Saturday, December 22, 2018

Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy Sentenced To 40 Years In Prison For Plotting To Carry Out Terrorist Attacks In New York City For ISIS In Summer Of 2016

El Bahnasawy, a Canadian Citizen, Planned to Detonate Explosive Devices in Times Square and the New York City Subway System and Shoot Civilians at Concerts in the Name of ISIS

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and John C. Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, announced today that ABDULRAHMAN EL BAHNASAWY was sentenced to 40 years in prison for plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in New York City during the summer of 2016 in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS”), a designated foreign terrorist organization.  EL BAHNASAWY pled guilty on October 13, 2016, before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman to a seven-count Superseding Information charging EL BAHNASAWY with terrorism offenses.  Judge Berman also imposed today’s sentence.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “In the name of ISIS, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy planned an elaborate attack to wreak havoc and destruction on New York City.  He planned to detonate bombs in Times Square and the New York City subway system, and to shoot civilians at concert venues.  Demonstrating his commitment to carry out the attacks, El Bahnasawy pinpointed bomb locations on a map of the subway system, and acquired an array of bomb-making materials.  El Bahnasawy aspired, in his words, to ‘create the next 9/11.’  Thanks to our law enforcement partners in New York, nationally, and internationally, this potentially devastating plot was thwarted.”

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said:  “El Bahnasawy conspired with others to conduct terrorist attacks in New York City in support of ISIS, and came into this country to carry them out.  Today’s sentence reflects the severity of his conduct and holds him accountable for his terrorist activities.  I want to commend the prosecutors, agents, and analysts who are responsible for this successful result.  The National Security Division is committed to identifying and holding accountable those who seek to harm to our country and our citizens.”

According to the Indictment, Superseding Information, and other court filings:

Using encrypted electronic messaging applications, EL BAHNASAWY, a 20-year-old Canadian citizen and resident, plotted with Talha Haroon, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, a 38-year-old Philippines citizen and resident, to conduct bombings and shootings in heavily populated areas of New York City during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan in 2016, all in the name of ISIS (the “NYC Attacks”).  EL BAHNASAWY acquired bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of New York City to use for building explosive devices and staging the NYC Attacks.  Haroon allegedly made plans to travel from Pakistan to New York City to join EL BAHNASAWY in carrying out the attacks.  And as EL BAHNASAWY and Haroon prepared to execute the NYC Attacks, Salic allegedly wired money from the Philippines to the United States to help fund the terrorist operation.

An undercover FBI agent infiltrated the co-conspirators’ terrorist plot, posing as an ISIS supporter prepared to join in the attacks.  The FBI arrested EL BAHNASAWY in May 2016 after he traveled from Canada to the New York City area in preparation for the attacks, and he has been in custody since that time.  Haroon was arrested in Pakistan in September 2016, and Salic was arrested in the Philippines in April 2017, based on Complaints filed against them in Manhattan federal court, and they remain in foreign custody pending proceedings for their extradition to the United States.

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In addition to the prison term, EL BAHNASAWY, 20, of Mississauga, Canada, was sentenced to lifetime supervised release.

Mr. Berman and Mr. Demers praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD, and the FBI’s Los Angeles and Denver Field Offices.  Mr. Berman and Mr. Demers also thanked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office, the FBI’s Legal Attaché Offices in Canada, Pakistan, and the Philippines, the New York State Police, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for their assistance.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Negar Tekeei and George D. Turner are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorneys Joshua Champagne and Larry Schneider of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

The charges contained in the Complaints filed against Haroon and Salic are merely accusations, and Haroon and Salic are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.     

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Arizona Man Sentenced for Providing Material Support to ISIS

Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal, 46, a resident of Arizona, was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for providing and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, aiding and abetting the receipt of military-type training from ISIS, and conspiring to receive such training. A jury convicted El Gammal of these charges on Jan. 30, 2017, following a three-week trial.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York made the announcement.  U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos presided over the trial and issued the sentence.

According to documents publicly filed in this case and evidence presented at trial:

Beginning in at least April 2014, El Gammal was an outspoken online supporter of ISIS and ISIS’s Caliphate, or Islamic government, in Syria. Among other things, El Gammal announced on social media that he was “with” “[t]he State of Iraq and the Levant,” referring to ISIS; celebrated ISIS’s achievements in battle and announcement of the establishment of a Caliphate; proclaimed that he “support[s] jihad everywhere”; and declared that “[b]eheadings have a magical effect.” El Gammal additionally announced that “[i]f Daesh [i.e., ISIS] gets to Egypt, I will go join them, so I can torture the Egyptians, and whip them.”

As of at least August 2014, a 24-year-old New York City resident named Samy El-Goarany began to express his support for ISIS on social media as well. On August 14, 2014, El-Goarany learned that El Gammal had made comments supportive of ISIS. Minutes later, El-Goarany contacted El Gammal and they communicated via an encrypted communications platform. Less than an hour after this online conversation, El Gammal sent El-Goarany a documentary on life in the Islamic State that outlined the type of training ISIS provides. Over the next several months, El Gammal and El-Goarany continued corresponding over the Internet, although El Gammal and El-Goarany ultimately deleted many of these exchanges.

In the midst of these communications, in October 2014, El Gammal traveled to New York City, where El-Goarany was enrolled in college, and met with El-Goarany. During this October 2014 trip, El Gammal provided El-Goarany with the phone number for El Gammal’s contact in Turkey, Ateia Aboualala, who would be responsible for helping El-Goarany travel from Turkey across the border to ISIS in Syria. While in New York City, El Gammal also contacted Aboualala in Turkey regarding El-Goarany’s plans to travel. El Gammal later provided El-Goarany with social media contact information for Aboualala. Thereafter, in a coded conversation, El Gammal assured Aboualala that he had vetted El-Goarany and El-Goarany could be trusted.

In late January 2015, El-Goarany left New York City for Istanbul, Turkey. Upon arriving in Turkey, El-Goarany immediately reached out to Aboualala. While El-Goarany was in Turkey, El Gammal continued to communicate with El-Goarany over the Internet, providing advice on traveling toward Syria and on meeting with Aboualala. After arriving in Syria, El-Goarany received religious training and advanced military-type training from ISIS throughout 2015. On May 7, 2015, in the midst of his training with ISIS, El-Goarany reported to El Gammal that “everything [was] going according to plan.” A few months later, on July 16, 2015, El-Goarany wrote to El Gammal: “Life has changed a lot for me at this new job but I love it and I don’t regret taking up the offer,” and “May God reward you with goodness,” to which El Gammal responded, “Great.”

In May 2015, El-Goarany’s father traveled to Turkey and met with Aboualala, in an attempt to locate his son. Upon learning of this, El Gammal instructed Aboualala, “Don’t ever ever mention me. Not even my name[,]” and urged Aboualala not to meet with El-Goarany’s father. On May 5, 2015, Aboualala reported back to El Gammal, assuring El Gammal that, when Aboualala met up with El-Goarany’s father, “I covered up for you.”

In coded messages in mid-2015, El Gammal reached out to El-Goarany to inquire about the possibility of El Gammal’s traveling to ISIS in Syria. On July 13, 2015, El-Goarany, again in a coded message, responded that he needed to ask his “supervisors at work first,” but commented that “it’s risky because the parking lot these days is going under a lot of renovation, especially in the north side,” alluding to military operations occurring in northern Syria at the time.

On November 23, 2015, El-Goarany’s brother received a message from a member of ISIS with an attached letter from El-Goarany. The letter read: “if you’re reading this then know that I’ve been killed in battle and am now with our Lord, inshaAllah. Remember what I told you . . . we will win this war one day, this war between Iman (Belief) and Kufr (Disbelief) between Good and Evil. . . .”

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In addition to the prison term, El Gammal was sentenced to 3 years’ supervised release.

Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD. Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and the Phoenix Field Office of the FBI for their assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Negar Tekeei, Brendan F. Quigley, and Andrew J. DeFilippis of the Southern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Ranganath Manthripragada of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Broward County Resident Charged with Distributing Information Pertaining to Explosives Online

A Broward County resident was arrested and charged with distributing information pertaining to explosives over the internet.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office made the announcement.

Tayyab Tahir Ismail, 33, of Pembroke Pines, Florida, was charged by criminal complaint with distributing information pertaining to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 842(p)(2) (Case No. 18-mj-06588).  He had his initial appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer this morning.  A detention hearing is scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Seltzer, in Fort Lauderdale, on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

According to allegations contained within the criminal complaint, on or about July 15, 2018, through on or about September 17, 2018, Ismail posted and distributed online documents including, but not limited to, documents containing step-by-step instructions on how to construct a bomb and other explosives, with the intent that the information be used for and in furtherance of an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence.

If convicted, Ismail faces a maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison on each count of unlawfully distributing information.  In addition, Ismail faces up to three years of supervised release and up to a $250,000 fine on each count of conviction.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and South Florida’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in this matter.  The case is being jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen E. Gilbert of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Troy Edwards of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.