War on Terrorism

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ohio Man Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for Providing Support to ISIS, Being a Felon in Possession of Firearms

Amir Said Rahman Al-Ghazi, 41, aka Robert C. McCollum, of Sheffield Lake, Ohio, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for one count of providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman for the Northern District of Ohio, and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division made the announcement.

“The National Security Division is committed to identifying and prosecuting those who seek to provide material support to terrorist groups like ISIS.” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “I want to thank the prosecutors and our partners in law enforcement—including the FBI and its Joint Terrorism Task Force—who ensured that this defendant was held accountable for his crimes.”

“This case is a stark reminder that ISIS is more than an abstract threat,” said U.S Attorney Herdman. “Through social media and other means, ISIS and groups like it seek to radicalize people of all backgrounds into its world of violence.”

“This case demonstrates law enforcement’s number one priority – to keep our communities and our nation safe,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony.  “It is clear that no area is immune from the influence of ISIS and its supporters.  We hope this case will serve as a strong message to others who may consider providing support to terrorists.  The FBI and our Joint Terrorism Task Force partners are committed to identifying and stopping these individuals.”

Al-Ghazi, who changed his name from Robert McCollum last year, pledged his support to ISIS and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi via social media in 2014.  From July 2014 to June 2015, Al-Ghazi made multiple statements trying to persuade others to join ISIS.  He also expressed his own desire to perpetrate an attack on the United States and had attempted to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle.  Al-Ghazi has communicated with individuals he believed to be members of ISIS in the Middle East and took steps to create propaganda videos for ISIS, according to court documents.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew W. Shepherd of the Northern District of Ohio, with assistance from Trial Attorney Erin Creegan of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Afghanistan May Be on ‘Edge of Opportunity’ for Peace

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON --  The Eid al-Fitr ceasefire and the burgeoning peace movement in Afghanistan lead NATO officials in the country to believe the country is on the “edge of opportunity.”

British army Lt. Gen. Richard J. Cripwell, the deputy commander for the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s call for a cease-fire over the Eid holiday “courageous.” The Taliban agreed to the cease-fire and the nation saw what peace could look like as government and Taliban marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan this past weekend.

Ghani extended the ceasefire, but the Taliban, sadly, did not choose to honor that and attacked Badghis, a city in western Afghanistan. Thirty Afghan soldiers were killed in the attack.

The scenes in Kabul with Taliban entering the city to snap selfies and eat ice cream, show peace is possible.

Assisting Afghan Partners

Cripwell discussed the military pressure the Taliban are under in an effort to bring the group to the table. “We are not here to do this ourselves,” the general said to Pentagon reporters via video teleconference. “Our focus is on building capability to ensure the Afghan security forces can deliver effective, targeted military pressure to protect and secure their population and create the conditions for a political settlement.”

NATO trainers are helping Afghan forces, now, at every level. Senior NATO leaders partner with Afghan defense and interior officials. They work to increase institutional strength and look to root our inefficiency and corruption, the general said. They also help Afghan leaders establish procedures, doctrine and regulations to allow security forces to develop in a professional manner.

“We are also helping at the structural level to redesign and to produce a different sort of army: One that is capable, one that is professional and, in the long run, one that is affordable for the Afghan government,” Cripwell said.

Afghan Government Reform

Part of this is the Afghan government enforcing a mandatory retirement rule that is replacing older leaders with younger, better trained leaders who rose through the ranks on their merits and not family or tribal connections.

“My own country, the United Kingdom along with Denmark, Australia and New Zealand, oversee the training of over 1,000 new officers -- male and female -- per year at the Afghan National Officers Academy,” he said.

NATO trainers are also helping at the tactical level with the American 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade making its efforts felt at all regional commands in the country. Those officers and noncommissioned officers primarily advise at the brigade level, but can reach lower if needed.

The Afghan Air Force is also a growing factor, Cripwell said, and NATO advisors working at all levels to ensure the force is effective, accurate, proportional and sustainable.

There are seven regional support commands in Afghanistan, with four U.S.-led and the rest commanded by Germany, Italy and Turkey. They provide the advice to the corps units in the nation.

“I’ve seen for myself how resilient the security forces are, despite the challenging circumstances they find themselves in,” Cripwell said. “So far this year, they have defended over 80 percent of the district centers that have been attacked by the enemy.”

Peace marchers are showing the social pressure that Taliban is under from the people of the nation. One group marched from Helmand province to Kabul. They received shelter and aid from local mosques along the way. Other groups are active in the eastern part of the country and in Herat -- in the west.

Alabama Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS

Aziz Ihab Sayyed, 23, of Huntsville, Alabama, was sentenced today to 15 years in prison followed by lifetime supervised release for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town for the Northern District of Alabama, and Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. of the FBI’s Birmingham field office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon.

“We will not tolerate threats to our national security from terrorist groups like ISIS, which continues to radicalize and encourage terrorists through the internet,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “The defendant, a citizen of this country, plotted to carry out attacks on his fellow Americans in our country, but was thwarted by the close cooperation of our partners in law enforcement.  This successful outcome should send a clear message to any other would-be terrorists that the National Security Division will find them and bring them to justice.”

“Aziz Sayyed was inspired by ISIS to kill or harm Americans and he has earned every bit of his prison term,” said U.S. Attorney Town.  “This case, and this investigation, serves as the gold standard for what is possible when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together.  The FBI did an outstanding job ensuring this investigation was successful by cultivating those layers of law enforcement necessary in cases like this.”

“The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is dedicated to identifying and bringing to justice those individuals who attempt to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations, promote violent extremism, and threaten our national security,” said Special Agent in Charge Sharp.  “Today’s sentence is a culmination of the tireless efforts of our JTTF, and the invaluable partnership we have with the Huntsville Police Department.”

Sayyed pleaded guilty in March to the terrorism charge.  According to Sayyed’s plea agreement with the government, he attempted to provide services and personnel, namely himself, to ISIS.  He acknowledged that he bought bomb-building ingredients in 2017, that he stated his aspirations to conduct ISIS-inspired attacks on police stations and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, and that he attempted to form a cell to conduct violent acts within the United States.

Between January and June of 2017 in Madison County, Sayyed, a U.S. citizen, obtained and viewed ISIS propaganda videos depicting ISIS forces committing bombings, executions by gunshot and beheading, and other violent acts.  Sayyed shared the videos and expressed his support for ISIS and for ISIS terrorist attacks around the world, according to his plea agreement.

Sayyed researched and learned how to make triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a highly volatile and extremely dangerous explosive material.  He then purchased the necessary ingredients for the explosive, and professed his aspiration to use TATP in an explosive belt or a car bomb.

On June 13, 2017, Sayyed met with an individual he understood to be an ISIS member.  In fact, the person was an undercover employee of the FBI.  Sayyed and the undercover employee discussed the danger of TATP, ISIS’s preference for the use of certain explosives, and Sayyed’s desire to assist ISIS, according to the plea agreement.  In that meeting, Sayyed offered to personally carry out attacks on behalf of ISIS.

The FBI investigated the case in conjunction with the Huntsville Police Department, Madison County District Attorney’s Office, Madison County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Army 902 MI Group, Redstone Arsenal’s Garrison Command, University of Alabama at Huntsville Police Department, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Henry Cornelius and Davis Barlow of the Northern District of Alabama prosecuted the case with the assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.