FBI agents and New York City police officers arrested a would-be Islamic State terrorist attempting to travel to Syria on Wednesday after catching him in a months-long sting operation.
Saddam Mohamed Raishani (also known as Adam Raishani), 30, of the Bronx, N.Y., was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport and charged with “attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.” Law enforcement officials became aware of Raishani after he contacted an individual who was acting as a confidential source for law enforcement in January, according to a Department of Justice statement.
Raishani told the source that he had a friend who had previously left New York to join ISIS, admitting that he helped the person buy supplies to bring with him on his journey. He also provided the individual with money and a ride to the airport.
Over the following months, Raishani confided in the source. He said that he had watched an ISIS video calling on believers to travel to the caliphate, which made him feel guilty that he had not joined the individual on their journey.
“Raishani also indicated his desire to wage jihad and his belief that the Quran can be read to justify the violence, including beheadings, engaged in by ISIS,” said the statement.
He had also expressed his anger with the U.S. after learning that U.S. forces had accidentally killed the daughter of the deceased, infamous hate preacher Anwar al-Awlaki (who he called the “Godfather) in a raid in Yemen.
Raishani exhibited some concern that security officials were monitoring him, telling the source to use a special computer browser when watching ISIS propaganda and covering the computer’s camera.
The source told Raishani in mid-February that they had a friend who was a “true brother” and that they would be willing to introduce Raishani. This “true brother” was actually an undercover law enforcement officer.
Raishani continued to meet with the source several times over the following months, sharing ISIS propaganda with them, discussing how the Quran justifies ISIS’s beheadings and discussing trade craft to avoid detection.
Eventually, Raishani admitted to the source that he had been in contact with an ISIS member abroad to make travel arrangements. He noted how he still felt guilty for not having traveled to join the terrorist group. Come April, he said he no longer felt comfortable staying in America. He also noted that he had secured a travel visa and money for his trip and was preparing to leave.
From April until June, Raishani began to save money, engaged in physical training and practiced his Arabic in preparation for his journey. He told the undercover officer that he should also begin preparing for the journey and that the two could pose as aid workers and travel to Yemen in order to avoid detection. Raishani apparently had a contact there, who he knew through a family member.
By late May, Raishani had grown increasingly enthusiastic in his desire to join ISIS. He told a second undercover officer that he was “seeking guidance” for his “hijrah,” an Arabic term for religious migration. He noted that he sought “itishhad,” or martyrdom, for the sake of the “Ummah,” the global Muslim community. Raishani told the source and first undercover officer that he wanted to begin his journey before the end of Ramadan, which falls on June 24 this year.
Raishani made his final preparations on or around June 16, including paying off some debts. He planned to leave the U.S. from JFK airport on June 21, and arrive in Turkey around June 22, at which time he meet a “brother” who would smuggle him into Syria. Turkey has served as a well-known corridor for aspiring ISIS terrorists in the past.
The source drove Raishani from the Bronx to Queens on June 21. Raishani then took a cab to the airport to catch his flight. FBI officials were there waiting for him, leading to his quick arrest. He faces as many as 20 years in prison.
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