An Islamic State (ISIS) fighter allegedly captured in Syria claimed that ISIS had concocted a plan to sneak terrorists across the U.S.-Mexico border to attack financial targets and “cripple the U.S. economy,” according to a report published this week by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE).
The report is based on testimony from Abu Henricki, an ISIS terrorist with dual citizenship in Canada and Trinidad. Henricki said he traveled to the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria to serve as a front-line fighter for the terror state, but his poor health kept him on the sidelines.
In late 2016, he claims the Islamic State’s intelligence service asked him to become part of a special unit of Trinidadians that would be sent into Mexico via Puerto Rico, cross the U.S. border, and carry out attacks on financial targets like Wall Street.
Henricki said ISIS had a habit of falsely declaring its foreign recruits killed in action so they could work for the intelligence wing as an “undead” attack force. The Islamic State was keenly interested in operatives who could speak English and slip past American domestic security without raising suspicions, he alleged.
“Apparently, they have the contacts or whatever papers they can get to a false ID, false passports. They have their system of doing it,” Henricki said. “So that’s maybe the way that I could have gone out with other individuals. It wasn’t me alone. They were sending you to Puerto Rico and from Puerto Rico [to Mexico].”
Henricki said the operation would be run by “a guy in America,” evidently headquartered in New Jersey at the time he was recruited by ISIS intelligence. This led Henricki to suspect the attack would involve bombing financial targets in New York City, although he said other jihadis never provided him the details.
The authors of the ICSVE report noted he did not explain why the plan called for traveling to Mexico by boat instead of entering the United States from Puerto Rico.
Henricki said the plan to attack America’s economy was the last straw for his membership in ISIS.
“Please be advised, I was not willing to do it,” he told his interviewers. “But this is one of their wicked, one of the plans that they had, and which I would like to think I foiled the plan by not being part of it.”
The report reads that Henricki rattled off the assumed ISIS names of other Trinidadians who joined him in refusing to carry out the attack plan, claiming all of them were killed fighting for the Islamic State. He claimed he was imprisoned and tortured for his refusal, and his Canadian wife was also imprisoned for criticizing ISIS leadership. He eventually escaped from the besieged caliphate with several other disillusioned subjects of the Islamic State and surrendered to American forces. He has since been detained by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at a facility in Rojava, Syria.
The interview team said Henricki has spoken with both American and Canadian intelligence agencies since his capture but never before revealed the plan, alleging he was afraid he would be evaluated as a continuing threat.
“I feel better now. I’ve been carrying that inside for a very long time and it feels good now to unburden myself of it,” he said at the conclusion of the interview.
The ICSVE authors indicated they have heard similar stories from ISIS defectors and prisoners who “were themselves offered, or pressured by the ISIS emni (intelligence) to return to Europe to mount attacks at home,” but Henricki was the first interview subject who detailed a plan for attacking the United States. The authors speculated this was because relatively few Americans who tried to join the Islamic State made it all the way to Syria or Iraq.
“Whatever one thinks of President Donald Trump’s heightened rhetoric about the U.S.- Mexico border and his many claims that it is vulnerable to terrorists, ISIS apparently also thought so,” they noted.
The ICSVE report qualified this observation in its conclusion by stressing that the interview with Henricki should not be taken as a “warning bulletin for an imminent attack against our country” or a “fear-mongering attempt to suggest that a wave of ISIS terrorists are waiting to cross our southern border.”
Instead, the authors advised diligently examining “leads and sources that confirm terrorists’ intentions to exploit one of the weakest links in our national security: our borders.”
Canada’s Global News noted the Trudeau administration is having difficulty obtaining and using intelligence from captured Canadian ISIS recruits because it has been hit with multi-million-dollar lawsuits by detainees held by foreign governments. These judgments against the Canadian government essentially argued that it became complicit in violating the detainees’ civil rights by sending intelligence officers to interview them. The ICSVE worried that Canadian security could be missing “valuable information about plots aimed at the West” by failing to interrogate ISIS prisoners.