Federal agents arrested three Brooklyn residents today who have been accused of planning to join Islamic State (IS or ISIL) militants and carry out bombings in the US, a federal prosecutor has revealed.
In a joint effort, Federal Bureau of Investigations and the New York Police Department (NYPD) agents arrested Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, and Abror Habibov, 30, following a months-long investigation. Saidakhmetov and Juraboev, both permanent US residents — the two were born in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, respectively — are alleged to have been plotting to travel to Syria and join IS.
Saidakhmetov was arrested before boarding a plane to Turkey at JFK airport in Queens, while Juraboev was arrested at his apartment and was scheduled to be on a later flight, NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a press conference on Wednesday. Habibov, also a citizen of Uzbekistan and who had overstayed his US visa, was apprehended in Florida and is suspected of financing the operation.
The trio has been charged with planning to provide material support to a terrorist organization. They face up to 15 years in prison. Juraboev and Saidakhmetov are scheduled to appear on Wednesday afternoon in a Brooklyn Federal District Court, while Habibov is scheduled to appear in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida. US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch will prosecute the case.
"The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies," Lynch said in a statement. "We will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad on behalf of ISIL and those who support them."
Authorities became aware of the three men in August after Juraboev took to an Uzbek website and wrote comments supporting IS. After the posts were discovered, FBI agents, clearly identified as federal authorities, visited Juraboev several times. Through written communications to Saidakhmetov during the course of these visits, the 24-year-old detailed plans to travel to Syria with the intent of joining the militant group.
Juraboev is also accused of saying that he would bomb the Coney Island theme park and kill President Obama if he was asked to do so. According to the federal complaint, Juraboev told officers that Saidakhmetov expressed the same sentiments. The Kazakhstani citizen reportedly revealed interest in purchasing a machine gun and to fire it at authorities.
According to the complaint, Juraboev allegedly said "that he would not kill President Obama because of ill will towards him, but rather because of 'Allah.'"
During today's press conference, Bratton said IS has emerged as a "new significant addition" to the threat of terrorism. He specifically noted the groups' use of social media to inspire individuals to travel, or encouraging people to carry out lone wolf attacks at home in the event that they do not have the means to fly to its so-called caliphate, which encompasses parts of northern Iraq and Syria.
Bratton said the threat of IS, in general, raised "concerns about the lone wolf inspired to act without ever going to the Mideast, or once they go to the Mideast acquiring fighting skills and then returning." The commissioner said this specific case in Brooklyn is ongoing, and is just one of a number of investigations the authorities are involved in.
Bratton noted that while there are multiple instances being investigated, the IS threat in the US is nowhere near what Europe is facing. He referenced a visit by London Mayor Boris Johnson, in which Johnson said the UK has hundreds of active cases of IS-related situations.
"That far exceeds anything we're looking at fortunately at this time in the United States," Bratton said.
Watch the VICE News documentary The Islamic State here: