nationalsecuritylaw United States v. El Gammal (S.D.N.Y.) (indictment of Arizona man for facilitating another’s travel to join ISIL)

August 27, 2015

The indictment is attached, but has few details. I don’t have the underlying complaint supporting the man’s arrest a few days ago; apparently it has more detail, and the press release excerpted below seems to draw on it. Like most such cases, this one begins with social media. It is not clear that this is how the defendant was detected, though it seems likely.

The offense conduct, interestingly, seems largely to focus on the defendant’s role in facilitating a New York City man’s travel to Syria in order to train with and join ISIL. At first blush at least, the facilitation primarily seems to have entailed introducing that man to a point of contact who could help him get to ISIL in Syria, and then providing further encouragement and unspecified travel advice thereafter.

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal, aka Jammie Gammal, 42, of Avondale, Arizona, was indicted today for providing and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as for aiding and abetting the receipt of military-type training from ISIL and conspiring to receive such training.

…As alleged in the indictment returned today and the complaint unsealed yesterday in the Southern District of New York:

In August 2014, a 24-year-old New York City resident (CC-1) learned via social media that El Gammal had posted social media comments that supported ISIL. Minutes later, CC-1 contacted El Gammal. Over the next several months, CC-1 and El Gammal continued corresponding over the Internet, although CC-1 deleted many of these exchanges.

In the midst of these communications, in October 2014, El Gammal traveled to Manhattan, New York, where CC-1 was enrolled in college, and contacted and met with CC-1. While in New York City, El Gammal also contacted another co-conspirator (CC-2), who lived in Turkey, about CC-1’s plans to travel to the Middle East. El Gammal later provided CC-1 with social media contact information for CC-2. Thereafter, El Gammal and CC-2 had multiple social media exchanges about CC-1 traveling to the Middle East. In addition, CC-1 began communicating with CC-2, introducing himself as a friend of “Gammal’s.”

In late January 2015, CC-1 abruptly left New York City for Istanbul. After CC-1 arrived in Turkey, El Gammal continued to communicate with him over the Internet, providing advice on traveling toward Syria and on meeting with CC-2. After CC-1 arrived in Syria, he received military-type training from ISIL between early February and at least early May 2015.

On May 7, 2015, CC-1 reported to El Gammal that “everything [was] going according to plan.”

* * *

El Gammal is charged with one count of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and one count of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison; and one count of conspiring to receive military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the defendant’s sentence, if any, will be determined by a judge.

El Gammal was arrested on Aug. 24, 2015, in Avondale, and presented in federal court in the District of Arizona, pursuant to a criminal complaint. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York. …

El Gammal Indictment.pdf

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Beltran (D.D.C.) (guilty plea by FARC member relating to 2003 kidnappings)

August 26, 2015

See the press release excerpt below, plus the attached plea agreement.

WASHINGTON – Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran, 43, a member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas (FARC) terrorist organization, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to hostage-taking charges stemming from the 2003 kidnappings of three U.S. citizens in Colombia.

Navarrete Beltran was extradited from Colombia to the United States in November 2014 to face charges in a superseding indictment that was returned in February 2011. He pleaded guilty to three counts of hostage-taking. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia scheduled sentencing for Nov. 10, 2015. Two other FARC leaders were convicted for their roles in the hostage-taking.

… According to a statement of facts submitted as part of the plea hearing, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia, formed in 1964 as the armed wing of the Colombian Communist Party. It has evolved into a major armed force financed by drug trafficking, hostage-taking and extortion. International human rights organizations have repeatedly accused the FARC of serious crimes, including kidnapping, murder, use of land mines, threats, the recruitment of minors, forced displacement and hostage-taking. The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.

As described in the statement of offense, Navarrete Beltran was a member of the First Front in the FARC’s Southern Block.

In his plea, he admitted taking part in the hostage-taking of three U.S. citizens, Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes and Keith Stansell. These three individuals, along with Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on Feb. 13, 2003, by the FARC after their single engine aircraft made a crash landing near Florencia, Colombia. Janis and Cruz were murdered at the crash site by members of the FARC.

For the next five and a half years, according to the statement of offense, Gonsalves, Howes, Stansell and many others were held prisoners by the FARC and used to bargain with the Colombian government. Along with about a dozen Colombian hostages, they were forced to march from one site to another to prevent their rescue. They were threatened, chained and forced to participate in proof-of-life videos. In early October 2006, the hostages were delivered to the FARC’s Southern Block’s First Front and were held prisoners by the First Front of the FARC.

From October 2006 through mid-June 2008, according to the statement of offense, Navarrete Beltran and other guerillas kept the hostages under the control of the FARC’s First Front. In particular, Navarrete Beltran often served as an armed guard of the American hostages.

In July 2008, the Colombian military conducted an operation which resulted in the rescue of the hostages. All told, members of the FARC held the Americans hostage for 1,967 days.

Navarrete Beltran Plea Agreement.pdf

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Crawford (N.D.N.Y.) (guilty verdict for KKK member who tried to make…an x-ray weapon)

August 21, 2015

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – A jury convicted Glendon Scott Crawford, 51, of Galway, New York, today after a five-day trial on all charges relating to his efforts to build a weapon of mass destruction.

…Crawford was convicted of attempting to produce and use a radiological dispersal device and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Crawford was also convicted of distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He also faces a $2 million fine on the attempting to produce and use a radiological dispersal device charge, and a fine of $250,000 on the other two charges.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 15, 2015, before Chief U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe of the Northern District of New York.

Crawford is the first person to be found guilty of attempting to construct a radiological dispersal device, a statute Congress passed in 2004.

“Glendon Scott Crawford, a self-professed member of the Ku Klux Klan, was convicted of offenses relating to his deadly plan to use a radiological dispersal device to target unsuspecting Muslim Americans with lethal doses of radiation,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism, and we will continue to pursue justice against those who seek to perpetrate attacks on American soil.”

“Crawford is a terrorist motivated by bigotry and hate who would have used a weapon of mass destruction to kill innocent Muslim members of our community were it not for the good judgment of citizens who quickly alerted law enforcement to his diabolical plan and the outstanding work of the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force,” said U.S. Attorney Hartunian. “This case illustrates how we must remain vigilant to protect our community from would-be terrorists.”

“Today’s verdict is a testament to the tremendous efforts of our Joint Terrorism Task Force in uncovering Crawford’s plot and the dedication of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing justice to an individual who sought to inflict terror and harm on our innocent citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge Vale. “This verdict is a victory for us all, but we must continue to remain observant; it is only with the assistance of our community members and law enforcement partners that we can be successful in thwarting these violent plots.”

In April 2012, the FBI received information that Crawford, who was employed as an industrial mechanic with General Electric in Schenectady, New York, had approached local Jewish organizations seeking people who might help him develop technology to be used against people whom he perceived to be enemies of Israel. During a 14-month investigation, the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force learned that Crawford was attempting to solicit funds to purchase, and then weaponize, a commercially available X-ray machine so that it could be used to injure or kill others by exposing them to lethal doses of radiation.

During the investigation, Crawford, with help from co-conspirator Eric J. Feight, took steps to design, acquire the parts for, build and test a remote initiation device that could have activated the radiation machine, and acquired the X-ray machine that he planned to modify into a weapon of mass destruction. The X-ray device that he planned to use had been modified so that Crawford could not have used it to hurt anyone.

Feight pleaded guilty on Jan. 22, 2014, to providing material support to terrorists. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 17, 2015, by Chief Judge Sharpe and faces up to 15 years of imprisonment.

Crawford, a self-professed member of the Ku Klux Klan, wanted to use the device against Muslims, and he scouted mosques in Albany and Schenectady and an Islamic community center and school in Schenectady as possible targets. Crawford also suggested the New York governor’s mansion as a potential target.

With undercover agents, Crawford discussed placing the radiological device within a van or truck, parking the vehicle near the entrance to the target location, and then remotely activating the device so that it would direct lethal doses of radiation at people coming in and out of the target location.

A central feature of Crawford’s completed X-ray device was that its targets would be exposed to dangerous and lethal doses of X-ray radiation without being aware of the exposure, the harmful effects of which would likely not be immediately apparent.

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Juraboev (E.D.N.Y.) (guilty plea in ISIL material support case)

August 14, 2015

From DOJ’s press release (see also attached plea agreement):

WASHINGTON – Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 25, a citizen of Uzbekistan and resident of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

…According to previous court filings, in August 2014, Juraboev posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIL. In subsequent interviews by federal agents, Juraboev stated his belief in ISIL’s terrorist agenda, including the establishment by force of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Juraboev stated that he wanted to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIL but lacked the means to travel. He stated that if he were unable to travel, he would engage in an act of martyrdom on U.S. soil if ordered to do so by ISIL, such as killing the President or planting a bomb on Coney Island, New York. During the next several months, Juraboev and a co-conspirator discussed plans to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIL, culminating in Juraboev’s purchase on Dec. 27, 2014, of a ticket to travel from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, to Istanbul, departing on March 29, 2015.

Juraboev pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge William F. Kuntz II of the Eastern District of New York. At sentencing, Juraboev faces up to 15 years in prison. …

Juraboev Plea Agreement.pdf

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Hasbajrami (E.D.N.Y.) (sentencing in material support case)

August 13, 2015

This one involved a Brooklyn resident who sent money to a jihadist organization in Pakistan and attempted to go there to join with such a group. From the DOJ press release:

WASHINGTON – Agron Hasbajrami, 31, an Albanian citizen and resident of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Pursuant to the terms of his plea agreement, Hasbajrami will be removed from the United States at the conclusion of his sentence. The sentencing proceeding was held before U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York.

…. As stated during the guilty plea and sentencing proceedings, and according to court filings, in September 2011, Hasbajrami attempted to travel to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (the FATA) for the purpose of joining a radical jihadist insurgent group. In addition, he sent over $1,000 in multiple wire transfers abroad to support terrorist activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In pursuing his goal of fighting jihad, the defendant exchanged email messages with an individual in Pakistan who said he was a member of an armed group that had murdered American soldiers and kidnapped Westerners. In one email message, Hasbajrami stated that it was difficult to ask for money from fellow Muslims because they became apprehensive “when they hear it is for jihad.” In another email, he stated that he wished to travel overseas, using jihadist rhetoric to describe his desire to die as a martyr.

On Sept. 5, 2011, Hasbajrami purchased a one-way airline ticket to travel to Turkey the following day. Based on Hasbajrami’s email communications, he intended to travel from Turkey to the FATA to join a jihadist group. On Sept. 6, 2011, the defendant was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying a tent, boots and cold weather gear. A search of the defendant’s residence revealed, among other items, a note reading “Do not wait for invasion, the time is martyrdom time.” ….

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Babafemi (E.D.N.Y.) (sentencing in AQAP material support case)

August 12, 2015

The interesting thing about this fact pattern is that the defendant was not an American and was not arrested in America. He was a Nigerian who traveled to Yemen, joined and trained with AQAP, and apparently intended to recruit for AQAP back in Nigeria. From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, 35, a Nigerian citizen, was sentenced today to 22 years in prison for conspiring to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The sentence was imposed by the U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York.

Babafemi pleaded guilty to providing and conspiring to provide material support to AQAP on April 29, 2014. According to previous court filings, between approximately January 2010 and August 2011, the defendant traveled twice from Nigeria to Yemen to meet and train with leaders of AQAP, the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda that has been linked to a number of plots targeting the U.S. homeland over the past decade. AQAP leaders trained Babafemi in the use of weapons, including AK-47 assault rifles, and taught him the importance of AQAP’s English-language media operations to its mission of inspiring “lone-wolf” style attacks abroad in the name of AQAP. Babafemi assisted in AQAP’s English-language media operations, which include the publication of the online Inspire Magazine, and worked closely with Samir Khan, the founder of Inspire and a U.S. citizen. Babafemi’s photograph, alongside Khan and other AQAP members, each holding an AK-47, was published in Issue 5 of Inspire; he also wrote rap lyrics on behalf of the group, hoping to extend its appeal to young Westerners. At the direction of the now-deceased senior AQAP leader Anwar al-Aulaqi, AQAP provided Babafemi with the equivalent of almost $9,000 in cash to recruit other English-speakers from Nigeria to join the terrorist organization. Babafemi attempted to recruit other Nigerians to join AQAP, but was arrested before he could complete that mission and conduct further activities on behalf of the organization.

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Saleh (E.D.N.Y.) (indictment in ISIL case)

August 11, 2015

This one became public with the arrest back in June. Now theres an indictment from a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York. Indictment attached, press release details below:

WASHINGTON Yesterday, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned an indictment charging Munther Omar Saleh, 20, of Queens, New York, with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and assault and conspiracy to assault federal officers. The same indictment also charges Fareed Mumuni, 21, of Staten Island, New York, with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to ISIL, assault and conspiracy to assault federal officers and attempted murder of federal officers.

The defendants arraignments are scheduled for Aug. 20, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. EDT, before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York at the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.

As alleged in the indictment and in other court filings, during the conspiracy, the defendants expressed fervent support for ISIL. Saleh and Mumuni conspired to conduct an attack in the United States, including plotting to use a pressure cooker bomb in the New York metropolitan area on behalf of ISIL. On June 13, 2015, Saleh and another individual were arrested in Queens after they approached a federal agent while armed with knives. On June 17, 2015, during the execution of a search warrant at his residence in Staten Island, Mumuni was arrested after repeatedly stabbing an FBI agent in the torso with a large kitchen knife. Fortunately, the knife did not penetrate the agents body armor. During a search of the vehicle used by Mumuni, investigators recovered a second large knife.

According to the indictment, Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni conspired to provide material support to ISIL and devised a plan to conduct an attack in New York. During his arrest, Mumuni stabbed an FBI agent numerous times, but thankfully the agents body armor protected him from the defendants attack and the defendant was safely apprehended by law enforcement, said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. Counterterrorism is the National Security Divisions highest priority and we will continue to seek justice against those who conspire to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations and we will relentlessly pursue any individuals who attempt to harm the brave law enforcement officials who risk their lives to protect us.

As alleged in the indictment, both Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni demonstrated their support for ISIL by attacking the law enforcement officers, said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie. The arresting officers exercised extraordinary skill and remarkable restraint in subduing the defendants, who will now face the full force of justice in federal court.

These indictments remind us of the dangers faced by law enforcement and the community alike, said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez. The FBI remains vigilant in its pursuit against violence and restrained in its apprehension of such offenders. We are grateful for the safety of our agents and will continue to work to eliminate threats to our country with the help of our law enforcement partners.

Stabbing an FBI agent and providing ‎material support to a designated terrorist organization are a recipe for indictment, as alleged, said Commissioner Bratton. I commend the agents and detectives from the Manhattan-based Joint Terrorism Task Force and prosecutors in the Eastern District for their work on this case.

If convicted, Mumuni faces a maximum sentence of 85 years imprisonment and Saleh faces a maximum sentence of 65 years imprisonment. The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Saleh and Mumuni Indictment.pdf


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