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EDITORIAL: The return of the snipers

Islamic terrorists are shooting at local targets again

Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud said earlier this year that terrorists should begin to target American cities. Several recent incidents indicate that our enemies are getting the message.

Farooque Ahmed of Ashburn, Va., was arrested Wednesday after spending six months developing a plan to bomb Metro stations near the Pentagon and "kill as many military personnel as possible." Mr. Ahmed thought he was working with al Qaeda operatives, but they turned out to be federal agents, so his plan was compromised before it got very far. Mr. Ahmed is being described as a "homegrown" terrorist, but this label is debatable since he was born in Pakistan. The fact that he was a naturalized U.S. citizen means little, considering his seeming hatred for his adopted country.

Mr. Ahmed's plan to bomb multiple Metro stops simultaneously is reminiscent of the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings and the July 7, 2005, transit bombings in London. The complexity of this new attack strategy, the length of time he took planning it and the involvement of others led to the would-be murderer's downfall. In this respect, he didn't follow recent guidance from al Qaeda in the fall issue of the jihadist magazine Insight, which counsels smaller-scale attacks planned in isolation and conducted sooner rather than later.

The good news is that he was caught before he could execute his plot. The bad news is that this episode indicates the terrorist threat is alive and kicking. In a more alarming development last week, shots were fired at both the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va., and at the Pentagon. Investigators initially described the latter shots as "a random event," a judgment which immediately seemed unlikely. On Tuesday, the FBI confirmed that the two events indeed were linked. The day before, more shots were fired at a Marine Corps recruiting station in Chantilly, Va., prompting tighter security for the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon on Halloween.

These shootings are reminiscent of events in October eight years ago, when Beltway snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo held the capital region in the grip of fear. The Islamic duo has since been held up by al Qaeda as an example of the kind of low-tech, low-cost terrorism that gets results. Now, someone is following these orders and attempting to implement a new small-arms offensive.

Another American, New York-born Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, was arrested in Hawaii last week after multiple failed attempts to travel overseas to join jihadists fighting U.S. troops. Out of frustration, he attempted to join the U.S. Army to be sent overseas so he could desert to the enemy, but was turned down for concealing an earlier trip to Pakistan. Mr. Shehadeh hosted websites featuring radical Islamist writings. One of his online notes read, "My brothers of the revolution of Islam, I am with you as long as you keep struggling. Trust me, there are many brothers and sisters in America that are ready to speak up. They just need a push." He's right; they are here, and they are dangerous.

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