Corpus Christi Shooter Inspired by Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda Sources
Social media posts by Corpus Christi naval air station shooter Adam Alsahli indicate he supported key figures linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and attended a school in Saudi Arabia that has a decades-long link with Al-Qaeda figures.
Alsahli opened fire at the air station’s North Gate on May 21. A guard was shot, but survived with minor injuries thanks to the bulletproof vest she was wearing. Guards returned fire, killing Alsahli.
Alsahli publicly declared his support for Al-Qaeda last November.
This marks the second attack against a US naval installation on US soil since December. Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani previously went on a shooting rampage at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where he was attending a program, killing three US sailors. Alshamrani had repeatedly communicated with Al-Qaeda operatives, FBI officials revealed earlier this month.
Alsahli moved to the United States in 2014, according to Todd Bensman, a former manager with the Texas Department of Public Safety and Counterterrorism who currently serves as a national security senior fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies. Alsahli obtained US citizenship while living abroad because his father was a naturalized American.
His Linkedin profile shows he attended Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a Salafist Islamic school with a long history of inspiring Al-Qaeda leaders. Muhammad Qutb, brother of Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb, taught at the school for years, inspiring his students with his brother’s jihadist ideology. Muhammad Qutb instructed his students that Muslims should hate infidels and have enmity toward them.
According to a report, Muhammad Qutb inspired Al-Qaeda leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri and Safar al-Hawali, who also taught at Umm al-Qura University. Al-Hawali, a student of Qutb’s, became an early bin Laden supporter. He accused the West of trying to undermine Islamic society from within after American troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This same event helped trigger bin Laden’s animosity against the United States.
Al-Hawali published a book in 2018 called Muslims and Western Civilization that renewed the call for jihad against the West, including suicide attacks. The book’s publication led Saudi authorities to arrest him that year.
“It is part of jihad to revive martyrdom operations that spite the enemy greatly. They are kind of infiltrating the enemy and they display the courage of Muslims and their love of martyrdom, and they terrorize the hearts of their enemies,” Al-Hawali’s book said.
In an Arabic Twitter post last January, Alsahli quoted a statement Al-Hawali made after 9/11.
“The moral spirit is stronger than military technology,” it says. “The huge armies can defeat it with hundreds of those seeking Heaven. Technology no matter how developed cannot resist the moral spirit of the believers.”
Alsahli also complained about Saudi Arabia’s detention of Salman al-Odah, a close associate of Al-Hawali’s in the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Saudi Awakening Movement of the early 1990s. Al-Odah spread anti-Western and antisemitic ideas as a leader of that movement. He was also a mentor of bin Laden’s.
“May Allah Bless him and grant him peace and his membership in the International Union of Muslim Scholars and the European Council for Fatwa. Do the scholars silence this crude audacity?” Alsahli wrote about Al-Odah.
Al-Odah was arrested in 2018 on 37 charges, including incitement against the Saudi monarchy and involvement in the creation of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
Brotherhood-linked groups including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also have called for al-Odah’s release. Al-Odah and Al-Hawali signed a 2004 letter calling for jihad against US-led forces in Iraq.
“Fighting the occupiers is a duty for all those who are able. It is a jihad (holy war) to push back the assailants,” the letter said.
Alsahli also posted several videos of International Union of Muslim Scholars founder Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi on his Facebook and Twitter pages, including a video that called for Muslims to rise up in defense of Jerusalem.
“Where is [the] Islamic world in what is intended for Jerusalem? … Our nation cannot stand in silence on this injustice,” Alsahli wrote.
Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood share many of the same ultimate objectives and dreams of spreading Islamic law across the globe.
Jeffrey Bale, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, who focuses on violence-prone political and religious extremists, finds the terrorist’s sympathies for Brotherhood-linked figures unsurprising.
“Even though the two organizations disagree bitterly about the best methods or tactics to use to achieve those goals, the bottom line is that they share the same Islamic supremacist goals,” Bale told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). “This shooter was clearly too impatient to embrace the [Brotherhood’s] gradualist strategy for Islamizing societies and coming to power. So instead he opted to wage armed jihad.”
John Rossomando is a senior analyst at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.