Online activity of slain Roslindale man embraced rage, radicalism
The Facebook user “liked” the Islamic State in recent years and the page had links to images and figures tied to violent extremism.
It included an image of wrecked buildings, in a barren desert, twisted to spell out the word “RAGE.” Another, similar account said that the FBI was following the author in fall 2012. One profile picture showed an open grave alongside a verse from the Koran: “Everyone shall taste the death, then unto us you shall be returned.”
The Facebook accounts, linked by two sources to the man killed by anti-terrorism officers in Roslindale on Tuesday, offer a window into Usaama Rahim’s state of mind in the months and years before his fatal encounter, and a portrait began to emerge of the late 26-year-old.
Associates and neighbors said Rahim attended Brookline High and worked at Best Buy store in Dedham and at a CVS.
One neighbor said Rahim always wore the same outfit: dark three-quarter pants, socks, black sneakers, a black backpack slung over his shoulders, and earbuds in his ears.
“He was sweet. I saw a sweetness” to him, said Mirzeli Hernandez. “Who knows what was in his head?”
Rahim, who authorities say had been planning to behead police officers, used pseudonyms on both Facebook pages. But the pages contain identical posts from June 2013 identifying the man accused of being his coconspirator in the beheading plot — David Wright, or Dawud Sharif Abdul-Khaliq — as the author’s nephew and a witness at his wedding.
An acquaintance identified one of the Facebook accounts as being Rahim’s. An analysis by digital media and technology company Vocativ linked both pages to him.
On the more recently updated page, he used the handle “Abu Sufyaan.” The profile picture was changed in March to a quote, set against a dock disappearing into a lake: “Let not the opinions of man interfere with the directions given to you by God.”
His gallery of Facebook “likes” includes Mizanur Rahman, an extremist British preacher, and Ibn Taymiyyah, a 14th-century Islamic scholar whose writings helped shape violent Islamist ideology. It also contains many references to Salafism, a fundamentalist branch of Islam.
“It literally links to the Islamic State of Iraq, so at least it lets you know where his affiliations lie,” said Nick Kaderbhai, a research fellow at the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.
He said the Facebook page “definitely fits the general profile of online activity we would expect to see in both actual foreign fighters . . . and the fan boys who have no intention of traveling but do as much as they can to disseminate and support” the Islamic State.
Kaderbhai also noted, however, that the page contained no images of Muslims suffering or dying in Iraq or Syria — images that supporters of the group often post as moral justification for traveling to fight overseas.
“I would have expected to see a little more interest in those stories specifically,” he said.
Rahim’s “likes” list also includes many pedestrian interests, including some that suggest he was a bit of a health nut — Yoplait, the yogurt company, and a blog called “Herbs, Health, and Happiness,” which includes discussions of cancer-fighting foods and recipes for homemade coconut milk.
But some of the juxtapositions among his interests are rattling: “Gummy bears” appears next to “guns.”
On the other Facebook page, as Abdur-Rahim Al-amreeki, Rahim wrote angrily about being followed by the FBI in November 2012, and portrayed himself as unjustly targeted.
“‘Damn FBI calling my phone!’ he wrote in the November 2012 post. “They just want any opportunity to drag a Muslim into some DRAMA . . . He wanted to meet up with me and ‘Talk.’ HA! I said about WHAT?”
He concluded, a bit later: “Try again, monkey-boys . . .”
In the identical posts about his wedding, Rahim described the occasion as “a small ceremony — only told the necessary people to make the islamic marriage valid.”
“Alhamdolillah,” he wrote, using the Arabic for “praise be to God,” “I am married now for the first time and I must say this only occurred by the will and grace of Allaah.”
He went on to thank Wright and another man “for assisting me by being my two witnesses, and helping me devour all of that great food cooked by my mother and mother-in-law.”
The source who knew Rahim, and who requested anonymity because she did not want to offend his family, said she believed Rahim met his wife, a young Haitian-American convert to Islam, on a Muslim matchmaking site. She remembered reading his profile.
“He said something about Western education not being beneficial, like that it’s better to get an Islamic education,” she said. “And he gave a long rant about antiblack racism.”
Imam William Suhaib Webb, the former spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, said Rahim’s wife converted several years ago. He said they had a brief conversation, and then he heard her profession of faith.
“She was really delightful, a very charming person, very friendly,” he said.
Rahim enrolled in Brookline High in 2004 for as a sophomore, graduating in 2007, a statement from the school superintendent said. Brookline superintendent William H. Lupini also said Rahim earlier attended school in Saudi Arabia.
The Brookline superintendent’s statement said Rahim’s “guidance counselor and dean remember him as a bright young man.” Rahim attended college in Florida, the statement said.
Most recently, Rahim lived in Roslindale. Hernandez said that for months she tried to get to know Rahim, who joined her every morning at the MBTA stop for the Route 34E bus that shuttled them to their respective jobs in the suburbs.
However, Hernandez, 32, said she did not know the name of the “kind” man who would point her to open seats on the bus until Tuesday, when Rahim got into the deadly confrontation with members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“I did cry when I found out it was him because I didn’t know him by name,” Hernandez said Wednesday. “It’s really shocking to find out or to hear these things about him.”
As she spoke, law enforcement personnel continued their investigation of a Blue Ledge Drive apartment being guarded by Boston police officers.
The investigators finished their work there Wednesday afternoon.
Hernandez said Rahim lived with his wife, and she saw the couple walk together in their neighborhood.
She described Rahim as a strapping, bald man with a beard. He had a deep voice and he usually avoided eye contact with others, Hernandez said.
Hernandez, who describes herself as a devout Christian, said she tried to befriend Rahim, but found it difficult to get him to open up.
One day, while sitting near Rahim on the bus a few months ago, Hernandez said, she played a video on her phone of Islamic State militants beheading Christians that was accompanied by commentary from Anita Fuentes, a well-known evangelist. She said she listened to it on headphones but she thought Rahim saw the footage.
“I wanted to bring the word of God to him. I really did. But I didn’t know what way to do it,” said Hernandez.
As she played the video, Hernandez said, a serious look crossed Rahim’s face and then he shifted away from her.