Those of you who have been following the prosecution side of counterterrorism for a long time will certainly recall the Lackawanna Six case from back in 2002. Well, here is a new Lackawanna case, involving a U.S. citizen who apparently pledged allegiance to ISIL. In this case the tip came not from social media, but from a concerned local citizen who provided a tip to the FBI. The charge, of course, is material support (presumably an attempt to provide himself as personnel to the group). From DOJ’s press release:
WASHINGTON – Arafat M. Nagi, 42, of Lackawanna, New York, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support and resources, namely personnel, to a foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. of the Western District of New York and Special Agent in Charge Brian P. Boetig of the FBI’s Buffalo, New York, Division made the announcement today.
“Our continuing fight against international terrorism today returns to Western New York,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “As alleged, Arafat Nagi pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and the leader of this terrorist organization. After buying military combat gear, he traveled twice to Turkey in an effort to help the group. Thanks to the combined efforts of law enforcement and community members, this defendant is no longer capable of achieving his goal of joining the most despicable group of our time.”
“The FBI has a responsibility to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are positioned to identify existing or emerging threats,” said Special Agent in Charge Boetig. “Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) serve as the national platforms for deterring, detecting and disrupting terrorist machinations. The JTTF in Buffalo relies on community engagement to gain perspectives on radicalization and to deter recruitment and the spread of radicalization messages. We continue to call upon people to contact law enforcement if they know of someone who has been influenced by ISIL rhetoric on social media – powerful propaganda that calls for followers to commit quick and unpredictable violent acts.”
According to the complaint, on Aug. 28, 2014, a Lackawanna community member advised the FBI that Nagi talks about violent jihad to various people in the community and it is common for Nagi to get into verbal arguments regarding his jihadi beliefs.
Further investigation determined that Nagi pledged allegiance to ISIL and the leader of the terrorist group, Abu Bakr al Bagdadi. The defendant traveled to Turkey on two occasions, in October 2012 and July 2014, with the intention to meet with members of the group. Evidence revealed that prior to these trips, the defendant purchased large number of military combat items, including a tactical vest, army combat shirt, body armor, a Shahada Flag, combat boots, a backpack, burn kit, hunting knife, machete and night vision goggles.
During follow up interviews in December 2014 and March 2015, the community member who alerted the FBI regarding Nagi’s actions stated that the defendant still possessed radical political and religious views. According to the individual, Nagi was angry about the killing of rebels in Yemen, which he blamed on the United States; pledged an oath to ISIL leaders; expressed agreement with ISIL tactics, including the killing of innocent men, women and children; and planned to travel to Yemen and Turkey again soon.
Nagi will make his initial appearance this morning at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott in the Western District of New York.
The complaint is the culmination of an investigation by the FBI’s Buffalo JTTF, which includes the Amherst, New York, Police Department; the Buffalo Police Department; the U.S. Department of State; the Federal Protective Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the Internal Revenue Service; the New York State Police; the Niagara County, New York, Sheriff’s Office; the Niagara Falls, New York, Police Department; the Customs and Border Protection’s U.S. Border Patrol; and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Air and Marine Branch. Additional assistance was provided by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.