An Iraqi refugee living in East Lansing is facing charges for allegedly lying to federal officials about returning to the Middle East to fight with Islamic extremists.
Al-Hamzah Mohammad Jawad, 29, who has a green card, was scheduled Tuesday to fly from Detroit Metro Airport to Amman, Jordan, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
When U.S. Customs and Border Protection interviewed him on the jet way, personnel “became alarmed when Jawad could not explain his future travel or why he purchased a one-way ticket one day prior to his departure.”
They escorted him to an interview room and contacted an FBI special agent, the court document said.
During an interview with the agent, Jawad initially said he was traveling to visit his mother, a professor in Amman, but within minutes acknowledged his ultimate destination was “Iraq to conduct jihad” since a childhood friend recruited him to “join, train and fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq,” the complaint said.
That friend “had a uniform waiting for him” and claimed to have “killed many Shia and Kurds in Iraq,” authorities wrote.
Despite having told the FBI that he had sworn allegiance to an ISIL leader in a video on his cell phone and had emailed the friend about training, Jawad couldn’t show evidence on the device, nor was any found on a thumb drive in his pants pocket, the affidavit noted.
The FBI agent called Jawad’s brother, who said “he did not think he was radical or a supporter of ISIL” and was unaware of the friend in Iraq.
Also, Jawad’s sister-in-law, who accompanied him to the airport, “is a Shia and ... resided in Kurdistan for several years prior to arriving in the United States.”
Still, Jawad’s roommate told the agent that the refugee “had been acting strangely over the past several weeks,” the court filing said.
When pressed to support his account, Jawad said he invented it, the report said.
“Jawad could not provide an explanation for why he had fabricated this story, stating only that his home life was messy,” the criminal complaint read. “Jawad would not provide any further information.”
Federal officials said Jawad entered the U.S. as a refugee on March 18, 2013.
They claim he violated a U.S. code involving making false statements to a federal official.
Jawad is scheduled to appear Thursday in federal court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit said.
Staff Writer Robert Snell contributed to this report.