3 planned to kill in U.S. if unable to join Islamic State, FBI says

Two men were arrested Wednesday in New York as they allegedly prepared to join Islamic State militants in Syria, while a third man was arrested in Florida for allegedly helping fund their efforts, after they boasted of their plans on the Internet.

The three, all immigrants from Central Asia who live in Brooklyn, N.Y., allegedly plotted to launch attacks in this country if they were prevented from joining the extremist group, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.


One of the men repeatedly offered to assassinate President Obama if ordered to do so by  Islamic State, according to the complaint.

Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, a citizen of Kazakhstan, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, and then travel to Syria, the FBI said.


In conversations secretly recorded by the FBI, Saidakhmetov allegedly said he might try to force the flight to divert “so that the Islamic State would gain a plane.”


He also allegedly said that if he failed to reach Syria, he was prepared to join the military to kill U.S. soldiers, plant a bomb on Coney Island, the beachfront entertainment area in Brooklyn, or shoot FBI agents and New York police.


“We will go and purchase one handgun … then go and shoot one police officer,” he said in one wiretapped call, according to the complaint.


“Boom… Then, we will take his gun, bullets and a bulletproof vest … then, we will do the same with a couple of others. Then we will go to the FBI headquarters, kill the FBI people.”


Also arrested was Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, a citizen of Uzbekistan. Authorities said he had purchased a ticket to Istanbul and planned to follow Saidakhmetov to Syria next month.


The third suspect, Abror Habibov, 30, also an Uzbek citizen, is accused of giving the two money to help them fly to Turkey to join Islamic State. Habibov, who owns a chain of kiosks in retail malls in several states, was arrested in Jacksonville, Fla.


About 20,000 foreign fighters have joined Islamic State and other Sunni militant groups in Syria and Iraq, including several thousand Europeans and about 100 Americans, according to U.S. estimates. About a dozen Americans are believed to be fighting on behalf of Islamic State.


According to the complaint, U.S. investigators first began tracking the men in August after Juraboev allegedly posted a note on a now-closed Uzbek-language website that sought recruits for Islamic State, offering to shoot Obama if the extremist group ordered him to do so.


“That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels,” the note states. Juraboev repeated his pledge to “execute Obama” in an email later that month to another Islamic State website, according to the complaint.


Special FBI Agent Ryan Singer wrote in the criminal complaint that agents first interviewed Juraboev in August and he openly discussed plans not only to join the Islamic State but also  to kill Obama.


The investigation spread to Saidakhmetov, and wiretaps were approved to pick up the two men’s conversations. The FBI also planted a paid confidential informant, who met and befriended Juraboev at a local mosque.


At one point Saidakhmetov offered to join the U.S. military so he could pass information to Islamic State “to help in their attacks,” according to the complaint. Barring that, he said, he “could always open fire on American soldiers and kill as many of them as possible.”


According to the criminal complaint, Saidakhmetov was overjoyed when his travel documents were cleared by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week. He opened the package and said “his soul was already on its way to paradise and made the sound of a horn.”


The three were each charged with attempt to provide and conspiracy to provide material support to Islamic State. If convicted, they each face up to 15 years in prison.


All three made initial appearances in court but did not yet enter pleas in the case.


Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and President’s Obama’s nominee to replace Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general, is overseeing the case. A Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on her nomination.


Lynch said the case shows the U.S. efforts to stop people from joining Islamic State, as well as to stop people influenced by the group from using violence in this country.


“The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies,” Lynch said in a statement. “Anyone who threatens our citizens and our allies, here or abroad, will face the full force of American justice.”


On Capitol Hill, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, announced a new congressional task force to strategize how to stop U.S. residents from becoming militants. “More must be done to keep them off the battlefield,” he said.


Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday’s arrests were “yet another reminder that even in the United States, [Islamic State] barbarism has found its adherents.”


At a news conference in Brooklyn, New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said the case highlights Islamic State's reach on social media, and the group's ability to motivate sympathizers in the U.S. to act.

"This is real," he said. "This is the concern about the lone wolf, inspired to act without going to the Middle East."


Bratton made reference to 32-year-old Zale Thompson, a Queens resident who attacked four city police officers with a hatchet in a subway station last year. When officers scoured his computer after the assault, they found he had visited several websites sympathetic to Islamic State, Bratton said.


Asked why Juraboev wasn't arrested immediately after threatening to kill Obama, Diego Rodriguez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office, said agents chose to monitor him instead to obtain more information about his network.

Source: LA Times