Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha: Former CIA official offers insight into terrorism recruitment

VERO BEACH, Fla. - A Treasure Coast man is likely the first ever American to be involved in a suicide bombing in Syria.

Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, 22, is said to have died in a suicide bombing Sunday.

People who knew Abu-Salha and his family in Vero Beach say they noticed he changed, even alienated himself during recent years.

Now, they wonder how he could change so drastically to fall into the ranks of radicals.

Intelligence experts believe the bombing was carried out by an Al-Qaida linked organization.

It's an unexpected ending to his life for those who knew him. "I wonder if he was just looking for acceptance," said neighbor Bill Miller.

A family friend, who did not want to be identified tells WPTV that Abu-Salha, who went to Sebastian River High School, left the country unexpectedly at least a year ago.

The family friend says Abu-Salha's father told him Abu-Salha rarely contacted family while he was there, but eventually sent an email saying he was okay and happy there.

The family friend also says Abu-Salha told his family he was in Jordan working as a nurse.

"In general, I think people want acceptance and maybe someone took advantage of what his needs were," Miller said.

Brad Robinson, a former CIA operative and current private investigator with The Millenium Group , says it is becoming easier for terrorist groups to recruit someone like Abu-Salha, even from thousands of miles away.

"It's probably not unlikely that 95% of his recruitment took place over the internet," Robinson explained.

He says chat rooms and online bulletins allow for easier contact. "This is the new trend in recruitment. It's something that didn't happen ten years ago," Robinson said.

Robinson says the recruit and recruiter will only meet face-to-face when the recruit actually travels to the other country, providing more secrecy and safety for the terrorist group.

"It's happening all over the country. Probably much more so than people realize," Robinson said.

Intelligence experts will continue to investigate exactly how Abu-Salha might have been recruited and become involved in his deadly bombing.

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