An American teenager has admitted in court that he tried to help Islamic State militants recruit supporters and raise funds.
Ali Shukri Amin, 17, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group - offenses that carry a possible sentence of 15 years' imprisonment. The U.S. Department of Justice said Amin also admitted helping another young American travel to Syria earlier this year to join Islamic State fighters.
The U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, John Carlin, said Amin used social media in his efforts on behalf of the Islamic State group. Carlin said Islamic extremists on "the other side of the world" are reaching out to young people in an attempt to "radicalize, recruit and incite" them to violence, and he called on parents and community leaders to confront and deter such threats.
The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case against Amin, Dana Boente, told reporters that federal authorities will take action against those "who use social media as a tool" to support terrorists with just as much vigilance and energy as they employ against Americans who "take up arms" and fight with groups such as the Islamic State.
Documents filed during court proceedings said Amin "admitted to using Twitter to provide advice and encouragement to ISIL and its supporters." The teenager, who is from Manassas, Virginia, a suburban area outside Washington, used the Twitter name @Amreekiwitness.
U.S. officials said Amin distributed instructions on how to use the virtual currency Bitcoin to conceal funds being sent to IS and to funnel assistance to activists trying to travel to Syria. "provide instruction on how to use Bitcoin, a virtual currency, to mask the provision of funds to ISIL as well as facilitation to ISIL supporters seeking to travel to Syria" to fight with Islamic State.
Prosecutors said Amin admitted helping Reza Niknejad, 18, also of Virginia, travel to Syria to join IS in January 2015. Niknejad faces the same criminal charges as Amin, and also is accused of "conspiring to kill and injure people abroad."
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon.