nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Saleh (E.D.N.Y.) (ISIL material support case)

September 18, 2015

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – A criminal complaint was unsealed today in the Eastern District of New York charging Ali Saleh, 22, of Queens, New York, with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Saleh was arrested earlier today at his residence in Queens and his initial appearance is scheduled for this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann of the Eastern District of New York.

As set forth in court documents, in the last year, Saleh made multiple attempts to travel to the Middle East to join ISIL. In August 2014, he made a flight reservation to travel from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Istanbul. A few days earlier, Saleh used his Twitter account to post, “I’m ready to die for the Caliphate, prison is nothing.” Saleh was unable to travel at that time, but continued to pursue his goal of traveling overseas to join ISIL. For example, in July 2015, Saleh made a flight reservation to travel from JFK to Cairo. On the same day, Saleh used his Twitter account to communicate with an ISIL facilitator who instructed followers to contact him “for hijrah advice to IS in Libya ONLY.” Saleh was denied boarding at JFK Airport by airline personnel. Over the span of the next two days, Saleh subsequently continued his attempts to travel to the Middle East by visiting Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and Philadelphia International Airport, where he was again denied boarding. Saleh then made his way to an Amtrak station in Cleveland in an attempt to take a train to Toronto and travel to the Middle East from there. In a subsequent interview with law enforcement officers, Saleh indicated that were he not arrested, he would have continued to attempt to travel to the Middle East.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Abdurahman (D. Minn.) (guilty plea ISIL material support)

September 18, 2015

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 20, of Columbia Heights, Minnesota, pleaded guilty to conspiring with at least eight other individuals to travel to Syria in an effort to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Abdurahman was initially charged by criminal complaint on April 20, 2015, and was subsequently indicted on May 19, 2015. Abdurahman pleaded guilty today before Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of the District of Minnesota.

As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, between March and June 2014, Abdurahman became aware of individuals in the United States and abroad who had traveled or desired to travel overseas to join ISIL. Abdurahman joined this group of aspiring travelers with the understanding that ISIL was a designated foreign terrorist organization that engaged in terrorism and terrorist activity. The defendant participated in several meetings throughout 2014 in which he and his co-conspirators discussed traveling to Syria to join ISIL, including how they would pay for such travel, what routes they could take from Minnesota to Syria to best elude law enforcement and the feasibility of using fraudulent travel documents to travel to Syria.

As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, by June 2014, Abdurahman knew that co-conspirator Abdi Nur had successfully traveled to Syria and that co-conspirator Abdullahi Yusuf had attempted to travel to Syria but had been stopped by law enforcement at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Nevertheless, Abdurahman continued to make preparations to travel to Syria to join ISIL.

As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, on Nov. 6, 2014, Abdurahman and co-conspirators Mohamed Farah, Hamza Ahmed and Hanad Musse purchased bus tickets from Minneapolis to New York City, where they met at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). While at JFK, Abdurahman purchased a round-trip ticket to Athens, Greece, which he planned to use as a transit point from which to travel to Syria. After being prevented by federal agents from boarding his flight, Abdurahman lied to federal agents about the true nature of his travel.

As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, after their failed November 2014 attempt to fly overseas, Abdurahman and co-conspirators Farah, Musse and Ahmed met to discuss and coordinate false responses to anticipated law enforcement questions in an effort to conceal their intention to travel to Syria to join ISIL.

As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, he continued to meet with his co-conspirators throughout the winter and spring of 2015 to discuss and plan another attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIL. As a result of some of those meetings, Abdurahman willingly agreed to participate in a scheme to obtain false passports, travel from Minnesota to Mexico, and fly overseas to join ISIL using those false passports. On April 1, 2015, Abdurahman provided a passport photo of himself to an individual he believed would be traveling with him. Unbeknownst to the defendant, the individual was a cooperating human source (CHS). On April 3, 2015, Abdurahman asked the CHS for the return of his passport photograph, fearing the number of co-conspirators involved in the plot to leave the United States for Syria increased the probability of getting caught by law enforcement. However, Abdurahman admits that he did not withdraw from the conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL when he sought return of the passport photo. Rather, Abdurahman was attempting to preserve the viability of his and his co-conspirators’ future travel to Syria. Abdurahman on April 3, 2015, further provided $100 in U.S. currency to the CHS as a down payment for co-defendant Farah’s false passport which the defendant knew would be used by Farah to attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIL.