WASHINGTON - One was a drywall contractor and father, another a petite woman who cared for the elderly, another a U.S. military officer. The most alarming thing about a string of recently arrested terror suspects is that they are all Americans.
Over the past week, a Pennsylvania woman was accused in a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist; a New Jersey man was held by authorities in Yemen; and five young Pakistani-American men from Northern Virginia were charged by Pakistani officials with planning terrorist attacks in the South Asian country.
These seven are among more than a dozen Americans captured or identified by the U.S. government and its allies as actively supporting jihad, or holy war, in the past two years.
Some, according to prosecutors, were inspired by the U.S. involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Others, like the accused Pennsylvania woman, allegedly wanted to avenge what they considered an insult to the Prophet Mohammed. Many traveled overseas to get terrorist training. Some used home computers to foment plots.
There is no evidence that these cases are connected in any way. But they underscore the new reality that there is a threat from violent Islamic extremism from within the U.S. It is difficult to say whether the uptick in cases is because law enforcement has gotten better at catching suspects or if there are simply more to catch.