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FLL Shooter Santiago Converted to Islam before He Joined the Army

January 17, 2017 - 1:00pm
Esteban Santiago, aka Aashiq Hammad
Esteban Santiago, aka Aashiq Hammad

The gunman suspected of killing five people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Jan. 6 was ordered held without bail during a hearing in Fort Lauderdale this morning. U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow set a Jan. 30 arraignment hearing. 

Santiago could get the death penalty if convicted of federal airport violence and firearms charges that resulted in death. He still hasn't entered a plea.

What we now discover, however -- and what is yet to receive national attention -- could be the next chapter in the story of jihadism on Florida soil:

We discover Santiago had converted to Islam and created a “jihadist identity” for himself before he joined the U.S. Army, according to public records opened last week.

Esteban Santiago took on the Islamic name Aashiq Hammad, downloaded terrorist propaganda and recorded Islamic religious music online, records show -- all this according to a report by the investigative news site.

The newly uncovered information linking the shooter to radical Islam is a vast departure from the official picture of the killer authorities are handing out -- that he is a mentally ill Army veteran who became unhinged after a tour of duty in Iraq.

During a hearing this morning in Fort Lauderdale, an FBI agent confirmed that the 9 mm gun used in the Jan. 6 shooting rampage is the same weapon Anchorage, Alaska, police seized and later returned to 26-year-old Santiago/Hammad last year. He was ordered held without bond. 

Judicial Watch said this last week: “This is pertinent information that the Obama administration apparently wants to keep quiet, bringing up memories of the Benghazi cover up, in which the president and his cohorts knowingly lied to conceal that Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. Special Mission in Libya.”

Besides taking on a Muslim name, Santiago/Hammad recorded three Islamic religious songs, including the Muslim declaration of faith (“there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) known as the Shahada. He also posted a thread about downloading propaganda videos from Islamic terrorists on a weapons and explosives forum.

The investigative news site connected the dots between Santiago, who is of Puerto Rican descent, and Hammad, an identity he created in 2007.

“Traditional mainstream media coverage promotes the government rhetoric that omits any ties to terrorism even though early on a photo surfaced of Santiago making an ISIL salute while wearing a keffiyeh, a Palestinian Arab scarf,” Judicial Watch noted.

Founded in 1994, Judicial Watch -- subtitled "because no one is above the law!" -- is a conservative, watchdog foundation that files Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits to expose alleged misconduct by government officials.

In a letter to the Fort Lauderdale mayor and city commissioners, a prominent businessman and longtime resident of the city slammed county and federal officials for covering up that “Aashiq Hammad, not Esteban Santiago, attacked our city and county.”

The businessman, real estate entrepreneur Jim Morlock, specifically names Broward County’s elected sheriff Scott Israel, Sen. Bill Nelson, the first to identify Santiago as the shooter on national television, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, ousted last summer as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair over a plot to damage Bernie Sanders during the primary.

“Since when does a U.S. Senator (Bill Nelson), not law enforcement, be the one to so quickly release this terrorist’s Hispanic name but nothing about his more relevant Islamic background?” the letter asks. “Obama must have told Sen. Nelson to keep this from looking like a Muslim terrorist attack during the last 12 days of his watch. Bad for his legacy.”

Morlock goes on to state it’s “better to portray this atrocity as white Hispanic Alaskan mental Iraq war vet gun violence.”

Morlock’s letter further goes on to reveal that Santiago lived within walking distance of the only mosque in Alaska, was radicalized before he entered the military and was knowingly allowed to serve despite his Islamic sympathies thanks to “Obama’s PC military.”

Judicial Watch Morlock’s letter “poses interesting questions, including why this Muslim terrorist chose Fort Lauderdale out of all the nation’s airports and who Santiago knows in Broward County, which has a large and growing Islamic community.”

Judicial Watch says that in 2015 it obtained records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that show an Al Qaida terrorist who helped plan several U.S. attacks lived in Broward County and graduated from the local community college with a degree in computer engineering. His name is Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, but he also had a Hispanic identity, Javier Robles, and for years he appeared on the FBI’s "Most Wanted" list.

In 2012, Judicial Watch reported on a terrorist front group’s demands that Broward County public schools close twice a year to celebrate Islamic holy days, illustrating the influence that Muslims have in the region.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @Nancy LBSmith. Much of the information for this story came from



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