Mohammed Hamzah Khan, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested Saturday for attempting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Department of Justice announced Monday.
Khan was apprehended “without incident” at O’Hare International Airport by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to the announcement. He was on his way to Istanbul, which the criminal complaint filed by the FBI explains “is a common transit point for foreign fighters from the United States and other western countries to travel to Syria to join ISIL.”
Khan lived with his parents in Bolingbrook, Ill., a suburb 30 miles outside Chicago. Law enforcement officials searched his home while he was at the airport, where they found a notebook full of writings and drawings supporting ISIS. “Islamic State in Iraq and Levant. Here to stay. We are the lions of the war [unintelligible]. My nation, the dawn has emerged,” said one page. Another had “drawings that appeared to depict the ISIL flag and that of another designated foreign terrorist organization.”
“One page in the notebook had a drawing of what appeared to be an armed fighter with an ISIL flag behind him,” the affadavit explained. “Above and below these drawings were the words in Arabic: ‘Come to Jihad.'”
Officials also found a letter he’d addressed to his parents, telling them not to contact the authorities about his travel to Turkey, and stating his intent to travel to Syria. He also complained about having to pay taxes that he said would be used to kill his “Muslim brothers and sisters,” and said that there was an obligation to migrate to ISIS-controlled territory.
“We are all witness that the western societies are getting more immoral day by day,” he wrote. “I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this… I extend an invitation, to my family, to join me in the Islamic State.”
During an interrogation Khan told the FBI that someone he had met online promised to take him to ISIS once he arrived in Istanbul. Although he had purchased round trip tickets, Khan said that he planned to live in Syria permanently.
“When asked what he was going to do there,” the report says, “Khan advised that he expected to be involved in some type of public service, a police force, humanitarian work, or a combat role.”
“If the evidence is solid, let’s ship him off to Gitmo and never let him go,” Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk told CBS.
He has been charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, the maximum sentence for which is 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.