A western New York man has been arrested for attempting to join the Islamic State group and charged with attempting to provide material support and personnel to the terrorist organization.
The Daily Beast reports that while 44-year-old Arafat M. Nagi was officially arrested earlier this week, the FBI was first alerted to him last August, when a local resident told agents that Nagi frequently spoke about violent jihad to people in the community and often argued with others about his beliefs.
The resident reportedly told authorities that Nagi was "angry about the killing of rebels in Yemen, which he blamed on the United States; pledged an oath to ISIL leaders; expressed agreement with ISIL tactics, including the killing of innocent men, women and children."
Nagi allegedly traveled to Turkey in 2012 and 2014, hoping to meet with Islamic State members and purchasing military combat items, including a "tactical vest, army combat shirt, body armor, a Shahada flag, combat boots, a backpack, burn kit, hunting knife, machete and night vision goggles." Additional text messages between Nagi and an individual on his phone show he had traveled to Syria during a prior trip and hoped to return.
After returning to the United States, Nagi insisted he did not support the extremist group; however, authorities said such claims are inconsistent with his posts on a Twitter account and his Web searches, the New York Daily News reports.
In April, for example, he posted a picture of a dead ISIS fighter with the caption, "Oh, you who are defaming the Islamic State, its soldiers shall be present at time of death. Those who have brains ought think & learn." In May, he posted a picture of someone being beheaded with the note: "Today, this filth has been killed in the state of Hums [city in Syria]. He waged a tougher war against Muslims. It is your paradise, rather, slaughter."
Nagi, who faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, lives just block away from the former home of two members of the "Lackawanna Six," a group of men accused of training at an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, WIVB reported.
According to FBI Director James Comey, over 200 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to fight with Islamic State militant groups in the country.
"We continue to identify individuals who seek to join the ranks of foreign fighters ... and also homegrown violent extremists who may aspire to attack the United States from within," Comey recently told lawmakers on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to Reuters.
Earlier this year, Comey warned that "hundreds, maybe thousands" of Americans were being groomed by ISIS via messaging and social media, in an attempt to recruit them to fight in the Middle East or carry out attacks in the U.S., USA Today reported.
He explained that extremist recruiters operating from safe havens in Syria are making initial contacts with recruits and are then "steering'' them into encrypted venues where their subsequent communications are "lost to us.''
"The haystack is the entire country,'' Comey said. "We are looking for the needles, but increasingly the needles are unavailable to us. ... This is the 'going dark' problem in living color. There are Elton Simpsons out there that I have not found and I cannot see.''
He contended, "ISIL is a very popular fad among a lot of disturbed people."
Reuter notes that the radicalization of Americans by Islamic State is a "top concern for the agency", and Comey is urging technology companies to allow law enforcement authorities access to encrypted communications to help combat the threat.