Terror suspect’s ‘shoot Obama’ post

Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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One of three men arrested and accused of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) terror group and wage war against the US spoke of shooting President Barack Obama or planting a bomb on Coney Island, authorities have said.

Akhror Saidakhmetov was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, and Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, who had a ticket to travel there next month, was arrested in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said.

The two were remanded in custody after a brief court appearance in New York.

A third defendant, Abror Habibov, is accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts and was remanded in custody in Florida.

The three are charged with attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organisation. If convicted, each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

“This is real,” said New York Police Department commissioner William Bratton . “This is the concern about the lone wolf, inspired to act without ever going to the Mideast.”

The US Justice Department has charged about 20 people in the past year with planning to travel to the Middle East to fight alongside militants like IS. Authorities 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 authorities’ attention in August, when he posted on an Uzbek-language website that propagates IS ideology.

“Greetings! We too want to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while not present there,” he wrote, according to prosecutors. “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 Juraboev planned to travel from Turkey to Syria to join the terror group. Prosecutors say Saidakhmetov, 19, also threatened an attack in the US if he was unable to join IS. Juraboev’s plans included attacks against Mr Obama or planting a bomb on New York resort Coney Island, officials said.

Juraboev is said to have 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 IS 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, the complaint said. He said he would lie and tell her he planned to go to Uzbekistan to visit relatives. When he phoned to ask for his passport back, she hung up.

“The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies,” said state US attorney Loretta Lynch, who is Mr Obama’s choice as US attorney general.

Saidakhmetov’s lawyer Adam Perlmutter said his client was a “young, innocent kid” who would plead not guilty.

“This is the type of case that highlights everything that is wrong with how the Justice Department approaches these cases,” Mr Perlmutter said. Juraboev’s lawyer had no immediate comment.

Saidakhmetov booked a flight to Turkey on February 19 and seemed like just another “regular American teenager”, said workers at Nil Travel in Coney Island who helped him.

Habibov, 30, operates kiosks that repair phones and sell kitchenware in malls in Jacksonville, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Philadelphia. He employed Saidakhmetov last year and said he would help fund his travel, prosecutors said. The two were spotted in Brooklyn purchasing a ticket for Saidakhmetov to travel to Turkey, officials said.

Farhod Sulton, president of the Brooklyn-based Vatandosh Uzbek-American Federation, knew Habibov and said he was a “lost man”.

Saidakhmetov, from Brooklyn, is a Kazakhstan national, Juraboev, of Brooklyn, is from Uzbekistan, as is Habibov,who had been in the US legally, but his visa had expired.

IS consists largely of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria, but has also drawn fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe.

The FBI has for the last year expressed worries about the flow of Western fighters to Syria.

Mr Bratton said this was the first public case in New York, but hinted at other investigations.

Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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