nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Mohammed (E.D. Mich. Nov. 6, 2017) (sentence in material support/murder solicitation)

November 6, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

Man Sentenced to Over 27 Years for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorists and Soliciting the Murder of a Federal Judge

Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 39, was sentenced today to 27 ½ years in prison for one count of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support or resources to terrorists and one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin E. Herdman, Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Division, and U.S. Marshal Peter J. Elliott of the Northern District of Ohio made the announcement. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan supervised the prosecution of the solicitation to commit a crime of violence charge

“As part of his conspiracy, the defendant provided thousands of dollars to Anwar Al-Awlaki in response to his calls to support violent jihad. Once detained, the defendant also solicited the murder of the federal judge presiding over his case. With this prison sentence, he is now being held accountable for his crimes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism and we will continue to pursue justice against those who provide material support to terrorists and those who seek to harm members of our judiciary.”

“For those who wish to harm the United States and support terrorists, whether in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, or right here in Toledo, these decades of prison serve as an important reminder that America’s law enforcement will pursue justice across the globe,” U.S. Attorney Herdman said. “He threatened the safety of our citizens, a judge and the independent judiciary. Now he is being held accountable.”

“The FBI is pleased that this individual will be spending a lengthy sentence behind bars for his support of terrorism and a plot to commit murder,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “The FBI will continue working daily to identify and bring to justice those that want to harm the individuals that protect our country or a judge that is upholding the law.”

“Protecting the federal judiciary is our highest priority,” said U.S. Marshal Elliott. “This is an example where we were able to work with our law enforcement partners to protect a judge and bring charges against a dangerous individual.”

Mohammad is an Indian citizen who was an engineering student at Ohio State University between 2002 and 2004. He married a U.S. citizen in 2008. He and three other defendants – his brother, Ibrahim Mohammad, Asif Ahmed Salim, and Sultane Room Salim – were indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2015. The case against the remaining three defendants is pending. They have pleaded not guilty.

Mohammad admitted to conspiring with his co-defendants to travel to Yemen to provide thousands of dollars, equipment, and other assistance to Anwar Al-Awlaki, in an effort to support violent jihad against U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world. Al-Awlaki was later designated as a global terrorist in 2010 and identified as a “key leader” of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, according to court documents.

On July 22, 2009, Mohammad travelled with two associates to Yemen to meet Awlaki and deliver the $22,000 that they had raised. Although they were unable to meet Awlaki in person, Mohammad and his associates did ensure that Awlaki received the money through a courier.

In addition to pleading guilty to conspiring to provide and conceal material support to terrorists, Mohammad also admitted to soliciting an undercover FBI employee (UCE), posing as a “hitman,” to kidnap and murder U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary. In or about April 2016 – while the terrorism case was pending and assigned to Judge Zouhary – Mohammad told another inmate in the Lucas County Corrections Center in Toledo, Ohio that he wanted Zouhary kidnapped and murdered and that he was willing to pay $15,000 to have this carried out. The inmate provided Mohammad with the contact information for the UCE and stated that the UCE would need a $1,000 down payment before the murder could occur. The inmate also provided Mohammad with an agreed upon code to use when discussing the planned murder over the jail telephone.

On or about April 26, 2016, Mohammad called the UCE from the Lucas County Corrections Center. Using the agreed-upon code, Mohammad told the UCE he wanted to have Judge Zouhary killed. Mohammad agreed to provide the $1,000 down payment. When asked when he wanted the murder committed, Mohammad stated, “The sooner would be good, you know.” Over the ensuing days, Mohammad arranged to have a family member provide the $1,000 in cash to the UCE. On May 5, 2016, that family member met with the UCE and provided the UCE with $1,000 in cash. Mohammad later informed the inmate that the rest of the money for the murder was coming, according to court documents.

Mohammad will be deported from the U.S. upon completion of his sentence, under the terms of his plea agreement.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Freeman, Matthew Shepherd and Christos N. Georgalis of the Northern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys Gregory Gonzalez and David Smith of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, following an investigation by the FBI.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Mustafa al-Imam (D.D.C. Oct. 30, 2017) (unsealing of 2015 indictment against Benghazi suspect)

October 30, 2017

From DOJ’s press release. Note al-Imam appears to be en route to US, but how (and how fast) that trip is occurring is not public.

Libyan National Charged With Federal Offenses in 2012 Attack on U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi

Mustafa al-Imam, a Libyan national approximately 46 years old, has been charged for his alleged participation in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

“The murder of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 was a barbaric crime that shocked the American people. We will never forget those we lost – Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Ambassador Christopher Stevens – four brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our nation," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "We owe it to them and their families to bring their murderers to justice. Today the Department of Justice announces a major step forward in our ongoing investigation as Mustafa al-Imam is now in custody and will face justice in federal court for his role in the attack. I am grateful to the FBI, our partners in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense who made this apprehension possible. The United States will continue to investigate and identify all those who were involved in the attack – and we will hold them accountable for their crimes.”

“The apprehension of Mustafa al-Imam demonstrates our unwavering commitment to holding accountable all of those responsible for the murders of four brave Americans in a terrorist attack in Benghazi,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we will do all that we can to pursue justice against those who commit terrorist acts against the United States, no matter how far we must go and how long it takes.”

Mustafa al-Imam is charged in a recently unsealed three-count criminal complaint. The complaint, which was filed under seal on May 19, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges al-Imam with:

· Killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and dangerous weapon and attempting and conspiring to do the same.

· Providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death.

· Discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Al-Imam is in U.S. custody, and upon his arrival to the U.S. he will be presented before a federal judge in Washington, D.C.

Charges contained in criminal complaints are merely allegations that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s New York Field Office with substantial assistance from various other government agencies. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Solano (S.D. Fla. Oct. 23) (arrest in IS-related Miami Case)

October 24, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

Honduran Citizen Charged With Attempting to Use an Explosive Device in Popular Miami Mall

Vicente Adolfo Solano, 53, a citizen of Honduras residing in Miami, has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in a planned attack at a shopping mall in Miami.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida and Acting Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Langan of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement.

As described in the complaint, Solano planned to place and detonate an explosive device in a crowded area of a popular Miami mall. Solano discussed his plot with a confidential human source and two FBI undercover employees. According to the complaint, Solano provided three videos to the source, in which Solano makes pro-ISIS statements and expresses anti-U.S. sentiments.

Just prior to his arrest, Solano took possession of what he believed was an explosive device, took steps to arm it and walked toward a mall entrance in order to carry out his attack. Unbeknownst to Solano, the device was inert and did not pose a risk to the public.

If convicted, the defendant faces a statutory maximum of life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Solano is scheduled to have a pre-trial detention hearing on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 10:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley. The arraignment is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 6. Solano traveled to the U.S. on a tourist visa and was granted temporary legal status for humanitarian reasons in 2002.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Boente and Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Jolie Zimmerman of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Tounisi (N.D. Ill. Oct. 19, 2017) (15-year sentence in attempt to join AQ’s Syria affiliate)

October 20, 2017

From DOJ’s press release: (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/suburban-chicago-man-sentenced-15-years-prison-attempting-join-jabhat-al-nusrah-syria):

Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, 23, of Aurora, Illinois, was sentenced today to 15 years in prison, and a lifetime of supervised release, for attempting to travel overseas to Syria to join Jabhat al-Nusrah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Joel R. Levin for the Northern District of Illinois and Acting Special Agent in Charge John P. Selleck of the FBI’s Chicago field office made the announcement. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan.

Tounisi was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in April 2013 as he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey. Tounisi had spent four months conducting online research related to overseas travel and violent jihad, focusing specifically on Syria and the violent Jabhat al-Nusrah terrorist organization.

Tounisi pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. According to his plea agreement, Tounisi in early 2013 made online contact with an individual he believed to be a recruiter for Jabhat al-Nusrah. He and the purported recruiter exchanged a series of emails, during which Tounisi shared his plan to go to Syria by way of Turkey, as well as his willingness to fight for the jihadist cause, the plea agreement states. Unbeknownst to Tounisi, the purported recruiter was actually an FBI employee.

Tounisi, a U.S. citizen, requested an expedited passport and purchased an airline ticket for the flight from Chicago to Istanbul. He arrived at O’Hare on the evening of April 19, 2013, and was arrested after passing through security in the international terminal.

The defendant was a close friend of Adel Daoud, of Hillside, Illinois, who was arrested on Sept. 14, 2012, for allegedly attempting to detonate a bomb outside a bar in downtown Chicago. Tounisi recommended certain attack techniques to Daoud but ultimately decided against participating in the attack. Daoud was charged separately and is awaiting trial in federal court in Chicago.

The investigation was led by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of Special Agents of the FBI, officers of the Chicago Police Department and representatives from an additional 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas of the Northern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Rahimi (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 16, 2017) (guilty verdict in NYC bombing trial)

October 16, 2017

A jury has convicted Ahmad Khan Rahimi for a set of bombings in New York City last September. Details from DOJ’s press release are below. Note: it does not appear (see this summary of the evidence: http://abc7ny.com/jury-finds-rahimi-guilty-of-all-charges-in-chelsea-bombing/2536800/) that the prosecution introduced into evidence any statements Rahimi made while in the hospital but before he was Mirandized (cf. https://www.lawfareblog.com/interrogating-ahmad-khan-rahami)

Press release (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/chelsea-bomber-ahmad-khan-rahimi-convicted-executing-september-2016-bombing-new-york-city):

Chelsea Bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi Convicted for Executing September 2016 Bombing in New York City

A jury returned a guilty verdict today against Ahmad Khan Rahimi, aka, “Ahmad Rahami,” 29, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in Manhattan federal court on all eight counts of the Indictment, which charged him with offenses related to his execution and attempted execution of bombings in New York City on Sept. 17, 2016. Rahimi, who faces mandatory sentence of life in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 18, 2018.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD made the announcement. U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman presided over the two-week trial.

“Ahmad Khan Rahimi constructed bombs with high explosives and shrapnel to inflict maximum damage to innocent victims in multiple locations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “The defendant’s bombs caused injuries to numerous people. Thanks to outstanding investigative work, the defendant was identified and arrested before he could do any more harm. This verdict is an important step in holding him accountable for his crimes. Pursuing those who seek to conduct attacks on our homeland will remain the highest priority of the National Security Division. I would like to commend all of the agents, analysts and prosecutors who made this result possible.”

“On September 17, 2016, Ahmad Khan Rahimi attacked our country and our way of life,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. “Inspired by ISIS and al Qaeda, Rahimi planted and detonated bombs on the streets of Chelsea, in the heart of Manhattan, and in New Jersey, hoping to kill and maim as many innocent people as possible. Rahimi’s crimes of hate have been met with swift and resolute justice. Just over a year after his attacks, and following a fair and open trial, Rahimi now stands convicted of his crimes of terror by a unanimous jury of New Yorkers. As a result, he now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Today’s verdict is a victory for New York City, a victory for America in its fight against terror, and a victory for all who believe in the cause of justice.”

“It’s no secret New York City remains a desirable target for those who wish to disrupt our way of life,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney Jr. “Last September, Rahimi set out to harm innocent people who were simply living their lives one Saturday evening. He underestimated the resilience of New Yorkers as well as the resolution of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to see justice served. Today and always, along with our partners, we remain committed to putting terrorists and would-be terrorists behind bars. While the threat posed by Rahimi has been mitigated, I can’t overstate the critical role the public continues to play in combating the threats we face. As we welcome this victory today, I ask everyone to remain engaged, stay aware, and immediately report suspicious activity to the authorities.”

“Ahmed Rahimi deliberately placed two bombs on the streets of Chelsea in the dark of night with the intention of maiming and killing innocent New Yorkers enjoying a September Saturday night,” Commissioner O’Neill. “The fact that victims were not killed when one bomb exploded and another failed to detonate is miraculous. Mr. Rahimi was following to the hateful propaganda of al-Qaida and ISIS that calls for the killing of Americans. The combined efforts of the FBI, NYPD, the New York State Police and the Linden New Jersey Police Department led to the capture of Mr. Rahimi within 50 hours of the bombing. The investigation, as well as this conviction is an example of the work of the nation’s best counterterrorism team. I want to commend the detectives, agents and police officers, the prosecutors of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and the members of the jury for bringing Ahmed Rahimi to justice. Today’s verdict is the most forceful deterrent for anyone considering waging terror in our City. We will investigate; we will find those responsible; and justice will prevail.”

As set forth in the Complaint, Indictment and the evidence presented at trial:

On Sept. 17, 2016, Rahimi transported two improvised explosive devices from New Jersey to New York, New York. Rahimi placed one of the devices in the vicinity of 135 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York (the “23rd Street Bomb”) and the other in the vicinity of 131 West 27th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York (the “27th Street Bomb”).

At approximately 8:30 p.m., the 23rd Street Bomb – containing a high explosive main charge – detonated, causing injuries to over 30 people and multimillion-dollar property damage across a 650-foot crime scene. The injuries included, among other things, lacerations to the face, abdomen, legs and arms caused by flying glass; metal shrapnel and fragmentation embedded in skin and bone; and various head injuries. The explosive components appear to have been placed inside a pressure cooker and left near a dumpster. The explosion propelled a more-than-one-hundred-pound dumpster – which was introduced as an exhibit at trial – more than 120 feet. The blast shattered windows as far as approximately 400 feet from the blast site and, vertically, more than three stories high.

Shortly after the 23rd Street Bomb detonated, the 27th Street Bomb was identified by a civilian who promptly called 911, which recorded call was introduced in evidence and played at trial. The 27th Street Bomb, which was rendered safe prior to detonation, consisted of, among other things, a pressure cooker connected with wires to a cellular telephone (likely to function as a timer) and packaged with an explosive main charge, ball bearings and steel nuts.

Earlier that day, at approximately 9:35 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2016, another improvised explosive device, which had been planted by Rahimi in the early morning hours, detonated in the vicinity of Seaside Park, New Jersey, along the route for the Seaside Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5K race. The start of the race – which was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. – was delayed. Had the race started on time, the bomb would have detonated as runners were passing by where Rahimi had planted it.

On Sept. 18, 2016, at approximately 8:40 p.m., six additional improvised explosive devices that Rahimi also planted were found inside a backpack located at the entrance to the New Jersey Transit station in Elizabeth. One of these devices detonated as law enforcement used a robot to defuse it.

On Sept. 19, 2016, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Rahimi was arrested by police in Linden, New Jersey. Rahimi fired multiple shots at police, striking and injuring multiple police officers before he was himself shot, subdued and placed under arrest. In the course of Rahimi’s arrest, a handwritten journal was recovered from Rahimi’s person. Written in the journal were, among other things, mentions of explosive devices (including “The sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets” and “Bombs set off in the streets they plan to run a mile”), and laudatory references to Usama Bin Laden, the former leader of al Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki, a former senior leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Mohammed al-Adnani, a former senior leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham and Nidal Hasan, who shot and killed 13 people in Foot Hood, Texas.

* * *

Rahimi was convicted of one count of using a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; one count of bombing a place of public use, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; one count of destroying property by means of fire or explosive, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of attempting to destroy property by means of fire or explosive, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of interstate transportation and receipt of explosives, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and two counts of using of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence, namely, the use and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, each of which individually carries a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison, a potential maximum sentence of life in prison, and, by virtue of his convictions on both counts, a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The statutory maximum and minimum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

In addition to the charges of which he was convicted in Manhattan federal court, Rahimi also has been charged in the District of New Jersey in a Complaint with offenses in connection with his alleged efforts to detonate explosives in Seaside Park and Elizabeth.

Mr. Boente and Mr. Kim praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD. Mr. Kim also thanked the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division for its assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III, Andrew J. DeFilippis and Shawn G. Crowley of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting this case with assistance from Trial Attorney Brian Morgan of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Queen (E.D. Va. Oct. 13, 2017) (sentencing in IS-related obstruction case)

October 13, 2017

https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/gaming-center-owner-sentenced-obstructing-justice-isis-case

DOJ’s press release:

Gaming Center Owner Sentenced for Obstructing Justice in ISIS Case

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An owner of a Fairfax gaming center was sentenced to prison today for obstructing justice and making false statements involving international terrorism.

Michael Queen, 28, of Woodbridge, was sentenced to 2 years in prison. According to court documents, Queen and Soufian Amri, 32, of Falls Church, lied to FBI agents to prevent them from learning about and investigating their friend Haris Qamar’s attempt to travel to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Queen and Amri knew that Qamar had attempted to travel overseas to join ISIS in 2014, yet they lied to and misled the FBI by saying that the only person they knew who might travel to join ISIS was a “tall, thin, Indian” individual. Queen later told Qamar that Queen and Amri gave the FBI the name of a Hindu individual as someone who might support ISIS. Queen told Qamar, “I’m never going to throw a Muslim underneath the bus to try to do the right thing.”

Qamar was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison on February 17 for attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Amri is scheduled to be sentenced on October 27.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon D. Kromberg and Colleen E. Garcia prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:17-cr-50.

Best,

Bobby

Robert Chesney (website)

Charles I. Francis Professor in Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs | The University of Texas School of Law

Director | The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law (website)

512.232.1298 | Twitter: @bobbychesney | Blog: www.lawfareblog.com | Scholarship: SSRN page


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. El Bahnasawy (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 6, 2017) (charges in Islamic State-liked bomb plot targeting NYC subways)

October 9, 2017

On Friday, DOJ announced charges (previously sealed) against a trio of men based on allegations that they plotted to bomb the NYC subway system, with sign-off from an Islamic State official. Note: one of the men was arrested in New Jersey and has now pled guilty. The other two are in custody in Pakistan and the Philippines, respectively, awaiting extradition.

Documents:

DOJ’s press release contains an unusually-long narrative about the case, along with links to a bunch of documents. I reproduce the narrative below. Here are the documents as to which DOJ provided links:

Download el_bahnasawy_superseding_information.pdf

Download u.s._v._salic_complaint.pdf

Download u.s._v._talha_haroon_complaint.pdf

Download el_bahnasawy_complaint.pdf

Download el_bahnasawy_indictment.pdf

DOJ’s narrative summarizing the documents:

Charges Unsealed Against Three Men for Plotting to Carry out Terrorist Attacks in New York City for ISIS in the Summer of 2016

The Planned Attacks, Thwarted by Law Enforcement, Included the Detonation of Explosive Devices in Times Square and the New York City Subway System

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office, Assistant Director in Charge Danny Kennedy of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Calvin A. Shivers of the FBI’s Denver Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD, announced the Court’s unsealing of federal terrorism charges against three men alleged to have plotted attacks on New York City during the summer of 2016 in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which were thwarted by law enforcement. All three men have been arrested, and one has pleaded guilty.

The defendants are: Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen; Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan; and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Philippine citizen. Communicating through Internet messaging applications, these three men allegedly plotted to conduct bombings and shootings in heavily populated areas of New York City during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan in 2016, all in the name of ISIS (the NYC Attacks). El Bahnasawy purchased bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of New York City to use for building the explosive devices and staging the NYC Attacks. Haroon allegedly made plans to travel from Pakistan to New York City to join El Bahnasawy in carrying out the attacks, and traveled within Pakistan to meet with explosives experts in furtherance of the plot. And as El Bahnasawy and Haroon prepared to execute the NYC Attacks, Salic allegedly wired money from the Philippines to the United States to help fund the terrorist operation.

· The planned attacks included detonating bombs in Times Square and the New York City subway system and shooting civilians at specific concert venues.

· Law enforcement – the FBI and the NYPD – successfully thwarted this terrorist plot. An undercover FBI agent (the UC) convinced the defendants that the UC was an ISIS supporter prepared to carry out the attacks with them.

· El Bahnasawy, who has been in custody since he was arrested by the FBI in May 2016, pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses and is awaiting sentencing.

· Haroon and Salic have been arrested in foreign countries by foreign authorities in connection with these charges and it is the hope and expectation of this Office and U.S. law enforcement that they will be extradited to the United States to face justice in a United States court.

On May 21, 2016, El Bahnasawy was arrested in New Jersey, after traveling to the United States from Canada in preparation for carrying out the NYC Attacks. Haroon was arrested in Pakistan in or about September 2016, and Salic was arrested in the Philippines in or about April 2017. El Bahnasawy pleaded guilty on Oct. 13, 2016, to a seven-count Superseding Information before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman. Today, the Court unsealed the Superseding Information and El Bahnasawy’s guilty plea, as well as the Complaint and Indictment previously filed against El Bahnasawy.[1] The Court also unsealed today the five-count Complaint charging Talha Haroon (the Haroon Complaint), and the seven-count Complaint charging Russell Salic (the Salic Complaint), based on their alleged participation with EL Bahnasawy in the plot to carry out the NYC Attacks.

According to the allegations in the Haroon Complaint and the Salic Complaint[2]; the Complaint, Indictment, and Superseding Information filed against El Bahnasawy; and the transcript of El Bahnasawy’s guilty plea[3]:

In the spring of 2016, El Bahnasawy and Haroon were plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in New York City in support of ISIS during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan (which ran from approximately June 5 to July 5 in 2016). In the course of their preparations, El Bahnasawy and Haroon communicated, via electronic messaging applications accessible on cellphones, with a certain individual posing as an ISIS supporter who was, unbeknownst to them, the UC.

El Bahnasawy and Haroon declared their allegiance to ISIS in electronic communications with the UC, and expressed their intention of carrying out Paris- and Brussels-like terrorist attacks on behalf of ISIS in New York City. El Bahnasawy explained to the UC that he was in contact with an ISIS affiliate about obtaining official sanction of the planned attacks by the Khorasan Province, a branch of ISIS active in Pakistan. Haroon, who was based in Pakistan and was introduced to the UC by El Bahnasawy, informed the UC that he was in contact with ISIS associates within the Khorasan Province, and that “khurasan dawla [ISIS] has o[u]r back.” El Bahnasawy stated to the UC that “[t]hese Americans need an attack,” that he aspired to “create the next 9/11,” and that he planned to “com[e] to new York at around may 22” from Canada. Haroon stated that he intended to fly from Pakistan to New York City to carry out the NYC Attacks with El Bahnasawy, and hoped to “cause great destruction to the filthy kuffars[4] by our hands.”[5]

El Bahnasawy and Haroon identified multiple locations and events in and around New York City as targets of the planned attacks, including the New York City subway system, Times Square, and certain concert venues. For example, on May 1, 2016, El Bahnasawy sent the UC multiple images of maps of the New York City subway system containing markings that depicted plans for attacking the subway system, including by identifying the subway lines in which explosives would be detonated as part of the NYC Attacks. On May 12, 2016, El Bahnasawy sent the UC an image of Times Square and stated: “[W]e seriously need a car bomb at times square. . Look at these crowds of people!” That same day, El Bahnasawy also expressed his desire to “shoot up concerts cuz they kill a lot of people.” El Bahnasawy described the plan to attack concerts as follows: “[W]e just walk in with guns in our hands. That’s how the Paris guys did it.”

On May 5, 2016, Haroon expressed to the UC that the subway was a “perfect” target, that they should shoot as many passengers on the train as possible, including “women or kids,” and that “when we run out of bullets we let the vests go off.” That same day, Haroon discussed with the UC the necessary supplies for making explosive devices for use in the NYC Attacks. On May 9, 2016, Haroon stated to the UC: “NY Needs to fall. It’s a must.”

During May 2016, El Bahnasawy, while in Canada, purchased an array of bomb-making materials for use in the NYC Attacks, including approximately 40 pounds of hydrogen peroxide (the “Hydrogen Peroxide”) – which is a primary ingredient in TATP (triacetone triperoxide), a powerful explosive commonly used in improvised explosive devices. El Bahnasawy also purchased, among other things, batteries, Christmas lights, thermometers, and aluminum foil for use in constructing explosive devices to carry out the NYC Attacks.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, based on Haroon’s communications with the UC, Haroon traveled to a certain city to meet with an explosives expert for the purpose of obtaining additional information to be used in building bombs for the planned NYC Attacks. Haroon advised that they would need “perming cords” (i.e., detonator cords) for constructing the improvised explosive devices, and conveyed his expectation that El Bahnasawy was acquiring “all that’s needed.” Haroon repeatedly expressed his commitment to travel to New York City as soon as feasible to carry out the planned attacks in support of ISIS, and described the steps that he had taken to renew the necessary travel documents to enable him to exit Pakistan and travel to the United States for the purpose of carrying out the NYC Attacks.

In early May 2016, El Bahnasawy informed the UC that El Bahnasawy had been communicating with Salic – who was known to El Bahnasawy as “Abu Khalid” and “the doctor” – about providing additional funding for the NYC Attacks. EL Bahnasawy further informed the UC that Salic was a trusted ISIS supporter who had provided funding in support of ISIS on prior occasions. El Bahnasawy advised that Salic would send approximately $500 to help fund the NYC Attacks, and that the money sent by Salic would be used to acquire additional ammunition and bomb-making materials for carrying out the attacks. El Bahnasawy informed the UC that he had sent the UC’s account information to Salic so that Salic could transfer money to the United States in support of the NYC Attacks, and El Bahnasawy provided the UC with Salic’s contact information on an electronic messaging application, to enable Salic to execute the planned money transfer.

Shortly thereafter, Salic, using the alias Abu Khalid, began messaging with the UC. Salic informed the UC that he had been in contact with El Bahnasawy, and that Salic was prepared to transfer money to the United States to help fund the NYC Attacks. Salic, who allegedly maintained an active pro-ISIS social media presence, also conveyed that he had previously sent money to multiple other countries in support of ISIS, and expressed his allegiance to ISIS. For example, on May 9, 2016, Salic informed the UC that he was “desperate” to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Salic also expressed his belief that he could safely send money to support the NYC Attacks from the Philippines, where he claimed to be at the time, without attracting law enforcement scrutiny, stating: “[I]ts not strict here. Unli[k]e in Aus [Australia] or Uk [the United Kingdom] even liking FB [Facebook] status will put[] u in jail . . . Terrorists from all over the world usually come here as a breeding ground for terrorists . . . hahahaha . . . But no worry here in Philippines. They dont care bout IS [ISIS]..loll[.] Only in west.”

On May 11, 2016, Salic sent approximately $423 from the Philippines to the UC to help fund the planned NYC Attacks. Salic also informed the UC that he intended to continue sending additional money in support of ISIS in the future, stating: “In Sha Allah once we have the blessings again we will distribute again.”

As described above, El Bahnasawy acquired an array of bomb-making materials for use in carrying out the NYC Attacks. In mid-May 2016, El Bahnasawy shipped those bomb-making materials, including the Hydrogen Peroxide, to the UC in the United States. El Bahnasawy planned to build the explosive devices and prepare for the NYC Attacks with Haroon and the UC at a rural cabin within driving distance of New York City. EL Bahnasawy helped to secure such a cabin for a period beginning in late May 2016, when he planned to arrive in the New York City area. El Bahnasawy informed the UC that the cabin would need to contain a refrigerator for purposes of making the explosives, and that El Bahnasawy wanted to “practise shooting” at the cabin site if it was not “too close to people.”

On May 12, 2016, when the UC sent Salic a photograph of the Hydrogen Peroxide that El Bahnasawy had purchased for use in the NYC Attacks, Salic reiterated his support for the planned attacks, and Salic also conveyed that if he was unable to travel to Syria to join ISIS, he might carry out an attack himself. During subsequent communications with the UC, Salic described New York City as “the capital of Kufr [Kuffar],” and stated that “[i]t would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter” people in New York City. Salic further conveyed to the UC that he would be praying to Allah for the success of the operation when the planned attacks were imminent.

On May 20, 2016, Haroon conveyed to the UC that Times Square was “a perfect spot to hit them,” and suggested that the plan could include “[d]rive by or we surround the whole street and trap them and kill as many as possible.” In the course of his communications with the UC, Haroon also stated: “I wanna kill . . . them in thousands”; and “we have to make a ocean out of their blood[.] Leave no one standing.” Haroon reiterated his intention of traveling to New York City, and discussed attempting to execute the attacks as soon as Memorial Day (i.e., May 30, 2016), stating that “that’s a day that will change history” and that the attacks “will scar them for life knowing the soldiers of Allah are everywhere and ready.”

On May 21, 2016, El Bahnasawy traveled from Canada to the New York City area, in preparation for staging and ultimately carrying out the NYC Attacks with Haroon. In coordination with Canadian law enforcement, U.S. law enforcement closely monitored El Bahnasawy’s travel to the United States on May 21, 2016, and El Bahnasawy was arrested by the FBI that night in Cranford, New Jersey. Haroon was subsequently arrested in Pakistan based on the charges in the Haroon Complaint, and Salic was subsequently arrested in the Philippines based on the charges in the Salic Complaint.

* * *

The chart below reflects: (i) the charges in the Superseding Information to which El Bahnasawy, 19, of Mississauga, Canada, pled guilty; (ii) the charges in the Haroon Complaint filed against Haroon, 19, a U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan; and (iii) the charges in the Salic Complaint filed against Salic, 37, of the Philippines.

CHARGE STATUTE DEFENDANTS CHARGED (COUNT) MAXIMUM PENALTY
Conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction 18 U.S.C. § 2332a El Bahnasawy (1)

Haroon (1)

Salic (1)

Life in prison
Conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries 18 U.S.C. § 2332b El Bahnasawy (2)

Haroon (2)

Salic (2)

Life in prison
Conspiracy to bomb a place of public use and public transportation system 18 U.S.C. § 2332f El Bahnasawy (3)

Haroon (3)

Salic (3)

Life in prison
Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists 18 U.S.C. § 2339A El Bahnasawy (4)

Haroon (4)

Salic (4)

15 years in prison
Attempted provision and provision of material support and resources to terrorists 18 U.S.C. § 2339A El Bahnasawy (5)

Salic (5)

15 years in prison
Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, i.e., ISIS 18 U.S.C. § 2339B El Bahnasawy (6)

Haroon (5)

Salic (6)

20 years in prison
Attempted provision and provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, i.e., ISIS 18 U.S.C. § 2339B El Bahnasawy (7)

Salic (7)

20 years in prison

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge. The charges contained in the Haroon Complaint and the Salic Complaint are merely accusations, and Haroon and Salic are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

As noted above, El Bahnasawy was arrested in New Jersey on May 21, 2016, and has remained in custody since that date. On Oct. 13, 2016, El Bahnasawy pled guilty to the seven-count Superseding Information. El Bahnasawy is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12. Haroon was arrested in September 2016 in Pakistan in connection with the charges in the Haroon Complaint, and proceedings for his extradition to the United States are currently pending in Pakistan. Salic was arrested in April 2017 in the Philippines in connection with the charges in the Salic Complaint, and proceedings for his extradition to the United States are currently pending in the Philippines.

Mr. Boente and Mr. Kim praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD, and the FBI’s Los Angeles and Denver Field Offices. Mr. Kim also thanked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office, the FBI’s Legal Attaché Offices in Canada, Pakistan, and the Philippines, the New York State Police, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for their assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys George D. Turner and Negar Tekeei of the Southern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorneys Joshua Champagne and Larry Schneider of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.