A U.S. citizen has been charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State (IS) terror group, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday.
Mohamed Fathy Suliman, 33, was recently expelled from Turkey and is now back in the United States.
A former resident of Gainesville in the U.S. state of Florida, Suliman reportedly traveled to Turkey in 2014 and attempted to enter Syria illegally to join IS, U.S. officials said during the announcement of his arrest.
According to a criminal complaint, Suliman had a one-way flight reservation from Florida to Egypt in June 2014. However, during his layover in Turkey, instead of traveling to Egypt, he paid cash for a one-way ticket to the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria.
He was arrested by Turkish authorities while attempting to illegally cross into Syria. In a 2018 interview with the FBI, Suliman admitted to purchasing a ticket to Egypt to disguise his travel plans from family and friends, the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Terrorists and would-be terrorists need to understand that no resource will be spared when it comes to protecting U.S. citizens and prosecuting those who seek to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations,” U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida said in a statement Monday.
Officials said Suliman’s arrest came following a lengthy investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in coordination with other U.S. counterterrorism agencies.
“This case illustrates the FBI’s steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from threats posed by violent terrorist organizations and those who attempt to provide them with material support,” said Rachel L. Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s division in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Justice Department said Turkey has been known as a primary destination for people trying to join IS in Syria. Turkey shares a 900-kilometer land border with the war-ravaged country.
According to the complaint, Suliman’s email account contained messages calling for jihad, offering rewards for those who participate in martyrdom, and encouraging fighting against crusaders, non-Muslims and those who insult the Prophet Muhammad.
The complaint also said Suliman’s Facebook account in 2014 displayed an IS profile photo featuring the black flag of the terror group.
Suliman’s initial appearance was reportedly on Monday at the U.S. Courthouse in Gainesville. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.