The Corner

Lessons from the FBI’s Most-Wanted-Terrorist List

The FBI’s list of “Ten Most Wanted” fugitives dates back to 1950, but the list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” began just after 9/11. Today, the list includes 31 individuals, all of them male and, with a single exception (Daniel Andreas San Diego, an animal-rights extremist), all of them Muslim:

‐Zulkifli Abdhir – 1966, Malaysian, Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia

Muslims make up 30 out of 31 most wanted terrorists, or about 97 percent of them. That’s a pretty good indication of the insight contained in Bernard Lewis’s 1990 article famously called “Muslim rage,” and of why Islam-related issues have such prominence.

Islamists make up 27 out of those 30; the only exceptions were the three perpetrators of the Pan Am 73 hijacking in 1986 (Rahayyal, Munawar, Turki), all connected to the Abu Nidal Organization, a non-religious Palestinian terrorist group (at least, they were not Islamists in 1986). This predominance of jihad reflects the Islamist hegemony among politically extreme Muslims.

Ethnic Arabs make up 25 of the 30 terrorists. The largest numbers are four each of Lebanese, Palestinians, and Saudis, three each of American citizens and Egyptians. Non-ethnic Arabs include two Filipinos, one Malaysian, one Pakistani, and one American convert. This high percentage confirms the sense that Arabic-speakers have the most pent-up hostility toward Americans.

Most attacks by these most-wanted fugitives date from the 1980s and 1990s — Khobar, TWA 847, East African embassies, WTC bombing. Reflecting this relative antiquity, in fact, the only American airlines attacked by members of the list were Pan American and TWA, both long defunct. This points to the greater success since 9/11 in both foiling and tracking terrorism, thanks to greater resources and more diligence.

Also reflecting the long-ago quality of this most-wanted list, note the striking pattern of their decadal birthdates:

1930s – 2

1940s – 1

1950s – 4

1960s – 18

1970s – 2

1980s – 3

1990s – 0

The average age is now close to 50 — not exactly the prime time of life for terrorism. The youngest listee, Hammami, will be 29 years old in less than a week. The eldest two, Umari and Sahiron, are approaching 80. 

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