, but there is no indication that Daoud attempted to make any weapons himself. Instead, he talked about going to Saudi Arabia or fighting in Yemen, although he expressed a desire to conduct attacks in the United States before going abroad.


Stewart Scott

Stewart Scott is a security analyst for Stratfor.