* United States v. Alessa (D.N.J. June 5, 2010)
Two American citizens were arrested Saturday, in the culmination of a long-running investigation involving an alleged plot to travel to Somalia to fight on behalf of Al Shabaab. The attached criminal complaint charges 18 USC 956(a), which makes it a felony to conspire within the United States to travel abroad to commit murder and other violent acts. The complaint is attached, and excerpts from the press release appear below:
NEWARK, N.J. – Two New Jersey men have been arrested and charged in a federal criminal complaint with conspiring to kill, maim, and kidnap persons outside the United States, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman; Newark FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly; and New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP) Director Charles B. McKenna announced today.
The defendants – U.S. citizens Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, 20, of North Bergen, New Jersey, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 24, of Elmwood Park, New Jersey – were taken into custody at JFK International Airport in New York on Saturday, where they intended to take separate flights to Egypt on their way to Somalia to join designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Al Shabaab and wage violent jihad. Waiting for the defendants at the airport was a law enforcement team holding arrest warrants issued by the U.S. District Court in Newark.
The defendants are expected to appear on Monday, June 7, 2010, at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court.
According to the Complaint unsealed today:
In October 2006, the FBI received a tip concerning the defendants’ activities. As the investigation continued, an NYPD Intelligence Division undercover officer (UC) recorded numerous meetings and conversations with them, during which the defendants discussed and prepared to carry out their plan.
Those preparations included saving thousands of dollars, physically conditioning themselves, engaging in paintball and other tactical training, acquiring military gear and apparel for use overseas, and purchasing airline tickets to Egypt with the intent to then travel to Somalia. The defendants also discussed their obligation to wage violent jihad and at times expressed a willingness to commit acts of violence in the United States. For example:
On November 29, 2009, Alessa stated to Almonte and the UC: “They only fear you when you have a gun and when you – when you start killing them, and when you – when you take their head, and you go like this, and you behead it on camera . . . We’ll start doing killing here, if I can’t do it over there [Italics indicate
The next day, Alessa stated to the UC: “I leave this time, God Willing, I never come back. I’ll never see this crap hole. Only way I would come back here is if I was in the land of jihad and the leader ordered me to come back here and do something here. Ah, I love that.”
On April 25, 2010, Almonte stated that there would soon be American troops in Somalia, which was good because it would not be as gratifying to kill only Africans.
The defendants also watched and played for the undercover officer numerous video and audio recordings that promoted violent jihad, including lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki and videos featuring attacks by Al Shabaab and other terrorist groups.