NEW YORK CITY: Three New York residents have been arrested for plotting to join extremists fighting in Syria and two threatened to carry out attacks within the United States, officials said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, and Abror Habibov, 30, have been charged with attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
The teenage Saidakhmetov, a Kazakh citizen, was arrested on Wednesday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, before traveling onto Syria.
US prosecutors said he recently expressed intent to buy a machine gun and shoot US police officers and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents if thwarted in his plan to join the Islamic State (IS) group fighting in Syria.
They also accused Juraboev of being prepared to attack within the United States, and said he posted a message online in August 2014 offering to kill the US president if ordered to do so by IS.
All three are Brooklyn residents.
The arrests come a month after IS spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani called on Muslims in the West to carry out new attacks and amid growing concern about the homegrown extremist threat in the West.
“The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies,” said Loretta Lynch, US attorney for the eastern district of New York.
“We will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad,” she said.
“Anyone who threatens our citizens and our allies, here or abroad, will face the full force of American justice,” she added.
Federal prosecutors in New York said Juraboev bought a plane ticket to travel from New York to Istanbul next month, also planning to make his way to Syria and wage war on behalf of IS.
The third suspect, Habibov, is accused of helping to fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts to join the Syrian jihadists and is scheduled to appear in a court in Florida later on Wednesday.
In late January IS spokesman Adnani called on Muslims in the West to carry out new attacks after 17 people were killed in assaults on January 7-9 in Paris against a magazine and a kosher supermarket.
“We promise that in the Christian bastions they will continue to live in a state of alert, of terror, of fear and insecurity. You have seen nothing yet,” he said in a recording posted online.
Of the three attackers in France, only one appeared to have pledged allegiance to IS, but the group endorsed the killings in the message.
Juraboev and Saidakhmetov are due to appear before a US judge in Brooklyn later on Wednesday, officials said.
If convicted each of the three defendants face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, US officials said.
US intelligence officials warned earlier this month that more than 20,000 volunteers from around the world, including more than 150 Americans, had gone to Syria to link up with extremist groups.
“The rate of foreign fighter travel to Syria is unprecedented,” said Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) on February 10.
“It exceeds the rate of travelers who went to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years,” he said.