A 30-year-old Bronx man who worked as a home health aide was arrested at JFK International Airport on June 21 on suspicion of providing material and trying to fly overseas to join the Islamic State and al-Sham.
Saddam Mohamed Raishani, also known as Adam Raishani, was arrested by officers of the New York Police Department and federal agents at the airport June 21 and charged June 22 with “attempted provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.” If convicted of the charge, Raishani faces up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary. He was expected to face Magistrate Judge James L. Cott in Manhattan federal court later in the day June 22.
Raishani was arrested after he checked in to board the flight and passed through security. His arrest comes after an investigation that lasted around six months and involved multiple undercover agents.
Rashani and the agents met on at least a dozen occasions to discuss a magnitude of things, including his desire to travel to join ISIS, his willingness to support the terrorist group in any way possible and how he helped a friend travel from JFK to Yemen to join them as a fighter.
“Having already helped another man make that trip to ISIS’s heartland, Raishani allegedly acted on his own desire to wage violent jihad, planning to leave his family and life in New York City for the battlefields of the Middle East,” Joon H. Kim, the Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney said in a statement.
To read the full 15-page criminal complaint, check below:
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement that Raishani’s arrest is another example of how multiple agencies can work together to put an end to terrorism.
This case is another alleged instance of the nature of the terrorism threat and its reach into communities here at home. It is also a great example of the coordination which exists among local and federal law enforcement partners who work together to stop these alleged threats and interdict individuals allegedly determined on joining a terrorist organization intent on conducting violence around the globe. The FBI’s JTTF will continue to work with our partners, both here and abroad, to prevent acts of terrorism.
Here’s what you need to know about Raishani and his arrest:
1. Raishani Allegedly Contacted an Agent to Arrange His Travel to Join ISIS
According to the criminal complaint, Raishani has been known to demonstrate his allegiance to ISIS since at least August 2016. In recorded conversations with undercover agents, Raishani allegedly said that he paid off all of his outstanding debts in the United States, quit his job and was ready to leave the country to join ISIS.
With the help of an undercover agent, he purchased a ticket to leave New York City via JFK on June 21 and travel to Istanbul, Turkey. From there, a fighter from ISIS would pick him up and help him gain entry to Syria.
Raishani arrived at JFK Airport on June 21 for his scheduled flight, but was apprehended by authorities prior to takeoff.
Through the course of many meetings with undercover agents, Raishani expressed the need to travel overseas to join the terrorist group. He tried to recruit two agents to join him on his travels, saying that one could pose as a nurse and another as a refugee aid worker to gain entry to Yemen. In addition to that, he told them that they should start engaging in physical training to prepare for their travel.
In order to travel to the country discreetly, one of the agents allegedly told Raishani in a recorded conversation that he/she had obtained contact information from a person that previously facilitated the travel of a friend to the country in the past. A few days after receiving the information, Raishani messaged the contact, who was another undercover agent.
During the course of their conversations, Raishani said he wanted guidance for his own “Hijrah,” a journey of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Yathrib. He added that he wanted to finish his travel with “istishhad” (martyrdom) and victory for the “Ummah.” Once the details were set, he asked one agent to join him in travel but said that couldn’t wait long because he wanted to “travel during Ramadan.”
When discussing his plans to travel overseas with the agents between June 4-6, Raishani allegedly asked an agent whether it would be easier to travel to Yemen or to Syria to join ISIS and indicated that he would be ready to travel “in two weeks” once his debts were paid off.
Raishani and one agent went shopping in the Bronx and Manhattan for supplies for travel, stopping at a sporting goods store to get boots and other items needed.
2. As Early as 2016, Raishani Spoke of His Support of ISIS & Once Asked His Wife to Join Him in Travel
Raishani met a confidential source in early 2016 to speak about the history of Islam and met with the source a few times throughout the course of the year to do the same. However, the two hadn’t seen each other since August 2016. That was until January 15, when Raishani contacted the confidential source and asked to meet in person to talk. The confidential source had contacted authorities and started their investigation into the matter by recording the conversation.
The two met the next day — January 16 — in Queens and spoke inside of the confidential source’s car. In the conversation, Raishani allegedly spoke once again about the history of Islam. That’s when the confidential source noticed a black ISIS flag on Raishani’s cell phone. The confidential source asked Raishani if he supported the terrorist group, and he replied: “May God guide them.” After that, Raishani advised both of them to turn off their cell phones for the duration of the conversation, which they did.
During the rest of the conversation, Raishani said that one of his friends recently left NYC to join ISIS, and he admitted to taking the man shopping to purchase supplies to bring to ISIS. He also gave the man money before he left and drove him to the airport for his departure. He also told the confidential source that he asked his wife if she would travel overseas with him to join ISIS. Based on her negative reaction, Raishani said that he would never ask her again “because he was worried that she would report him to law enforcement.
Raishani operated in a calculated way and made sure to try to cover his footsteps, assuming he was being tracked by authorities.
3. Raishani Spoke About How He Didn’t Feel ‘Comfortable’ in America
During another conversation, the confidential source told Raishani that there was a “true brother” he had to meet at a future meeting. Then on February 16, the “true brother” was introduced to Raishani. It was an undercover agent posing to be an ISIS supporter.
Raishani and the other two others met multiple times throughout the next few months to discuss his want to travel overseas. In a meeting on March 29 in the parking lot of a mosque, Raishani told the other two how the Quran “can be read to justify the violence” engaged by ISIS. He also asked the two agents to “demonstrate their support for ISIS more openly” when they were in his presence.
Shortly after, Raishani explained to the two that he “no longer felt comfortable” in America.
4. Raishani Used an Anonymous Internet Browser to View ISIS Propaganda
According to the criminal complaint, Raishani downloaded an unidentified internet browser that enables users to conceal their online activity. He told an undercover agent during a video-recorded conversation that he often used the browser to watch ISIS and jihadi videos online.
He told the agent to “be careful” when using a computer to watch pro-ISIS videos online and to “cover the computer’s camera and turn off the computer’s microphone” when doing so.
One of the videos that he admitted to watching instructed him to “answer God’s call and avoid humiliation.” He surmised that the video instructed him to go to the Islamic State, adding that he “felt humiliated for not having traveled” with his friend to join the terrorist group months before.
After that conversation ended, Raishani allegedly exited the car while saying in Arabic, “may God grant us martyrdom.”
During a March 2 meeting at an apartment used by the undercover agent, Raishani allegedly used a laptop computer that was provided to him by the agent. He put latex gloves on before using it, explaining to the two that he “did not want to leave his fingerprints on the laptop.”
Raishani showed the two how to use the browser and downloaded multiple pro-ISIS videos. After watching the videos, Raishani erased the files from the laptop and said that he did so “to evade law enforcement detection.”
5. Raishani Said He Was ‘Angry’ About a Number of Things
In the numerous recorded conversations with agents, Raishani spoke about his anger on a magnitude of things. Those included the killing of the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki by U.S. forces in Yemen. Awlaki was a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and his daughter was killed after a U.S. forces operation January 27 in Yemen.
Raishani also said that if he were to be arrested he wouldn’t care “because Allah would see that he tried.”