Report: 15 Suspected Terrorists Captured Enroute to and at U.S.-Mexico Border Since 2001

By Michael W. Chapman | November 27, 2018 | 5:18 PM EST

An ISIS terrorist. (YouTube)

( -- A new report shows that at least 15 Middle Eastern and African suspected terrorists who were traveling through Latin America to the U.S.-Mexico border were captured either enroute or at the U.S. border between 2001 and November 2018.  These suspected terrorists were affiliated with groups such as ISIS, the Taliban, and Hezbollah.

In addition, the number of suspects apprehended, 15, is likely an undercount because their data were culled from public information and not "government intelligence database systems exempt from public disclosure," stated the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which produced the report, Have Terrorists Crossed Our Border?  "[T]his list therefore cannot be regarded as comprehensive," said CIS. 

Image of U.S.-Mexico border. (YouTube)

As noted in the report, President Donald Trump tweeted on Oct. 22 that, "Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in" the migrant caravan headed to the U.S.-Mexico border. The president did not provide further information on the "Middle Easterners." 

However, on Oct. 11, the president of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, stated that his administration had captured "close to 100 people completely linked to terrorist issues, with ISIS, and that not only have we arrested them within our territory but they have been deported to their countries of origin," reported Prensa Libre, the country's largest newspaper.

Further information was not provided because, as Secretary of Social Communication of the Presidency Alfredo Brito said, the data are protected for "national security" reasons. 

In its report, the CIS provides an initial accounting of "publicly documented instances, between 2001 and November 2018, of some 15 migrants with credibly suspected or confirmed terrorism ties who were encountered at the southern border after smuggling through Latin America, or who were encountered while presumably enroute."

The report's major findings show the following:

  • From only public realm reporting, 15 suspected terrorists have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, or enroute, since 2001.
  • The 15 terrorism-associated migrants who traveled to the U.S. southern border likely represent a significant undercount since most information reflecting such border-crossers resides in classified or protected government archives and intelligence databases.
  • Affiliations included al-Shabbab, al-Ittihad al-Islamiya, Hezbollah, the Pakistani Taliban, ISIS, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh, and the Tamil Tigers.
  • At least five of the 15 were prosecuted for crimes in North American courts. One is currently under Canadian prosecution for multiple attempted murder counts.
  • Of the four in the United States, one was prosecuted for lying to the FBI about terrorism involvement, one for asylum fraud, one for providing material support to a terrorist organization, and one for illegal entry, false statements, and passport mutilation.
Migrants, many from Honduras, rush towards the U.S. border fence 
near Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 25, 2018.  (Getty Images)

For the 15 suspected terrorists, all of whom were from the Middle East or Africa (and one from Sri Lanka), the report provided the following information:

Abdulahi Sharif, Somalia, detained in Alberta, Canada, September 2017, ISIS

Sharif, from Somalia, smuggled through Latin America and Mexico to the California border in 2011. Sharif allegedly went on to stab a police officer and conduct two vehicle ramming attacks in Edmonton, Alberta, in September 2017. His attack while carrying an ISIS flag injured a police officer and four other people. After an immigration judge ordered him deported, he made bond and crossed the Canadian border and achieved refugee status. Within 36 months, however, Canada's federal anti-terrorism police were investigating claims that he held "genocidal beliefs" consistent with extremist ISIS ideology.

Ibrahim Qoordheen, Somalia, detained in Costa Rica, March 2017, probable al-Shabaab

Costa Rican immigration authorities apprehended Qoordheen after he had passed through Panama enroute to the U.S. border. In a statement released to the public, Costa Rica's security ministry announced that U.S. authorities "confirmed that the person is allegedly linked to international terrorist organizations and sought his immediate detention to begin investigating the case." 

Unidentified Afghan national, reported smuggled into the United States, between 2014-2016, Pakistani Taliban

In 2017, federal prosecutors convicted Sharafat Ali Khan, a Pakistani human smuggler based in Brazil, for transporting between 25 and 99 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan from Brazil to Texas and California over the Mexican border. According to the Washington Times, at least one of Khan's customers was an Afghan "who authorities said was involved in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. or Canada and had family ties to members of the Taliban." The Afghan man reportedly was listed on the U.S. No Fly List and in the TSDB for family ties to Taliban terrorists. 

Muhammad Azeem and Mukhtar Ahmad, Pakistani nationals, Mexico-California border, September 2015, affiliation unknown

U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended Azeem and Ahmad just north of Tijuana after the pair had traveled from their home in Gujrat, Pakistan, through Latin America. Database checks revealed that both migrants were on U.S. terrorism watch lists.

Unnamed Somali national, detained at the Texas-Mexico border port of entry, June 2014, probable al-Shabaab

This Somali entrant told U.S. immigration officials that two months prior to his border entry to claim asylum he had completed training for a suicide attack in Mogadishu but instead went to African Union troops who were able to thwart the planned terrorist operation. He stated that he had trained with 13 other Somalis for 10 weeks to use suicide belts, AK-47s, and grenades.

Unnamed Sri Lankan national, detained at Texas-Mexico border, March 2012, Tamil Tigers

This Sri Lankan was with two other Sri Lankans apprehended by Border Patrol agents in McAllen, Texas. He stated that he belonged to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. He stated that his group was en route to Canada.

ISIS flag.  (YouTube)

Unnamed Somali national, detained at Mexico-California port of entry, May 2011, probable al-Shabaab

This Somali individual crossed the border at the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry. He had previously been denied a U.S. immigration visa and was on multiple U.S. terrorism watch lists. His mother, father, and four siblings also were on terrorism watch lists.

Unnamed Bangladeshi national, detained near Naco, Ariz., June 2010, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh

One of two Bangladeshis apprehended after traveling together and illegally crossing from Mexico admitted to U.S. Border Patrol interviewers that both had worked in the "General Assembly" for the U.S.-designated terrorist group Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh. Subsequently, one of two detainees was deported, but the other was granted bond on an asylum claim and absconded.

Abdullahi Omar Fidse, Somalia, detained at Mexico-Texas Border, June 2008, al-Shabaab

In July 2013, a U.S. District Judge sentenced Fidse on convictions for lying to the FBI about his terrorism associations after he traveled through Latin America to a Mexico-Texas port of entry in 2008. An FBI counterterrorism investigation found he had served as an al-Shabaab combat operative, crossed the border intending to conduct an unspecified operation, possessed the cell phone number of a terrorist implicated in the 2010 Uganda bombing that killed 70 soccer fans, and laid out details of a plan to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to Kenya and his Marine guard. He also worked as a weapons procurement operative, once buying an armed vehicle for $100,000 that was blown up in battle, killing all aboard. To a government informant, Fidse discussed the Quranic imperative to "terrorize the infidels" and stated, "We are terrorists."


Mohammad Ahmad Dhakane, Somalia, detained at Mexico-Texas border port of entry, October 2008, al-Ittihad al-Islamiya

In 2010, Dhakane was convicted at trial in San Antonio, Texas, on asylum fraud charges derived from an FBI terrorism investigation, which began when he was recorded speaking about his work as a terrorist to an undercover informant inside a Texas detention facility. ... It quickly emerged that Dhakane had belonged to the U.S.-designated terrorist group al-Ittihad al-Islamiya (AIAI) as a guerilla fighter and finance official. 

Farida Goolam Ahmed, Pakistani national, illegally crossed the Mexico-Texas border, July 2004, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)

Ahmed was apprehended at the McAllen, Texas, airport .... [A] December 9, 2004, U.S. Border and Transportation Security intelligence summary of the case stated that Ahmed was "linked to specific terrorist activities." ... An FBI official with direct knowledge of the investigation said Ahmed's husband was a confirmed member of a terrorist organization. ... An uncorroborated Homeland Security Today magazine report cited U.S. intelligence sources alleging that Ahmed was linked to Pakistanis arrested in the United Kingdom who were plotting a terror attack in New York. Ahmed pleaded guilty to illegal entry and false statements and was deported with time served.30

Muhammad Kourani, Lebanese national, illegally crossed Mexico-U.S. border, date unknown (sometime before 2003), Hezbollah

Court records from a current prosecution of a New York City-based member of Hezbollah's foreign terrorist wing known as "Unit 910" revealed that the defendant's father, Muhammad Kourani, had "entered the United States illegally on foot."  "U.S. prosecutors accuse the son, Ali Kourani, in a multi-count indictment of collecting intelligence for potential assassinations and bombings in the United States for Unit 910 from 2008 through at least 2015. ... Court records from his son's New York prosecution describe Mohammed Kourani as having intimate knowledge of and participation in his son's communications with a Hezbollah overseer inside Lebanon and also that the father knew two other sons were Hezbollah members and that at least one unrelated man in the New York area was a Hezbollah intelligence operative.

Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).  (YouTube)

Al-Manar Television employee, Lebanese national, smuggled over Mexico-California border, 2001 or 2002, Hezbollah

Out of the 2003-2004 U.S. smuggling prosecution of Lebanese national Salim Boughader Mucharrafille came information that his Tijuana-based organization smuggled one client over the Mexico-California who worked for a Hezbollah-owned satellite television network. The U.S. government designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated its satellite television operation as a terrorist entity in part because employees have been known to conduct pre-operational surveillance for Hezbollah "under cover of employment by Al-Manar", according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The station was added to the U.S. State Department's Terrorist Exclusion List in 2004. 

Mahmoud Kourani, Lebanese national, illegally crossed Mexico-California border, February 2001, Hezbollah

In 2001, Kourani (no known family relation to other listed individuals in this report) was smuggled across the Mexican border and into the United States in the trunk of a car and settled in Dearborn, Mich. In 2005, Kourani was sentenced to 54 months in prison for his activities as a "fighter, recruiter and fund-raiser" for Hezbollah, operating in Lebanon and in the United States. Court records said Kourani had received "specialized training in radical Shiite fundamentalism, weaponry, spy craft and counterintelligence in Lebanon and Iran." ... The government said Kourani paid a Mexican consular official in Beirut $3,000 for a visa to enter Mexico, then sneaked across the border. He was smuggled by the Salim Boughader Mucharrafille network of Lebanon, along with at least 200 Lebanese the network moved over the border from Tijuana, to include an Al-Manar Television employee.

(The information on the suspected terrorists listed above is quoted verbatim from the CIS report. To read the report, click here.)

President Donald Trump.  (Getty Images) 

In reference to President Trump's tweet about "unknown Middle Easterners" mixed in with the migrant caravan, now largely ensconced in Tijuana and Mexicali, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a strong critic of Trump, said such a claim is "pretty much a canard and a fear tactic."  The people in the caravan are "either fleeing violence or looking for a better life."

Trump may have made his remarks for political reasons, said the CIS, but "facts would support his contention that Middle Easterners from places like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, as well as from South Asia and the Horn of Africa, do indeed routinely travel the same routes as Hondurans to the U.S. southern border and that some terrorist suspects have traveled among them."

Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman

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