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A 43-year-old Brooklyn man was indicted Tuesday for allegedly fleeing to Syria and joining ISIS as a sniper and recruiter for the terrorist group.
Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, also known as Suleiman Al-Amriki, allegedly traveled to Istanbul, Turkey — which the Department of Justice says is a “common transit point to obtain entry into Syria” — in December 2013. From there, he went to Syria and joined ISIS as a sniper, eventually becoming an “emir” responsible for training other members of the organization, according to the criminal complaint against him.
Asainov, a naturalized U.S. citizen who reportedly immigrated to the U.S. from Kazakhstan in 1998, sent threatening text messages to people outside the terror group, prosecutors say. “You will be fucking scared for the rest of your life,” he wrote to an unidentified recipient in January 2015. “We will get you. We will fucking kill you. You heard of ISIS. We will get you. You need to obey. You need to be punished you fucking (redacted). We will find you and teach you how to behave.”
He also allegedly attempted to recruit new members via text, which ultimately led to his arrest.
In August 2014, Asainov encouraged an American man to join the terror group, court records say. “Even grandmothers are coming,” he wrote in a text. Seven months later, he texted the man asking for $2,800 to buy a rifle scope. Even though he didn’t get the money, he later texted him a selfie of himself wearing combat fatigues and holding a rifle. But the man Asainov was texting ended up being a confidential informant with the NYPD.
Asainov lived in Brooklyn from 1998 to 2013, and neighbors described him as standoffish but otherwise fine. “He was polite, but aloof. At first he was normal, but then he grew a beard,” one neighbor told the New York Post. The neighbor described his wife as a “very nice, typical American girl” who worked in retail. “She said they were arguing before, he was drinking, then she said he stopped and everything was good between them,” the neighbor said.
Asainov was flown back to the United States by the FBI in July and is currently being held without bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
He’s among many U.S. citizens to join ISIS. More than a dozen Americans of various backgrounds have joined the terrorist group, and some American women have moved to Syria to marry members of ISIS. One woman, Samantha Elhassani, moved to Syria with her husband and ended up fleeing the group, only to be charged with providing material support to ISIS, aiding and abetting the group, and lying about her involvement to the FBI.
Cover: The Syrian Army's tank during an attack on ISIS fighters' positions in the area of the former Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in the southern suburb of Damascus. Mikhail Voskresenskiy / Sputnik via AP