Naser Almadaoji, a 19-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Iraq, was arrested at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. He planned to travel to Astana, Kazakhstan, hoping then to be smuggled into Afghanistan to be trained by the ISIS affiliate.
Almadaoji was questioned by Customs and Border Protection agents last February after a trip to Egypt and Jordan, an FBI affidavit attached to his criminal complaint said. He said he wanted to join the Peshmergan military in northern Iraq “to stop ISIS” and criticized the terrorist group for killing Muslims. But he also said American airstrikes had killed Muslims and the U.S. forces needed to leave the Middle East.
It isn’t clear what triggered it, but the FBI had a confidential source posing as an ISIS supporter contact Almadaoji in August via a messaging app. Almadaoji later told the informant he wanted to trigger a civil conflict between the U.S. government and anti-government militias: “…I imagined a scenario of the collapse of the US as a nation…. They have alot [sic] of weak spots 2 really weak spots that would ignite the deadliest civil war on earth if the right spots are poked.”
To trigger this conflict, he imagined planting child pornography on militia leaders’ computers, then tipping off the FBI to their presence. He also spoke of assassinating militia leaders.
Federal buildings were “more sensitive for the militias to hit than police stations and military bases,” he said. “With a coordinated attack such as car bombings parked next to fed buildings with all the previous build we talked about…. And there you have the US on its knees.”
Almadaoji, who allegedly pledged bayat, or allegiance, to ISIS, put together “a list of do’s and don’ts” for prospective ISIS recruits based on his travel experience to Egypt and Jordan. It included suggestions to “dress like a western guy,” buy a roundtrip ticket to avoid suspicion by authorities, “delete anything suspicious in your phone” and if asked “who financed the trip, tell them you did.”
“Don’t freak out,” he wrote. “Remember Allah, put your trust in Him Subhanahu wa Ta’ala stick to your cover. Be nice to the officer questioning you, have a smile, keep direct eye contact, and of course be cooperative.”
Almadaoji translated ISIS propaganda into a digital file that he titled, “In The Name of Allah.docx.” He also said he was a follower of now-deceased al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been responsible for the online radicalization of thousands of youth.
While he talked about domestic attacks, Almadaoji never stopped planning to travel abroad for ISIS training. He said he wanted to be trained in weapons, kidnapping, hit and run attacks and more. The affidavit makes it sound like most of September and October were spent arranging financing for the trip.
He was arrested at an airport ticket counter after he received his boarding pass. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.