The Franklin County Sheriff says in the past year, law enforcement officials in central Ohio have made contact with dozens of suspects who are on the FBI Terror Watch List.
Columbus' closest brush with a terror plot came back in 2003, when federal agents arrested admitted Al Qaida members Nuradin Abdi and Lyman Faris for plotting terrorist attacks. That included a plan to blow up a Columbus mall.
In 2007, federal agents arrested Faris' former roommate, Worthington native Christopher Paul. He's currently serving 20 years in prison for conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
Nearly a decade after the FBI revealed the thwarted plots; the Franklin County Sheriff says terror suspects are still lurking in the capital city.
“This year alone, we've had well over 50 contacts within our patrol division with individuals who are on the FBI terrorist watch list,” said Sheriff Zach Scott.
The sheriff says most of the contacts were the result of traffic stops and says 95 percent of them were not U.S. citizens.
The FBI's Terrorist Screening Center told 10TV that worldwide, there are 700,000 people on the FBI's terrorist watch list; people who are known or suspected to have ties to terrorism.
“Everybody's shocked to hear that because it's not something that comes out all the time -- that you realize these people are really right here in central Ohio -- but they really are,” Scott said.
Scott says that's why central Ohio law enforcement officials say vigilant, training for the potential threat of terror attacks and keeping close watch on who is coming and going.
Scott says no tip is too small.
“We'll determine whether or not it's nothing. You give us a call. We'll make the final call whether this is nothing, and no one is going to belittle you because you felt that something was out of place,” he said.
The FBI will not reveal the names of people on the watch list because disclosure would tip off known or suspected terrorists, who could then change their habits or identities to escape government scrutiny.
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