A 20-year-old North Carolina man was directed by a top Islamic State recruiter to initiate attacks on targets in North Carolina and Virginia, according to the Department of Justice.
Justin Nojan Sullivan pled guilty to terrorism charges in federal court Tuesday. According to prosecutors, Sullivan was preparing to engage in mass shootings on behalf of ISIS before his arrest by the FBI June 19, 2015. Sullivan admitted that he was inspired to slaughter innocent people by infamous ISIS-recruiter Junaid Hussain, who directed him “to make a video of the deadly attack.”
“Justin Sullivan planned to kill hundreds of innocent people,” said Special Agent in Charge John Strong, the head of the FBI’s Charlotte Division. “He pledged his support to ISIL (ISIS) and took calculated steps to commit a murderous rampage to prove his allegiance to the terrorist organization. There is no higher priority for the FBI than to thwart the next terrorist attack. This case is proof of what law enforcement agencies can accomplish to disrupt terrorist activities of any kind.”
Court documents showed that Sullivan, like many foreign ISIS followers, began to self-radicalize by watching the terrorist group’s online propaganda in September, 2014. Sullivan reportedly expressed support for the terrorist organization at his home in Morganton and destroyed religious icons belonging to his parents.
Sullivan went from tacit ISIS supporter to potential jihadi around June 7, 2015 when he began to correspond with Hussain online. Hussain was a notoriously successful ISIS recruiter, despite being only 21 years old. A native of Birmingham, England, Hussain cut his teeth in terrorism by working with the so-called CyberCaliphate. He is believed to have recruited countless fighters into ISIS ranks through his clever manipulation of social media and is tied to several terrorist plots all over the globe. He was killed by a drone strike outside of Raqqa, Syria in August.
Hussain later began to correspond with and attempt to recruit an undercover FBI employee to join him in a mass shooting. Sullivan told the undercover employee that he planned to buy an AR-15 rifle at a gun show along with hollow-point ammunition, which is designed to leave large exit wounds in targets. He then asked the undercover employee to help him manufacture a home-made silencer for the weapon, which he would use to kill as many as 1,000 people at a concert near his home.
The silencer was delivered to Sullivan’s home June 19, 2015 and was subsequently opened by his mother. Sullivan offered to pay the undercover agent to kill his parents in order to prevent them from interfering with his terror plot.
Sullivan pled guilty to attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, which carries a potential life sentence.
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