The deception could have been deadly.
But for an American supporter of the Islamic State group living in western South Carolina, that was exactly the point.
And apparently, he was directly targeting children.
On Monday, an FBI news release contained the photo of a teddy bear bomb constructed by a man named Wesley “Dallas” Ayers, who is apparently obsessed with the Islamic State group and radical Islamist propaganda to the point where he tried to bring more terrorist murders to American soil.
Fortunately, Ayers is now behind bars, after being sentenced in February to 30 years in federal prison. But the image of what he was trying to “accomplish” should be a warning that radical Islam can be a threat in the most unexpected places.
“This was deliberately placed where a child or passerby could have found it. Fortunately, someone saw it and knew to call us,” FBI Special Agent Christopher Derrickson said in the release.
Derrickson is a supervisor in the FBI’s Columbia, South Carolina, Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to the news release. That was the agency that investigated a rash of bombs and objects that appeared to be bombs in Anderson County, starting in January 2018.
The first bomb was placed in a glowing wicker basket in the middle of a road, where it was found by a motorist and his daughter on Jan. 10. When the man stopped to examine the basket, it exploded, causing minor burns, the news release stated.
Amid the remnants, investigators found a “piece of paper with Arabic writing referencing Osama bin Laden,” the release said.
As word about that incident spread, another man contacted authorities to report having seen a similar object on a nearby bridge. He didn’t touch it but did take photos, according to the release.
On Feb. 4, 2018, a “bomb-like object” was found, with a letter that “pledged allegiance to the Islamic State,” the release reported. The letter said the community was no longer safe.
Then, on Feb. 15, the day after a gunman murdered 14 teenagers and three adults at a high school in Florida, the teddy bear bomb turned up. It was left in the middle of a road – where it was sure to be seen.
Fortunately, no one was injured and bomb technicians disabled the device, the release stated. All of the devices appeared to be linked to one bomber, investigators believed. Then, an interview with a local man led them to a suspect – a man who had been practicing building bombs in his home.
When investigators raided the home Ayers shared with his girlfriend, they turned up two guns, components similar to the type on the bombs that had been found and “a type of vest known to be used by suicide bombers,” the FBI release stated.
There was also writing that matched the Islamic State-inspired material found with the bombs, according to the news release. And a search of Ayers’ computer turned up signs he had been “self-radicalized, consuming terrorist propaganda from Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden, and others,” the release said.
Now, it’s a pretty good bet Ayers wasn’t right in the head – terrorist propaganda aside. In fact, according to WITI, FBI agents said that he was known for methamphetamine use and once used a bat wrapped in barbed wire to beat his fiancée’s cat to death.
So, he’s a nutcase, but still – down on the border of South Carolina and Georgia, four hours inland from the coast – he used a computer to find encouragement from the writings of the kind of enemies who want to destroy the United States. It’s an indicator of just how pervasive, and insidious, the threats to this country really are.
According to USA Today, Ayers is being held in federal prison in Illinois, with a release date of 2044.
So, at least South Carolina’s kids are safe from him.
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