3 arrested in N.Y., Fla. in plot to join Islamic State
New York – — Three men were arrested Wednesday on charges of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group and wage war against the U.S., and federal officials said one of them spoke of shooting President Barack Obama or planting a bomb on Coney Island.
Akhror Saidakhmetov was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, authorities said. Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month and was arrested in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said. The two were held without bail after a brief court appearance in New York.
A third defendant, Abror Habibov, is accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts and was ordered held without bail in Florida.
The three are charged with attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. If convicted, each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
“This is real,” said William Bratton, commissioner of the New York Police Department. “This is the concern about the lone wolf, inspired to act without ever going to the Mideast.”
The Justice Department has charged roughly 20 people in the past year with planning to travel to the Middle East to fight alongside militants like the Islamic State group. Federal officials have been concerned about Americans going overseas to train with these groups and returning with plots to carry out attacks at home.
Federal prosecutors say Juraboev, 24, first came to the attention of law enforcement in August, when he posted on an Uzbek-language website that propagates the Islamic State ideology.
“Greetings! We too want to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while not present there,” he wrote, according to federal authorities. “Is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here?”
“What I’m saying is, to shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves, will it do? That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels.”
Officials said they believed he planned to travel from Turkey to Syria to join the terror group. Prosecutors say Saidakhmetov, 19, also threatened an attack in the U.S. if he was unable to join the Islamic State. Juraboev’s plans included attacks against Obama or planting a bomb on Coney Island, officials said.
Federal officials say Juraboev identified Saidakhmetov as a friend with a shared ideology. The two exchanged messages on how to get overseas, and Saidakhmetov and an informant watched videos of Islamic State training camps in Syria, according to court papers.
Saidakhmetov told the informant in September that he wanted to travel to Syria for jihad, or holy war, but that his concerned mother confiscated his passport so he couldn’t travel, the complaint said. He said he would lie and tell her he planned to go to Uzbekistan to visit relatives. When he called to ask for his passport back, she hung up the phone.
Saidakhmetov’s attorney, Adam Perlmutter, said his client was a “young, innocent kid” who would plead not guilty.
Juraboev’s attorney had no immediate comment.
Saidakhmetov is a Brooklyn resident and citizen of Kazakhstan. Juraboev is a Brooklyn resident from Uzbekistan. Habibov is also from Uzbekistan, and had been in the U.S. legally, but his visa had expired. He was appointed a public defender Wednesday.
Abducted Christians moved to stronghold
Islamic State militants have moved a large group of Christians they abducted to one of their strongholds as fighting raged on Wednesday between the extremists and Kurdish and Christian militiamen for control of a chain of villages along a strategic river in northeastern Syria, activists and state-run media said Wednesday.