The arrest of a 19-year-old Beavercreek man on federal charges that he tried to provide help to ISIS raises questions about if he really posed a threat, a local law professor said Friday.
Naser Almadaoji was arrested Wednesday at a Columbus airport, accused of trying to join an ISIS affiliate overseas.
“Is he a talker or doer?” asked Thaddeus Hoffmeister, law professor with the University of Dayton School of Law. “How do you make the distinction — it’s hard and it’s clouded when the government is doing things to facilitate him being a doer as opposed to him doing it on his own.”
Cases like this raise questions about how real of a threat the suspects pose and whether they actually would have had the wherewithal and ability on their own to pull off any of their alleged plans, Hoffmeister said.
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This was a teenager who FBI sources apparently provided money and resources to help him try to travel abroad with the goal of joining a terrorist organization, Hoffmeister said.
The allegations in the criminal complaint, Hoffmeister said, suggest that Almadaoji already had the “seed planted” in his mind to join ISIS groups.
But Hoffmeister said it’s impossible to know if Almadaoji on his own would have the knowledge, determination, resources and connections to ever join up with terrorists.
Obviously, authorities want to catch terrorist suspects before they act, but it’s not always clear why they choose to use undercover operations instead of monitoring people they are worried about, Hoffmeister said.
In August, Almadaoji allegedly told an FBI source he was not ready for “hijra” because “right now my problem is money,” the complaint states. Authorities say hijra means traveling to territory controlled by the Islamic state.
Since August, Almadaoji had been in communication with FBI sources he believed to be ISIS supporters who had connections to help him join the terrorist cause, officials said.
Many questions remain after Almadaoji’s arrest. Chief among them is: Who is he, and how, if the allegations against him are true, did he become radicalized in southwest Ohio?
The Dayton Daily News tried contacting Almadaoji’s family members by phone, text, email and social media messages. Some messages were not returned. People who answered phone numbers associated with his family declined comment or said never call again.
Almadaoji was arrested by federal agents on Wednesday before he could board a plane at the Columbus airport, with his destination being Kazakhstan, federal authorities say.
His plan was to be smuggled into Afghanistan to join ISIS Khorasan, an affiliate of ISIS in the country, said Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. Almadaoji planned to pose as a tourist, officials said.
When asked by an undercover FBI employee whether he was telling his family about the trip, Almadaoji allegedly replied, “No, never,” the complaint says. He allegedly said he would portray it simply as a vacation to Kazakhstan.
The Daily News contacted some of his freshman classmates from Beavercreek High School, but those who responded said they don’t remember him at all.
Almadaoji attended Beavercreek City Schools from 2011-15. He withdrew from the district in 2015.
In 2015, when Almadaoji was 16, he lived at a home on North Fairfield Road in Beavercreek, according to public records.
Officials say he was born in Iraq but is a naturalized citizen.
In August, Almadaoji told a source secretly working with the FBI that he was not interested in college because he did not plan to “stay in this land much longer,” according to a federal complaint in support of an arrest warrant.
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Almadaoji visited Egypt and Jordan in February and was interviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers when he returned.
Glassman said his comments during the interview raised red flags, which is how Almadaoji was put on their radar.
Almadaoji was already radicalized by that time, Glassman said.
He’s been working on “some aspect of this plan” for months, Glassman said.
In August, Almadaoji used an Internet messaging application to communicate with an FBI source posing as an ISIS supporter, the complaint states.
Almadaoji is accused of translating ISIS propaganda supplied to him by a source working for the FBI.
He’s also accused of sending a video of himself pledging his allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
Almadaoji intended to travel abroad to receive training to execute plots on behalf of ISIS, said Glassman.
He allegedly told an FBI source that he was hoping to get training in weapons, planning, hit and run, capturing high-value targets and ways to break into homes and avoid security, the complaint states.
Almadaoji allegedly outlined plans aimed at harming the U.S. economy, including kidnapping wealthy people or targeting the power grid, the complaint states. He talked about orchestrating bloody clashes between the government and anti-government militias.
was charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. He faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a life-time of supervised release.
Almadaoji’s court-appointed attorney, Jim Fleiser, in an email said, “I can only say that my client is a 19-year-old citizen of the United States who is presumed by our law to be innocent of this charge, and that we intend to vigorously defend his case.”
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