The FBI’s criminal complaint, filed against three New York men charged Wednesday with attempting to join the Islamic State terror group, reveals a long list of embarrassing mistakes that the suspects made while planning to travel to Syria.
The men, two citizens of Uzbekistan and one of Kazakhstan, posted repeatedly on an Uzbek-language internet forum for supporters of the Islamic State. They made no attempt to conceal their identities or IP addresses, and within a week FBI investigators met one of them at his home.
Suspect Abdurasul Juraboev, a 24-year-old Uzbek, sat down with FBI investigators in August and, at least twice, willingly showed them his iPhone’s browsing history, which included the IS website. He also gave the FBI a handwritten statement in Uzbek, saying that he “want[s] to fight and become a martyr under the Islamic Caliphate against the polytheists and infidels,” and that he is willing to kill targets in the United States as well — “even if that person is Obama.”
In one of the meetings, Juraboev pointed out his friend, 19-year-old Akhror Saidahmetov, as another IS sympathizer in Brooklyn. Saidahmedov was also an avid social media user, posting on the Russia-based site Odnoklassniki to discuss his jihadi ambitions.
Saidahmetov is financially dependent on his mother, who last week withheld his passport after he told her he intended to travel to the Islamic State.
He also relied on his boss, Abror Habibov, who helped buy him an airline ticket to Turkey. Habibov is the third suspect named in the case.
After the FBI made initial contact with the men, they continued accumulating evidence against them by monitoring their telephones and movements, and establishing contact through a so-called “confidential informant” at their mosque. The informant posed as another extremist with an interest in traveling to Syria.
They also reportedly told the informant that if they were unable to leave the country, they considered joining the U.S. military in order to provide intelligence to IS. Or else, the FBI document says, Saidakhmetov proposed he could “just go and buy a machine gun … and shoot all police.” The 19-year-old aimed high, saying that “then we will go to the FBI headquarters, kill the FBI people.”
According to the FBI, agents arrested Saidahmedov early on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport, attempting to board a flight to Istanbul.
The three Central Asian men are just the latest in a string of foiled attempts by American residents to travel to IS-controlled territory. An estimated 150 have tried to join the group on its own turf, compared to 500 from the United Kingdom.
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