After Manhattan attack, Triangle counter-terror expert analyzes the threat here

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Thursday, November 2, 2017
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Triangle counter-terror expert Greg Baker analyzes the threat here.

APEX, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Acquaintances of 29-year old Sayfullo Saipov are describing him as argumentative and angry. Others call him quiet and prayerful. But so far, there are no clear answers on how or why the 29-year old immigrant from Uzbekistan became radicalized - an alleged ISIS sympathizer who mowed down and killed eight people in New York City.

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"There's a type of person that (ISIS) goes after and try to influence. But to say that there's an absolute profile for the people that commit these acts, no," said Greg Baker, executive vice-president of Tiger Swan Guardian Angel, a global security firm in Apex.

Baker shared his expertise with ABC11 after years in the business of counter-terrorism. He was an FBI special agent in the Raleigh office before being tapped to be North Carolina Law Enforcement commissioner, tracking terror suspects and threats statewide.

It was November 2016 when the state's top law enforcement officer told ABC11, there were active members of ISIS living in North Carolina.

"A surprising percentage of the incidents that occurred during that time had some type of North Carolina connection," Baker said. "Sometimes, a very strong connection."

Baker's ears perked up when he heard Saipov emigrated from Uzbekistan - home to long-time terror group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. He questions whether or not Saipov was radicalized here in the U.S. or back in his home country by IMU.

"I think as the investigation unfolds, it's going to be very interesting; is this a case where he was actually radicalized here, or was he radicalized before he came here?"

One of the state's most effective counter-terrorism measures is the "see something, say something" campaign. Baker spent years helping North Carolina's joint terrorism task force run down leads on threats, real or suspected.

"So it's a very healthy, a very vibrant, and a very active counter-terrorism program right here in our state. It is (working)," he said.

It's working, but terrorists still slip through the cracks.

On Wednesday, a bill was introduced on Capitol Hill to help cities install traffic barriers to block vehicles from getting onto pedestrian and bike paths like the one in the lower Manhattan attack.