The South Florida jihadist identified this week as the first American suicide bomber in Syria grew up in an all-American neighborhood where residents said they were acquainted with the young man and his family, but few knew them closely.
In the gated community of Lakes at Sandridge, where children ride bicycles in the streets and neighbors work in their yards, residents said they recognized Moner Mohammad Abusalha, 22, as the boy who used to love to play basketball and occasionally cause mischief — even if they hadn’t seen him around in a few years.
Abusalha is believed by FBI investigators to be among “dozens” of U.S. residents who have traveled to Syria to participate in that country’s civil war.
On May 25, Abusalha drove one of several trucks packed with tons of explosives into a restaurant in the government-held city of Idlib. It is unknown how many people Abusalha killed in the bombing of the restaurant, which was a popular gathering place for Syrian troops.
The bombed-out remains of the Syrian site, pictured in videos and photographs sent out through social media and posted online, are half the world away from the gated community where the suicide bomber’s parents, Michelle and Mohammad Abusalha, live in a tan-colored stucco house on Orangewood Lane in Vero Beach. Story by Charles Rabin, Lance Dixon, Doaa Soliman and Daniel Chang here.