New details have emerged in the case of a rural Alaska couple accused of domestic terrorism. According to a sentencing memorandum entered in federal court this week, Paul and Nadia Rockwood had compiled a hit list of 20 targets and were ready to begin carrying out attacks.
Although we previously reported on the arrest and guilty pleas of the Rockwoods back in July, the release of new documents shows that the connections to American born al Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki was more than merely inspirational, and that the plot itself was more than merely aspirational.
After converting to Islam a decade ago, Paul Rockwood began studying the teachings of Awlaki, and over time Rockwood came to believe that it was his responsibility to "exact revenge" on anybody who desecrated Islam. Rockwood reportedly carried a lot of radical material, including "Constants on the Path to Jihad" and "44 Ways to Jihad," when he was arrested. Those are two pieces in which Awlaki preaches the radical form of Islam for which he has become so well known. For example, in "44 Ways to Jihad," Awlaki says:
"Jihad is the greatest deed in Islam and the salvation of the ummah is in practicing it. In times like these, when Muslim lands are occupied by the kuffar, when the jails of tyrants are full of Muslim POWs, when the rule of the law of Allah is absent from this world and when Islam is being attacked in order to uproot it, Jihad becomes obligatory on every Muslim. Jihad must be practiced by the child even if the parents refuse, by the wife even if the husband objects and by the one indebt even if the lender disagrees."
Having been radicalized by Awlaki, and believing it was his responsibility to kill on behalf of the "ummah," Rockwood spent months compiling a list of targets who they believed had desecrated Islam. The list included a publishing company executive, a media personality, seven members of the military, seven unidentified individuals, two religious organizations, and two publishing companies.
Prosecutors believe it was more than just talk. Explaining the severity of the plot, court records show that:
"plans were well beyond the internet researching stage and had been in place for more than four years. While in Alaska, Rockwood researched and discussed methods of execution, often at great length and in significant detail, components for mail bombs were purchased, the targets had been selected and a loose operational time line was established."
Having pled guilty, the couple faces sentencing next week. Paul Rockwood is expected to be imprisoned for eight years while his wife will receive probation.