INDIANA TEEN ARRESTED BOARDING BUS TO NYC
An 18-year-old Indiana man Akram Musleh was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents as he attempted to board a bus for New York City.
Akram I. Musleh long sought to join ISIS, federal court documents allege, hoping to travel overseas to join the terrorism group as a fighter.
The Brownsburg teenager's alleged involvement began on social media in 2013, according to court documents, when he posted videos of terrorist leaders. FBI agents spoke with Musleh back then, hoping to prevent him from pursuing extremism. The teen told investigators he posted those videos simply to understand Islam's history.
His activity grew more alarming when Musleh, 18, snapped pictures of himself standing in front of a flag associated with ISIS and asked young people in a Brownsburg park if they wanted to join ISIS. He also researched potential terror targets in Indiana and how to create explosives, court documents say, and started communicating with suspected members of ISIS.
In at least one online conversation with a suspected ISIS member, according to court documents, Musleh was urged to carry out attacks against members of the U.S. military in Florida.
Musleh attempted to leave the country on several occasions to join ISIS, only to have his travel plans fall through, court documents say. On Tuesday, Musleh’s latest attempt ended at the Greyhound station in Downtown Indianapolis.
FBI agents arrested him on a charge of material support of terrorism. They also searched the teen's home in the Brownsburg Pointe apartment complex.
If convicted, Musleh faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, according to a Justice Department news release.
Throughout 2015, Musleh made five reservations to travel to Iraq and Turkey, court documents said. Trips in April and May 2015 fell through. By June 2015, Musleh attempted to board a flight in Chicago but was stopped and questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Court documents said he first told investigators he was going to visit family. He then said he was going to get married. FBI officials learned that while Musleh had no family in Turkey, his alleged fiancee lived in Sweden and was believed to be an ISIS sympathizer.
A search of Musleh’s baggage revealed that he was carrying a journal with quotes by known terrorists Abu Musab Zarqawi, Abdullah Azzam, Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, according to court documents.
In April 2016, Musleh purchased a one-way ticket from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Morocco, court documents said. That's when he also purchased his Greyhound bus ticket to travel from Indianapolis to New York.
About a month after buying his plane and bus tickets, Musleh viewed a news article about an Indiana Department of Homeland Security list of about 8,500 potential terror targets in Indiana, court documents said.
Around that same time, he researched explosive materials online. He also was seen shopping for pressure cookers by an FBI agent in a Wal-Mart in Brownsburg. Court documents state that pressure cookers are used as a component in some improvised explosive devices.
In the days after making his travel plans, according to records, Musleh held a conversation through social media expressing his desire to travel to join ISIS.
During the exchange with an unidentified person listed as “User #1" in court documents, Musleh said he renewed his passport and explained why he was unable to travel in 2015. In response, User #1 expressed concern about Musleh traveling to Syria. He also told the teen to be patient, and that he could be helped with traveling.
In subsequent exchanges with User #1, Musleh discussed carrying out violent operations for ISIS in the United States.
User #1: How about operations there [?]
Musleh: What kind [?] As many people [k]ept on telling me that [.]
User #1: Kill a few kufr [non-Muslims or non-believers] or go to a drone place and blow the boots [u]p[.]
Musleh: Where is a drone place[?] Do you know where?
User #1: Find out yourself[.] Florida maybe[.]
Court documents say that when Musleh expressed concerns about carrying out an attack in the United States, User #1 suggested that the teen travel to Florida and carry out an attack against members of the U.S. military.
In another online conversation with someone identified as “User #3” in court documents, Musleh again asked for help traveling overseas to join ISIS. User #3 then uploaded an ISIS propaganda video that featured User #1 explaining why he had not responded to Musleh’s requests for help.
Musleh then said he would like to be in a video. User #3 said if Musleh traveled overseas to join, he could be.
In mid-May, a confidential FBI source contacted Musleh online and began a series of conversations, court documents said. During one conversation, Musleh said that he was prepared for travel and was working with members of ISIS to make it happen.
They talked about life in the Islamic State and how much ISIS members are paid, according to court documents. Musleh also said that he pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
In late May, FBI agents searched Musleh’s phone, court documents said. They recovered files about jihad, martyrdom and ISIS, as well as several ISIS-produced magazines.
The phone also contained several images of ISIS fighters, along with photos of Musleh making a hand gesture commonly used by ISIS fighters, according to documents.