CHICAGO: Terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq are successfully using online methods to recruit American citizens, according to officials from the US Justice Department and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
In the past year, at least four US citizens have been convicted of funding terrorism or volunteering to commit terrorist acts overseas. On Aug. 11, 30-year-old Jesus Wilfredo Encarnacion was sentenced to 15 years in prison after attempting to join the Lashkar e-Tayyiba terrorist group in Pakistan.
Zachary Clark, 41, also known as “Umar Kabir,” pleaded guilty on Aug. 10 to providing material support to Daesh. He faces up to 20 years behind bars. Delowar Mohammed Hossain, 33, was arrested in July 2019 at JFK International Airport, as he attempted to travel to Afghanistan to support Taliban efforts to kill US soldiers.
Samantha Marie Elhassani, 34, traveled to Syria and Hong Kong with $30,000 to fund a terrorist attack planned by her husband and brother. She was charged in August 2018 and pleaded guilty in November last year. Encarnacion, Clark and Hossain lived in New York and Elhassani is from Indiana.
“Unfortunately, individuals continue to attempt to travel to foreign countries to support terrorist organizations,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. “Encarnacion’s sentence reflects the seriousness with which the justice system takes these efforts.
“The National Security Division remains committed to identifying and holding accountable those who seek to join and support designated foreign terrorist organizations.”
Encarnacion planned to travel abroad to join and train with Lashkar e-Tayyiba, an organization known for targeting civilians, and carry out shootings, bombings and beheadings in its name, said Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Clark “pledged allegiance to Daesh and posted calls for attacks on the public and institutions in New York on encrypted pro-Daesh chatrooms,” Strauss said. He also “posted detailed instructions for carrying out those violent acts,” she added, distributing manuals with titles such as “Knife Attacks” and “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” in encrypted chat rooms set up to attract Daesh recruits.
“Clark’s efforts to incite deadly violence on behalf of (Daesh) have been silenced, and he now awaits sentencing for his crimes,” Strauss said. He credited for the arrest the efforts of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes FBI agents and detectives from the New York Police Department.
William F. Sweeney Jr., the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said that Hossain’s “deadly plans” were also scuppered by task force.
“The lure of radical ideologies comes from many sources and just because the Taliban may seem like an old and out-of-vogue extremist group, it shouldn’t be underestimated,” he added.
Elhassani, a mother of two young children, became involved with Daesh when her husband and his brother decided to travel to Syria to join the group. Between November 2014 and April 2015 she made multiple trips to Hong Kong carrying more than $30,000 in cash and gold, which was deposited in a safe deposit box there.
Elhassani went to great lengths to assist her husband and brother-in-law, officials said, including melting down gold and making it look like jewelry. She was arrested in Syria by the Syrian Democratic Force and handed over to US law enforcement.