A South Carolina teenager pleaded guilty on Wednesday to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Zakaryia Abdin, 19, of Ladson, South Carolina, was arrested by the FBI at Charleston International Airport on March 30, 2017 after he tried to board a plane to the Middle East with the intention of joining and supporting SIS.
“Abdin’s attempt to provide material support to ISIS by traveling overseas put American lives at risk,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “That is unacceptable, and I applaud the dedicated agents and prosecutors who stopped him and have achieved this successful outcome.”
According to investigators, Abdin created a social media profile on January 3, 2017 which he used to connect with ISIS online. His profile caught the attention of investigators from the Joint Terrorism Task Force who met with him on January 20, 2017 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina regarding his online activities.
During this interview, a Terror Task Force agent informed Abdin that it was illegal to support ISIS and any other foreign terrorist organizations, but despite the warning, Abdin continued his efforts and began arranging travel plans to the Islamic State.
Following his meeting with the agent, Abdin continued making contact online through his social media accounts in an attempt to join ISIS, eventually connecting with an undercover FBI agent who was pretending to be an ISIS handler.
According to the FBI, Abdin allegedly referred to Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub ISIS terrorist as his “brother”, and said “I heard all over the news when he did it…And I was going to do the same thing one month later…but I did not have weapons…So I saved and saved…Got weapons.”
Along with sending the undercover agent a picture of himself with weapons, Abdin also expressed his loyalty to ISIS. He explained how he pledged loyalty to the Caliphate in 2014 and filmed himself pledging allegiance to Commander Abu Baker al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. In the video, Abdin cited the Quran directly, pledging to “wage jihad against the enemy of Allah.”
Abdin believed the undercover agent was a member of ISIS, and he proceeded to book his travel.
According to the Department of Justice, Abdin communicated with the undercover FBI agent up until he was arrested.
“On March 23, 2017, Abdin made flight reservations aboard a commercial airline departing Charleston with a final destination of Amman, Jordan. The date for travel was set for March 30, 2017 at approximately 7:30 PM. Shortly thereafter on March 23, 2017, Abdin communicated to the undercover FBI employee that he was scheduled to arrive in Amman, Jordan on April 1, 2017, at approximately 2:05 AM.
On March 30, 2017, at approximately 4:17 PM Abdin arrived at the Charleston International Airport with one piece of luggage and a carry-on backpack. Abdin proceeded to a commercial airline ticket counter where he provided the attendant with travel documents and received a boarding pass for international travel to Amman. Abdin then proceeded from the ticketing counter toward the Transportation Security Administration’s security screening area where he was arrested. “
“The most important job of government is protecting the people of the United States from harm, whether it comes from criminals or terrorists,” said U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon for the District of South Carolina . This case is an example of law enforcement doing exactly that. The threat to our safety continues to be very real. The JTTF did a great job in preventing this defendant from joining ISIS. He wanted to fight as a soldier committing acts of terror for ISIS and he didn’t care where he fought.”
Abdin, who is a U.S. citizen, is facing a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
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