A 23-year-old Mississippi man pleaded guilty on Friday to trying to travel to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Muhammad Dakhlalla was arrested along with his fiancée, Jaelyn Young, last August while allegedly attempting to board a plane in Columbus, Miss., for a trip that would have brought them to Turkey.
Friday’s plea is the 27th conviction of an American for trying to join ISIS, a phenomenon that U.S. law enforcement officials claim has been aided by the extremist group’s extraordinary messaging abilities on the Internet.
According to federal documents, the two grew sympathetic to ISIS’s cause after watching propaganda videos online, and they reached out to an undercover FBI officer posing as a recruiter through Twitter.
Young, who is believed to have converted to Islam shortly after starting to date Dakhlalla in late 2014, is accused of having orchestrated the travel to Syria. She remains in custody, and a trial is scheduled for later this year.
In Twitter messages, Young allegedly warned that she didn’t want to be “trapped” by the National Security Agency.
Dakhlalla boasted about his skills with “computers, education, and media” in a bid to work with ISIS’s media efforts, the court papers claim.
The filings allege that the couple left “incriminating farewell letters” claiming that they would never be back to the U.S., before leaving for the airport last summer.
Dakhlalla faces up to 20 years in prison.