A 21-year-old Butler County man recruited by an ISIS leader in Syria admitted guilt to a host of terror-related charges, including a plan to attack police and military forces in southwest Ohio.
Munir Abdulkader, a 21-year-old from West Chester Twp., planned to use an AK-47 and Molotov cocktails in the attacks, according to federal court documents unsealed Thursday.
The plans came after Abdulkader said his cousin had died fighting for ISIS, documents said. He used Twitter accounts to post statements, videos and content expressing his support for the terrorist organization that he wanted to join.
Abdulkader also planned to record an execution of a member of the military, and expressed a “desire to attain ‘shahada’ (martyrdom),” according to documents.
Abdulkader began online conversations with Junaid Hussain, a man killed by U.S. forces in August 2015 by a drone strike. Officials say that Hussain — court documents spell it as Hussein — “directed and encouraged” Abdulkader to “plan and execute a violent attack within the United States.”
Dr. Scott Bresler, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is a forensic psychologist who has served as an expert witness on several terrorist or hate-crime related court cases.
Bresler said it is often hard for law enforcement and professionals who are tasked to study criminal behaviors like himself to work up a profile of what a terrorist is.
“There simply is no prototype of who a terrorist is or isn’t,” Bresler said. “If you had a profile of say an immigrant from a foreign country, maybe a Muslim, that is disgruntled with the U.S., than you would have hundreds of thousands that would fit that bill. But there is a tiny statistical number of people who fit the bill of Abdulkader that would want to go to the extent he was proposing to go to.”
Exactly how close Abdulkader was to putting his plan into action is unknown, but court documents indicate he was talking with a confidential informant early on, and he was arrested the day he purchased an AK-47, just three days after he conducted surveillance of a local police department.
Abdulkader is a native of Eritrea in East Africa, but he became a citizen of the United States on Sept. 22, 2006. Records indicate he spent several years in southwest Ohio, graduating from Lakota East in 2013 and attending Xavier for about two years.
Under the plea deal, Abdulkader pleaded guilty to attempt to kill United States police officers and a military officer, support the foreign terrorist organization ISIS, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the police station and military official “are not identified in the court documents, and we do not intend to release that information.” Multiple agencies helped in the investigation, including the West Chester and Cincinnati police departments and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Lakota Local School District reported to the Journal-News they have a record of a Munir Abdulkadir Mohammed who graduated from Lakota East in 2013, whose name is spelled differently than what’s listed on federal court documents. Officials declined additional comment.
Xavier University also confirmed with the Journal-News they had a student named Munir Abdulkader as a student.
“Munir Abdulkader was a registered student at Xavier from fall 2013 to spring 2015,” according to Kelly Leon, Xavier University director for Strategic Communications. “Because of student privacy laws, there is nothing more the University can say about the student. I can tell you that University officials have conferred with the FBI, and at no time were our students or campus at risk of harm.”
>> RELATED: Who is Ohio ISIS supporter Munir Abdulkader?
According to the statement of facts admitted by Abdulkader at the plea hearing, beginning in July 2014 and continuing into 2015, Abdulkader expressed his support for the Islamic State on Twitter accounts. From around March 2015 to mid-April 2015, Abdulkader began speaking with a confidential informant about a desire and intention to travel to Syria in order to join ISIS as a fighter.
Officials say Abdulkader made “plans and preparations” to travel to Syria, including securing a passport, saving money for the trip, and researching details of traveling to the country and joining the terrorist group.
However, officials say he “expressed concerns” in late April about his ability to travel and delayed his original departure date.
He communicated in May 2015 with one or more people overseas he believed to be members of ISIS, and officials say one of those people claiming to be a member of ISIS was identified as Hussain. He was also talking with a federal confidential informant.
That plan included abducting a military employee at the employee’s home and filming the execution of the employee. The identity of that person is not being released.
In preparation for the attacks, Abdulkader:
- asked a confidential informant to purchase a vest for holding ammunition;
- on or about May 18, 2015, traveled to a police station in the Southern District of Ohio and conducted surveillance of the police station;
- on or about May 20, 2015, went to a shooting range, learned how to operate certain firearms and practiced. He also negotiated the purchase of the AK-47 assault rifle for $350; and
- on May 21, 2015, he purchased the AK-47 and took possession of the weapon.
Abdulkader was arrested May 21, 2015, in Mason by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force as soon as he purchased the assault rifle.
He was charged a day later and a bill of information was filed on March 2, 2016. Abdulkader pleaded guilty to the three charges on March 24, 2016, before U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett.
Attempted murder of government employees and officials is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Material support of a foreign terrorist organization is a crime punishable by 15 years in prison. Possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence is a crime punishable by a mandatory sentence of five years in prison.
The plea agreement does not include anything pertaining to what sentencing could be, and the court could impose the maximum sentence, according to the plea agreement. Sentencing is set for 10 a.m. on Oct. 4 at the U.S. Southern District of Ohio Court before Judge Michael R. Barrett.
Staff writers Wayne Baker and Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.
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