JOLEIT, ILLINOIS —
To his sister Manchinique Bates, Hasan Edmonds and his cousin, Jonas Edmonds, were quiet introverts.
“They stick to themselves," she said. "They’re funny. As we would say they are kind of weird.”
But a Department of Justice investigation tells another story.
Bringing charges against the two men Thursday, the federal probe says the pair wanted to support the Islamic State militant group and plotted a terrorist attack on a U.S. military installation in northern Illinois with the intention of killing dozens.
“It’s shocking that somebody that is within our own ranks would allegedly plan such deeds,” said llinois National Guard Public Affairs Director Lieutenant Colonel Brad Leighton.
Hasan Edmonds, 22, was a soldier assigned to “Golf” Company of the 634th Brigade Support Battalion. The unit is stationed at the Illinois National Guard Armory in Joliet, Illinois.
“The 634th is a logistics unit, it’s a brigade support battalion, so they are in the business of transporting and supplying and enabling the forces, combat forces, and that’s the sort of training the unit did,” Leighton said.
Hasan most recently trained with the unit several weeks ago.
The Department of Justice says Hasan planned to provide his cousin Jonas, 29, with a military uniform that would help him gain access to a military installation, where Edmonds would carry out an armed attack.
Leighton says federal officials alerted the National Guard several weeks ago, but waited to act while undercover officers continued their investigation.
“We took very discreet but concrete steps to ensure that our soldiers and their families were protected,” he said.
Both Hasan and Jonas made an initial appearance in federal court in Chicago, where Leighton says Hasan’s case will proceed, despite his enlistment in the National Guard.
“Because he’s a traditional guard soldier, he is not subject to UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) — he would not be unless he was on active duty," he said. "He was not. So this will be tried in the federal court system and we will take permanent action based on the result of that trial.”
In the suburban Chicago neighborhood where Hasan lived, his sister tries to make sense of the news. She denies the charges against her brother and cousin.
“I honestly do not feel as if my brother, who is in the U.S. military, but yet leaving the country to join ISIS, that’s ludicrous,” Bates said. “I feel this is some sort of prejudice. Because they choose to worship as Muslims does not make them terrorists to the United States.”
Both men are charged with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted they could face up to 15 years in prison.