Mohammed Taheri-azar Runs Over Students for Allah

Mohammed Taheri-azar rented a Jeep and drove it through the campus of his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, trying to run over students. Hit hit several of the and freely admits he was hoping to kill them.

Why? He wanted “to spread the will of Allah” and “punish the government of the United States for [its] actions around the world.”

WRAL has a video of the incident and audio of a 911 call.

Athena has a personality profile and an assessment of whether Taheri qualifies as a “terrorist.” Cori Dauber, Michelle Malkin (who dubs Taheri the “Tar Heel Terrorist”), and Kim Priestap weigh in on that topic as well.

Some commonly applied definitions of terrorism:

  • “Systematic use of violence, terror, and intimidation to achieve an end.” (Webster’s)
  • “The calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” (Defense Department)
  • “International terrorism is terrorism conducted with the support of a foreign government or organization and / or directed against foreign nationals, institutions or governments.” (State Department)
  • “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (FBI)

Taheri’s act qualifies under some of those definitions and not under others.

From what we know now, he was acting alone and this was a one-time event. So, it was not “systematic” nor “with the support of” anyone and would not qualify under the Webster’s or State Department definitions. It would, however, seem to fit the DoD and, especially, FBI definitions.

Still, it sounds like the guy is just a less-than-stable loser rather than a calculating jihadist. Indeed, one has to be a complete moron to hit fifteen people with a Jeep with the intent to kill them and somehow manage not to kill anyone. My guess is that he’s a “terrorist” in the same way the looters yelling “Rodney King!” while running down the streets with their television sets were “militants.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ICallMasICM says:

    Taheri-azar told the courtroom that he was “thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah.”

    As he left court, Taheri-Azar told reporters, “the truth is my lawyer.” When asked if he was trying to kill people, he said yes.

    Can’t you find someone a little more deserving to make excuses for?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Jack: I hardly call “less-than-stable loser” an excuse. I merely note he does not meet most classic definitions of a terrorist.

  3. Kent says:

    less-than-stable loser rather than a calculating jihadist

    I am somewhat skeptical that the two are mutually exclusive.

  4. ICallMasICM says:

    I guess I’m missing your point. If he had a little heavier foot on the accelarator and a little steadier hand on the wheel then he would have been a terrorist but now he’s just a misguided soul?

  5. James Joyner says:

    Kent: True that.

    Jack: No, he would have been a “murderer” rather than a “would-be murderer.”

  6. ICallMasICM says:

    Who just randomly decided to murder some infidels in the name of Allah?

  7. McGehee says:

    Okay, so he’s a terrorist wanna-be.

    I’m not so sure that’s one of those differences that makes a difference.

  8. ICallMasICM says:

    Maybe he was just pissed that Duke lost?