CENTRAL AMERICA — October 1, 2019 — A year ago, the House Oversight and Reform Committee issued a call for DHS to investigate the first known case of a migrant who illegally crossed the U.S. southern border and went on to conduct a double vehicle-ramming attack, carrying an ISIS flag in Edmonton, Alberta. There’s no word on whether DHS’s Office of Inspector General ever took up the request to investigate the illustrative case of Abdulahi Hassan Sharif for severely wounding a police officer and four civilians in his September 2017 attack. As I explain in my column today, the need for DHS to investigate how Sharif was able to cross through Mexico and go on to conduct his attack may become no less urgent as the Canadian trial unfolds in the coming weeks. (I was able to piece together his route from Africa through Latin America in the attachment)
Over the past year or so, I have raised many questions about this first known case of a border-crossing immigrant conducting an alleged terror attack. But for various legal reasons, it appears unlikely that the trial in Canada will provide answers that would enhance U.S. national security. Other than that one House committee, when it was still under Republican control, no government agency or media outlet has expressed interest in this border-crossing terror attack.
# # # # #
Trial to Begin for Somali Who Crossed the U.S.-Mexico Border and Committed Alleged Vehicle Ram Attack in Canada By TODD BENSMAN
What ever happened to the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s October 2018 call for a full-blown investigation of the first known case of a migrant who illegally crossed the U.S. southern border and went on to conduct a double vehicle-ramming attack, carrying an ISIS flag, in Edmonton, Alberta?
There’s no word on whether DHS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) ever took up the committee’s request to investigate, issued in a committee letter in its final hours under Republican control. But this singular expression of U.S. government interest in a case reflective of a broad and hotly debated U.S. border threat issue — terrorist border infiltration — may become no less necessary as a trial unfolds in Canada in the coming weeks.
Somali national Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 32, is going to trial in Edmonton, the scene of two September 30, 2017, attacks in which he, as the driver, plowed two different vehicles into a police officer (whom he then stabbed) and four other citizens, seriously injuring all. Sharif has pleaded not guilty. A jury has been seated to hear evidence and a defense over 12 counts of aggravated assault, dangerous driving, and attempted murder. Opening arguments are scheduled for tomorrow, October 2. The trial is expected to last as long as six weeks.
Over the past year, my colleague Art Arthur and I have repeatedly pressed for answers (see here, here, here, and here) as to how Sharif was able to have himself smuggled to Mexico’s northern border, cross over into California for an asylum claim that was never adjudicated, then gain refugee status in Canada.
Some answers have gradually surfaced in local media reporting in Canada and, from it, the Center for Immigration Studies was eventually able at least to produce a map of Sharif’s travel from Africa to California. But the House Oversight and Reform Committee, under Republican control, was “deeply concerned” that vulnerabilities in U.S. measures to detect, screen, and remove this kind of “high risk” immigrant persist.
More specifically, the committee wanted Department of Homeland Security’a Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) to investigate how well it vets “special interest aliens” like Sharif in line with ICE policy to do so, how often such migrants have committed asylum fraud and were prosecuted, and how many were released on bonds before they could undergo threat assessment interviews while still in detention. The committee cited a 2011 OIG report (the year Sharif crossed into California) and a follow-up 2018 OIG report (the year after Sharif’s alleged attack) that both showed ICE was neither screening nor checking for outstanding wants and warrants on all aliens from countries of national security concern like Somalia.
But thanks to issues of relevance, it seems unlikely that the trial will reveal such granular matters pertinent to American national security and, perhaps, not even Canadian national security, such as whether a potentially violent extremist who entered North America via an illegal border crossing was allowed a refugee visa. Canadian prosecutors will be interested mainly in proving that Sharif was behind the wheel of the two vehicles and was the one who stabbed the police officer. As many as 40 witnesses are available to testify to establish the basic facts of the crimes.
A publication ban has blanketed the proceedings ahead of the trial. Due to peculiarities of Canadian laws governing trials, reporters up there likely won’t be allowed to conduct much enterprise reporting on the side, in or around the courtroom, or to report anything that wasn’t part of testimony.
I’m told there’s some chance Sharif’s motivations for the attacks may come to light, which is good, but even more useful would be to learn whether he might have radicalized prior to his trip to the U.S. border and was somehow not vetted on our side.
Overall, the trial is a net good if victims are able to achieve some measure of justice and something new comes out of the trial to help prevent future Sharifs from coming in over the southern border.
But it would be best for America if DHS OIG went forward on the House committee’s request for investigation.
# # #
Original Publication by Center for Immigration Studies on October 1, 2019. https://cis.org/Bensman/Trial-Begin-Somali-Who-Crossed-USMexico-Border-and-Committed-Alleged-Vehicle-Ram-Attack
# # #
Todd Bensman is a Texas-based senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies. For nearly a decade, Bensman led counterterrorism-related intelligence efforts for the Texas Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division.
Follow Todd Bensman on Twitter @BensmanTodd
You can find links to all of Todd Bensman’s coverage of this signature border-crossing terrorism case which starts tomorrow (October 2) and is expected to last about six weeks.
– Senior National Security Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies
– Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum
– Author, The Federalist
– Political Columnist, Townhall