The American Islamist who carried out a suicide bombing in Syria in May said that he fled the United States because he believed he was under surveillance by the FBI, according to a video released Wednesday. In an earlier video released by the militant group al-Nusra, Abu-Salha was shown burning his American passport.
Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, a Palestinian American also known as Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, drove a truck bomb into a restaurant filled with Syrian government troops in Jabal Al-Arba'een on May 25. According to the New York Times, Abu-Salha's attack killed 37 people.
In the video, Abu-Salha says, “I stayed with my friend's family [in Florida]... The reason why I had to stay with them is that, the state I was in, I was being watched by the FBI. I finally realized that I was being watched by them. So I had to flee back to my state to throw them off and make them think that I was somewhere else in the United States.”
The most recent video is the third one featuring Abu-Salha released by the militant group al-Nusra.
In the video, Abu-Salha also tells of a friend in Florida who had promised to join him in jihad, but abandoned him at the airport just before they were supposed to leave together.
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“I bought the tickets [for travel to the Middle East] for me and my friend and... what happened was, he was acting very strange. He wasn't talking and was thinking a lot," Abu-Salha says in the video. “When I was waiting for my flight, I told my friend to watch my stuff while I [prayed]. When I came back, my bag was there but he was gone... It hurt me so much because I love my friend... But I forgive him.”
NBC News reports that members of Abu-Salha's family said that he had traveled to Texas and then returned to Florida in 2013. He reportedly travelled to and received training in Syria in 2012.
Abu-Salha, who describes his journey to join the fight in Syria via Turkey, also claims he was inspired by the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Islamic cleric, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen three years ago.
“In a lecture, Anwar al-Awlaki said when you make [the trip to fight in jihad] it's like a cliff. Jump off the cliff, but you don't know if the water is deep or shallow. You don't know if there's rocks or if it’s going to be very deep. You just have to jump and put your faith in Allah that it's going to be deep and you won't be harmed, that you’re going to be safe after you land in the water."