A 37 year-old man has been arrested by the FBI in Texas for claiming to have traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS. An Iraqi-born U.S. citizen, Bilal Abood, was arrested by the FBI on charges that he lied to them about his whereabouts and for pledging allegiance to a known terrorist, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
Abood, who lives in Mesquite, Texas, faces a $250,000 fine and a maximum of eight years in prison. Before coming to the U.S. in 2009, Abood had worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Iraq. The complaint states that Abood had traveled to Syria in 2013 and had stayed with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Abood first came under surveillance when he tried to board a flight at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in March 2013. He had said that he was traveling to meet his family in Iraq, but was stopped by agents. He later admitted to the FBI that he had been planning to travel to Syria and fight with the FSA. Incidentally, the FSA is not recognized by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. He finally did make it to the FSA and Syria when he traveled via Mexico and Turkey. The FBI alleges that he returned months later.
In a criminal complaint filed against the Texan, it was told to the FBI that Abood watched videos by al Qaeda and ISIS. His computers were seized in June 2014 and the investigators found out about his Twitter account. Abood had pledged an oath to Baghdadi and ISIS on the website. On being questioned, Abood had denied making the pledge, according to the FBI and had also said that he knew it was a crime to lie to a federal agent.
Abood’s arrest comes on the heels of the foiled terrorist attack in Garland, Texas on May 3. Police officers took down two terrorists, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who had targeted a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest. Both men had open fired at the contest venue before police officers shot and killed them.
Simpson had also been under FBI investigation since 2006 after he had posted on Twitter. He had made contact with a prominent ISIS recruiter, Mujahid Miski and directly messaged him on the site. He had also followed other ISIS recruits on the website.
After this incident, the FBI Director James Comey had ordered counterterrorism investigators to look at the people they were investigating again. He asked them to reassess the cases and decide if there was any threat from them. Abood was arrested following this decision as his case had already been in an advanced stage of investigation.
Today’s arrest in Texas follows ISIS’ releasing an audio clip online, where Baghdadi spoke up and called for more people to join in their fight against the infidels. The clip was an attempt from the group to prove that Baghdadi was well and still alive following rumors early this month that he had been wounded in an airstrike and would be unable to lead the group. The Iraqi government on Wednesday also announced the death of Abu Alaa al-Afri, Baghdadi’s second in command during a U.S.-led airstrike.
By Anugya Chitransh
NBC News: Texas Man Arrested for Alleged Pledge of Allegiance to ISIS
CNN: Terror arrest in Texas shows new stance after Garland
Photo from Freedom House’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License