War on Terrorism

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Former Police Officer Sentenced for Attempting to Support ISIS

Nicholas Young, 38, of Fairfax, Virginia, and a former police officer, was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and obstruction of justice.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick for the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Young was formerly employed as a police officer with the Metro Transit Police Department.  In late July 2016, Young attempted to provide material support and resources to ISIS by purchasing and sending gift card codes that he believed would allow ISIS recruiters to securely communicate with potential ISIS recruits.

Between Dec. 3, 2015, and Dec. 5, 2015, Young attempted to obstruct and impede an official proceeding.  Specifically, Young believed an associate of his, who was actually an FBI confidential human source (CHS), had successfully joined ISIS in late 2014.  During an FBI interview, Young was told the FBI was investigating the attempt of his associate (the CHS) to join ISIS.  Nevertheless, in an attempt to thwart the prosecution of the CHS and himself, Young attempted to deceive investigators as to the destination and purpose of the CHS’s travel.

Additionally, in November 2014, Young attempted to obstruct, influence and impede an official proceeding of the Grand Jury by sending a text message to the CHS’s cell phone in order to make it falsely appear to the FBI that Young believed that the CHS had left the United States to go on vacation in Turkey.  In actuality, Young believed the CHS had gone to Turkey and then to Syria in order to join and fight for ISIS.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon D. Kromberg and John T. Gibbs, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Turgeon of the Eastern District of Virginia; and Trial Attorney David P. Cora of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section prosecuted the case.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Military Strikes Hit ISIS Terrorists in Syria, Iraq

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 23, 2018 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria between Feb. 16 and yesterday, conducting 41 strikes consisting of 76 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the most recent strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

-- On Feb. 22 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted four strikes, destroying a fighting position and damaging two ISIL supply routes.

-- On Feb. 21 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted three strikes, destroying two mortar staging facilities and a weapons cache.

-- On Feb. 20 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted five strikes, destroying three staging facilities, a mortar system and two motorcycles.

-- On Feb. 19 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes, destroying an ISIL observation post, a weapons cache and an ISIL resupply vehicle and damaging a bulldozer and a mortar.

-- On Feb. 18 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted four strikes, destroying a fighting position, a weapons cache and an ISIL headquarters. Two ISIL supply routes were damaged.

-- On Feb. 17 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted nine strikes, destroying an ISIL supply route, four fighting positions and three ISIL vehicles. Four ISIL supply routes, a tactical vehicle and an unmanned aerial vehicle were damaged.

-- On Feb. 16 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes, damaging an ISIL supply route.

Strikes in Iraq

-- There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on Feb. 22, 2018.

-- On Feb. 21 near Lake Hamrin, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying an ISIL vehicle, a tractor, a bunker, a motorcycle and an ISIL-held building.

-- There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on Feb. 20, 2018.

-- On Feb. 19 near Kirkuk, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying an ISIL tunnel entrance.

-- There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on Feb. 16, 17 and18, 2018.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group's ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.
The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New York Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS and Passport Fraud

Sajmir Alimehmeti, aka, Abdul Qawii, 24, of the Bronx, New York, pleaded guilty today to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and to committing passport fraud in order to facilitate an act of international terrorism.  Alimehmeti pleaded guilty today to a Superseding Indictment in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.  

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Edward C. O’Callaghan and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York made the announcement.

According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment and the Complaint filed in this case, statements made during the plea proceeding, and other documents filed in the public record:

In October 2014, Alimehmeti attempted to enter the United Kingdom but was denied entry after U.K. authorities found camouflage clothing and nunchucks in his luggage.  About two months later, in December 2014, Alimehmeti was again denied entry into the United Kingdom, this time after U.K. authorities found that his cellphone contained images of ISIS flags.  Further forensic examination of the contents of the cellphone and Alimehmeti’s laptop computer showed numerous indicia of Alimehmeti’s support for ISIS, including a photograph of Alimehmeti with an ISIS flag in the background, images of ISIS fighters in the Middle East, a photograph of Alimehmeti making a gesture of support for ISIS, various files relating to jihad and martyrdom, and electronic communications in which Alimehmeti assisted another ISIS supporter in efforts to travel to Syria to join ISIS by providing contact information for an ISIS affiliate who could facilitate the travel.

After returning to the United States, Alimehmeti continued to support ISIS.  Among other things, Alimehmeti displayed an ISIS flag in his apartment in the Bronx and, in the course of recorded meetings with undercover law enforcement employees, Alimehmeti played multiple pro-ISIS propaganda videos on his computer and cellphone, including videos of ISIS fighters decapitating prisoners, and also indicated that he was interested in radicalizing other individuals in the Bronx area.  Alimehmeti also made repeated purchases of combat knives and other military-type equipment, including masks, handcuffs, a pocket chainsaw, a wire pocket saw and a rucksack designed for tactical combat, which he stockpiled at his apartment in the Bronx.

In October 2015, Alimehmeti applied for a U.S. passport, falsely claiming in the application that his previous passport had been lost.  Alimehmeti later told an undercover law enforcement employee that his prior passport – which Alimehmeti showed to the undercover law enforcement officer – had not been lost and, instead, that he was applying for a new passport because he believed the rejection stamps in his existing passport resulting from his attempted entries into the United Kingdom would make it difficult to travel.  Alimehmeti further conveyed to undercover law enforcement personnel that he was seeking the new passport, without rejection stamps, to facilitate his travel overseas to join and fight for ISIS.

In May 2016, Alimehmeti attempted to assist an individual who was purportedly traveling from New York to Syria to train and fight with ISIS but who was actually an undercover law enforcement employee (UC).  On May 17, 2016, Alimehmeti met with the UC in Manhattan.  The UC had purportedly arrived in New York earlier that day on a bus and was en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport) to take an overseas flight later that night.

Alimehmeti agreed to help the UC with several tasks prior to the UC’s purported travel.  Alimehmeti assisted the UC by locating stores so the UC could purchase supplies to use while traveling to, and fighting with, ISIS, including a cellphone, boots, a compass, a bag, and a flashlight, among other items.  Alimehmeti also gave the UC advice on which items to purchase and on the use of different kinds of encrypted communications services, including the service that Alimehmeti stated was currently being used by fellow ISIS supporters, whom Alimehmeti referred to as “the brothers.”  Alimehmeti also downloaded three encrypted communications applications on the UC’s newly purchased cellphone for use by the UC.  

Further, Alimehmeti assisted the UC in traveling from Manhattan to a hotel in Queens, so the UC could purportedly meet with an individual who was preparing travel documents that the UC would use to travel to Syria to join ISIS.  Alimehmeti gave the UC a piece of paper with his name and contact information, so the UC could provide that information to the purported document facilitator.  Alimehmeti explained that he also wanted to travel to Syria and join ISIS, stating “I’m ready to . . . go with you man . . . you know I would.  I’m done with this place.”  After leaving the hotel in Queens, Alimehmeti brought the UC to JFK Airport, via public transportation, so the UC could begin the purported journey to ISIS.  Within days of seeking to facilitate the UC’s travel to join ISIS, Alimehmeti indicated during a call to his brother in Albania that that he had learned of a new way to obtain a passport for his own travel (referring to the UC’s purported document facilitator), and that a “friend of mine” (referring to the UC) had “just [done] it two days ago.”

Following Alimehmeti’s arrest on the charges in this case in May 2016, the FBI executed a search of Alimehmeti’s Bronx apartment pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant.  The FBI’s search of Alimehmeti’s apartment resulted in the seizure of, among other evidence, the following: (i) a laptop computer and a cellphone belonging to Alimehmeti that contain an array of materials further demonstrating his allegiance to ISIS and terrorist ideology, including images of the ISIS flag, photographs of Alimehmeti with an ISIS flag and making gestures supportive of ISIS, images of ISIS fighters overseas, and propaganda videos promoting and glorifying ISIS, including videos depicting ISIS fighters engaging in combat and beheading prisoners; (ii) a collection of combat knives and other military-type equipment that Alimehmeti had purchased and stored at his apartment, as discussed above; and (iii) an ISIS flag that was displayed on a wall in the apartment.

Alimehmeti faces a maximum sentenced of 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for making a false statement in an application for a U.S. passport with the intent to induce the issuance of a passport to facilitate an act of international terrorism.  The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  Sentencing is scheduled for June 7, before Judge Engelmayer.  

Mr. O’Callaghan and Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD, and the NYPD’s Intelligence Division.  Substantial assistance was also provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the Albania State Police, and the Metropolitan Police Service's Counter Terrorism Command of London, United Kingdom.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III, George D. Turner and Brendan F. Quigley of the Southern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorneys Joseph Attias and Kiersten Korczynski of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.