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FBI Charges Three Men With Conspiring To Support ISIS


The FBI has charged three Brooklyn men with conspiring to support the self-proclaimed Islamic State. According to the criminal complaint released today, two of the men arrested planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS. A third man allegedly helped organize and finance their trip. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said today it shows how effective ISIS has become at inspiring followers through online chats and videos.


WILLIAM BRATTON: They encouraged, in their several most recent outreach efforts, attacks where ever you live.

SIEGEL: NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is here with more details. And Dina, first, what can you tell us about these men?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, the youngest is a 19-year-old named Akhror Saidakhmetov. He was originally from Kazakhstan, and he was arrested at JFK Airport in New York early this morning. He was trying to board a flight to Turkey. And according to the criminal complaint, the FBI and the NYPD had been watching him actually for quite a while, at least since August.

SIEGEL: And the two other men who were charged?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, one of them is a 24-year-old named Abdurasul Juraboev. He's Uzbek, and he worked with Saidakhmetov in Brooklyn. He also planned to fly to Syria. His plane ticket was booked for next month. And he first caught the FBI's attention when they found a post from him that was put up on a pro-ISIS website. He wrote in Uzbek that if ISIS had asked him to kill President Obama, he would. So the FBI went and interviewed him, and according to the criminal complaint, he freely admitted that he'd written the post. And he allegedly told the FBI agents that he'd like to travel to Syria to join ISIS, but he doesn't have the money.

SIEGEL: So he told the FBI this and that conversation led to the broader investigation?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. It was the combination of the post and the conversation. The authorities started monitoring electronic communications and phone calls between the two men. And in September - so about a month after that first interview - the FBI introduced a confidential informant. And he pretended that he wanted to join ISIS too. And then there was a third man they charged. He had a kiosk business selling kitchenware in malls. And he allegedly offered to finance the younger men's travel. The criminal complaint lays out a lot of detail. And there are exchanges between the 24-year-old suspect and a man FBI officials say is an ISIS recruiter. And in one message, the recruiter allegedly says, why aren't you coming here? Is the oppression of Muslims by infidels not enough for you, or do you want to wait until they enter your house?

I mean, this is just classic recruiting language.

SIEGEL: So the FBI had its eye on these men for months, but they waited until they were actually going to travel to Syria before they made the arrest?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. I mean that's the way a lot of these cases have played out. Saidakhmetov was going to get on a plane this morning, and Juraboev had a ticket to fly in March. The other thing that makes this case different is that they allegedly didn't just talk about going to Syria to fight. They were talking about attacking here in the U.S. if they couldn't manage to get to the battlefield. They talked about getting weapons and going out to shoot police and FBI agents.

SIEGEL: How many Americans have gone to Syria now? Is there some official count?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, so the number the Justice Department is using is that there are about 150 Americans who have traveled, attempted to travel or have come back from Syria in the past 15 months or so. And we understand that there are about two dozen Americans that U.S. authorities are pretty sure are actually fighting with ISIS now.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. Dina, thank you.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.