Homegrown terror threats no stranger to First Coast

'Lone wolf types' pose growing problem for authorities


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Northeast Florida hasn’t been immune to the rise in homegrown terror being faced across the nation.

There is a growing problem for law enforcement with what they call ‘lone-wolf types.’ Three similar high profile cases have occurred in our area in recent years. In 2015, Northeast Florida experienced instances of terror threats popping up in the headlines.

In January, 21-year-old Shelton Bell was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after he trained to fight in the Middle East, but was caught before he could commit any acts of terror.

Another threat occured at the Orange Park Mall with a man who owned a cell phone kiosk, Abror Habibov, an Uzbekistan resident living in Brooklyn, New York, who owned kiosks in malls up and down the east coast. Prosecutors said Habibov helped finance a plan for himself and two others to travel overseas and join ISIS.  He was arrested in Jacksonville.

Lastly in September, 20-year-old Joshua Goldberg was arrested in a Sept. 11 bomb plot, once again in Orange Park. Goldberg was living with family who apparently had no idea what he was involved with.

Toni Chrabot, a former assistant special agent in charge for the FBI gave insight on these incidents.

“Police have been following up on any lead they receive,” said Chrabot. “There has been a concern with Islamic radicalization and homegrown type actors.”

 Chrabot said homegrown terror has been a consistent threat police have trained for since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. .  She also pointed out that in all the cases locally the suspects were caught before they could potentially strike or join ISIS, and says this comes down to vigilance by everybody.

News4Jax crime analyst, Gil Smith agrees with Chrabot about exercising vigilance, stating you’re always legally within your rights to report suspicious behavior.

“You’re not stereotyping the people, you’re monitoring the behavior.  No matter what race it is, whatever behavior seems to be unusual, that’s what needs to be reported,” said Smith.  ‘If you call police and you’re wrong will you get in trouble?’  Not at all and they won’t even let the people know who reported it.”’

Chrabot explained it’s a very difficult to protect Americans from terror threat because it can pop up here without anyone knowing.

“It’s an overwhelming task when you think about the recent streak that we seem to be seeing with these major critical incidents, mass shootings and more and more radicalization which seems to be growing in this country in particular,” said Chrabot.  “So that is a concern for law enforcement, and a huge, huge task.”




About the Author: