nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Damlarkaya (S.D. Tex. Dec. 11, 2017) (unsealed charges in IS material support / explosives info case)

December 13, 2017

Last Friday, the FBI arrested an 18-year-old in Houston who had been communicating online with undercover FBI agents and others, expressing a desire to go overseas to join the Islamic State or else commit an attack here. Note that the charges include provision of information for making explosives.

DOJ’s press release is here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/houston-man-taken-custody-charges-terrorism

Contents from it:

Houston Man Taken Into Custody on Charges of Terrorism

Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya, an 18-year-old U.S. citizen from Houston, has been charged with unlawfully distributing explosive making information and attempting to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office made the announcement.

Authorities arrested Damlarkaya late Friday, Dec. 8, upon the filing of a sealed criminal complaint. It was unsealed this morning as he made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena H. Palermo, at which time he was temporarily ordered into custody pending a detention hearing set for Dec. 14.

According to the charges, beginning in or about early August 2017, Damlarkaya engaged in online communications with undercover FBI agents and other sources. During those conversations, he allegedly shared his intentions to travel overseas to fight for ISIS or, if unable, to commit an attack in the United States. The charges also indicate Damlarkaya asked if he could provide a farewell video to be published should he follow through with an attack resulting in his death in order to inspire others. Damlarkaya further provided instructions on how to build an AK-47 or AR-15 assault rifle from readily available parts in order to avoid detection from authorities, according to the criminal complaint.

Additionally, Damlarkaya provided a formula to alleged ISIS supporters for the explosive, Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP), and instructions on how to use TATP in a pressure cooker device that contained shrapnel, according to the allegations. He also discussed the use of a machete or Samurai sword as an alternative to a gun or explosive. The criminal complaint further indicates he claimed to carry a knife in the event he was stopped by law enforcement and that he slept with a machete under his pillow in case his house was ever raided.

In early November 2017, according the court documents, Damlarkaya explained “if I buy a gun or supplies for a bomb, they [presumably law
enforcement] will heat up pressure [j]ust like a few months ago when I was trying an operation but they found out.” The criminal complaint further alleges that Damlarkaya claims to have attempted to get to Syria on two other occasions, but failed.

If convicted of unlawfully distributing explosives information or attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, Damlarkaya faces a possible 20-year-maximum term of imprisonment. A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law. 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.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alamdar Hamdani and Rob Jones of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorneys Gregory Gonzalez and Kevin Nunnally of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Ullah (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 12, 2017) (criminal complaint charging the NYC pipe bomber)

December 13, 2017

DOJ’s press release is here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/akayed-ullah-charged-terrorism-and-explosives-charges-connection-detonation-bomb-new-york.

Content of the press release:

Akayed Ullah Charged With Terrorism and Explosives Charges in Connection With the Detonation of a Bomb in New York City

Akayed Ullah, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, and a lawful permanent resident from Bangladesh, has been charged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in connection with Ullah’s attempted detonation of a bomb in a subway terminal near the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on Dec. 11. At least three people were injured as a result of the detonation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 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 and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD made the announcement. Ullah will be presented before the Honorable Katharine H. Parker.

"The Department of Justice is relentless in taking on the terrorist threat," said Attorney General Sessions. "In my time back at the Department, nothing has impressed me more. Since 9/11, the Department has convicted more than 500 criminals of terrorism-related offenses, and the FBI has open terrorism investigations in every state. To make law enforcement’s job easier, however, Congress must finally fix our broken immigration system so that we admit to this country those who are likely to succeed, not violent criminals, gang members, terrorists, or their sympathizers. The fact that somebody won a lottery or is someone’s relative tells us nothing about their ability to assimilate. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice will prosecute this case and every other case to the fullest extent of the law, and we will bring those who threaten America to justice."

“Yesterday, in the heart of rush hour, as thousands came into New York City through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Akayed Ullah allegedly came with a hate-filled heart and an evil purpose: to murder as many innocent people as he could and blow himself up in the process, all in support of the vicious terrorist cause of ISIS,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. “Although yesterday he allegedly stood in the tunnels under Port Authority plotting to kill, today he stands charged with federal crimes of terrorism. Those alleged terrorists who target New York City do so because they feel threatened by the strength of our spirit, the height of our ambition and the breadth of our freedom. They come seeking to sow hate, fear and terror. But in New York City, they find instead strength, resilience and hope. Like many before him, Akayed Ullah will also find another great American virtue: justice. That justice will be tough, it will be fair and it will be swift.”

“Akayed Ullah let loose his plan to conduct a mass casualty attack, setting off a pipe bomb, strapped to his body, inside a New York City subway terminal, as we allege today,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney. Like many others before him, we believe Ullah was inspired by a group that exploits technology in an effort to spread a violent ideology, effectively convincing sympathizers to commit terrorist acts worldwide. The nature of this particular strain of the terrorism threat can often mean evaluating behavior that doesn’t mean anything until you combine it with other pieces of intelligence. We rely heavily upon the community’s assistance to accomplish that task.”

“The act of terror committed in New York City yesterday accomplished nothing,” said Commissioner O’Neill. “It has not changed our way of life. It was a cowardly act, fueled by a false sense of purpose — motivated by propaganda in the shadows of the internet. What is clear is the resolve of New Yorkers to live in a free society, devoid of fear. I want to commend the work of the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the prosecutors in the Southern District for bringing today’s charges. Finally, our security requires every single member of the public’s help. It requires their vigilance. And it requires their care. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact law enforcement.”

As alleged in the Complaint:

Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS)

ISIS is a foreign terrorist organization based in the Middle East and Africa whose publicly stated purpose is the establishment of an Islamic state or caliphate based in the Middle East and Africa that encompasses all Muslims worldwide. ISIS has pursued the objective of an Islamic state through, among other things, killing and deliberate targeting of civilians, mass executions, persecution of individuals and communities on the basis of their religion, nationality, or ethnicity, kidnapping of civilians, forced displacement of Shia communities and minority groups, killing and maiming of children, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. ISIS has recruited thousands of foreign fighters from across the globe to assist with its efforts to expand its so-called caliphate in Iraq, Syria, and other locations in Africa and the Middle East, and has leveraged technology to spread its violent extremist ideology and for incitement to commit terrorist acts.

The Dec. 11, Attack

On Dec. 11, at approximately 7:20 a.m., an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated inside a subway terminal (the Subway Terminal) in or around the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal located at West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue in New York, New York (the December 11 Attack). Shortly after the blast, members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department located an individual later identified as Akayed Ullah lying on the ground in the vicinity of the explosion. Surveillance footage captured Ullah walking through the Subway Terminal immediately prior to the explosion, and then falling to the ground after the explosion.

Ullah was subsequently taken into custody by law enforcement. During the course of Ullah’s arrest, law enforcement officers located on his person and in the surrounding area what appeared to be the components of an exploded pipe bomb (the Pipe Bomb). Specifically, law enforcement located, among other items, (i) a nine-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket; (ii) wires connected to the battery and running underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iii) two plastic zip ties underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iv) several fragments of a metal pipe, including pieces of a metal end cap, on the ground; (v) the remnants of what appeared to be a Christmas tree lightbulb attached to wires; and (vi) pieces of what appear to be plastic zip-ties, among other items.

After Ullah was taken into custody, he was transferred to Bellevue Hospital, where he made statements to law enforcement officers after waiving his Miranda rights. During that interview, Ullah stated, among other things, the following:

  • Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb and carried out the Dec. 11 Attack. Ullah was inspired by ISIS to carry out the Dec. 11 Attack, and stated, among other things, “I did it for the Islamic State.”
  • Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb at his residence in Brooklyn (the Residence);
  • The Pipe Bomb was comprised of a metal pipe, which Ullah filled with explosive material that he created. Ullah used Christmas tree lights, wires, and a nine-volt battery as a trigger to detonate the Pipe Bomb. Ullah filled the Pipe Bomb with metal screws, which he believed would cause maximum damage. Ullah used zip ties to secure the Pipe Bomb to his body.
  • Ullah carried out the Dec. 11 Attack in part because of the United States Government’s policies in, among other places, the Middle East. One of Ullah’s goals in carrying out the Dec. 11 Attack was to terrorize as many people as possible. He chose to carry out the attack on a work day because he believed that there would be more people.
  • Ullah’s radicalization began in at least approximately 2014. Ullah viewed pro-ISIS materials online, including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands. He began researching how to build IEDs on the Internet approximately one year ago.
  • On the morning of Dec. 11, shortly before carrying out the attack, Ullah posted a statement on his Facebook account referring to the President of the U.S., stating, in substance, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.” Ullah also posted a statement that he believed would be understood by members and supporters of ISIS to convey that Ullah carried out the attack in the name of ISIS.

Items Recovered from Ullah’s Residence

On Dec. 11, law enforcement agents conducted a search of the Residence pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant. Law enforcement agents recovered, among other items, (i) multiple pieces of metal pipes; (ii) pieces of wire and fragments of what appear to be Christmas tree lights; (iii) multiple screws consistent with the screws recovered at the scene of the December 11 Attack; and (iv) a passport in Ullah’s name with multiple handwritten notations, including: “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.”

Three individuals were injured as a result of the Dec. 11 Attack.

* * *

Ullah is charged in a Complaint with one count of provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment; one count of using and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; one count of bombing and attempting to bomb a place of public use which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; one count of destruction of property by means of fire or explosives, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and a potential maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment; and use of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence, namely, the use and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction which carries a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment and potential maximum of life, all in connection with Ullah’s alleged detonation of an explosive device in New York City.

Mr. Sessions, Mr. Boente and Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI; the NYPD; the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Police Department. Ullah’s arrest is the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force – which consists of law enforcement officers of the FBI, NYPD, HSI and other agencies – and the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn G. Crowley, Rebekah Donaleski and George D. Turner of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Khan (S.D. Tex. Dec. 4, 2017) (guilty plea in IS material support case)

December 4, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

Asher Abid Khan, 23, of Spring, pleaded guilty today to providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office made the announcement.

“We aggressively investigate and prosecute persons who provide material support to terrorist organization like ISIS,” said Martinez. “Khan provided ISIS a battlefield soldier to further the terrorist organization’s violent agenda. Khan’s guilty plea is indicative of the priority this office has placed on those who would give aid and comfort to terrorists operating in the United States and abroad. ”

The investigation began in 2014 when Khan and his friend, who was living in South Texas, devised a plan to travel to Turkey and then to Syria for the purpose of fighting on behalf of ISIS. Khan had been living with a relative in Australia. Prior to leaving for Turkey from there, Khan told Mohamed Zuhbi, a Turkish-based foreign terrorist fighter facilitator, that he wanted to join ISIS.

Khan provided instructions to his friend on travel and how to reach him once Khan arrived in Turkey. During this part of the planning phase, it was Khan – not his friend – who was in touch with Zuhbi. On Feb. 24, 2014, Khan and his friend met in Istanbul, Turkey. At that time, Khan gave his South Texas friend money, knowing he intended to travel to Syria and join and fight with ISIS.

Khan then departed from the Istanbul Airport in Turkey and returned to the United States after his family tricked him into coming home to Houston because of an alleged hospitalization of his mother.

As soon as Khan returned to the U.S., he contacted Zuhbi with the purpose of introducing him to his friend so he could enter Syria and join ISIS as a fighter with Zuhbi’s help. Khan then provided to his friend a Turkish cell phone number for reaching Zuhbi. The following day, Khan’s friend sent an electronic message to Khan indicating he had “been delivered :),” by Zuhbi, but that he was not with ISIS yet. Over the next few months, the friend attended fighter training camps and stayed in touch with Zuhbi and Khan. During that time, Khan offered his friend money and instructed him to try to get to ISIS.

On Aug. 11, 2014, the friend finally made it to ISIS with Khan and Zuhbi’s assistance. After September 2014, he had ceased all forms of communications. On Dec. 25, 2014, the friend’s mother received an electronic message explaining that her son had died while fighting.

Zuhbi is still at large and is believed to be residing in either Turkey or Syria. There are pending criminal charges in the Southern District of Texas against Zubhi. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.

U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes accepted the guilty plea today and has sentencing for March 5, 2018, at 1:30pm. At that time, Khan faces up to 15 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. 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 based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted the investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Ferko, Alamdar Hamdani and Steve Mellin of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case along with the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.


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.


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.