Two New Jersey men arrested last week at John F. Kennedy International Airport allegedly on their way to fight with an al Qaeda affiliated group in Somalia were followers of an extreme Islamist group based in New York, CNN has learned.
CNN has obtained an image of the two suspects, Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, attending a protest in New York organized by the Islamic Thinkers Society on June 1 of this year. They appear to have been taking part in a demonstration against Israel.
One is holding a banner; the other an Islamic Thinkers Society poster that includes the slogan, "Exterminate the Zionist Roaches." The Society's video of the event, posted on its YouTube channel, has since been removed.
The rally took place just a week before the two suspects made their way to JFK airport and were arrested.
Unlike al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban organization has shown little appetite for taking its brand of jihadism beyond the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maybe that's changing.
Certainly that's the case if the messages from the organization's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, are to be taken at face value. "From now on," he says in an audio message said to have been recorded in April, "the main targets of our fedayeen [fighters] are American cities. This good news will be heard within some days or weeks. Today onwards, the direction of our jihad is American states and cities. Inshallah we are successful in this mission and objective."