Many questions remain after federal authorities arrested a Beavercreek teen they say was attempting to join an ISIS affiliate overseas.
Chief among them is: Who is Naser Almadaoji and how, if the allegations against him are true, did he become radicalized in southwest Ohio?
Almadaoji is 19 years old and 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.
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.
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 allegedly said the United States needed to leave the Middle East, and he considered joining a military force in northern Iraq because they would stop ISIS — not the United States, the criminal complaint states.
Also, Almadaoji allegedly said that most Muslims killed by ISIS were Shiites who “don’t follow true Islam,” the complaint states.
In August, Almadaoji used an Internet messaging application to communicate with an FBI source posing as an ISIS supporter, the complaint states.
He’s 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.
When asked by an undercover FBI employee whether he was telling his family about the trip, Almadaoji allegedly replied, ‘No, never,’ the complaint says.
Almadaoji apparently tried to join ISIS affiliates in Egypt and Jordan in February, and he was already radicalized by that time, Glassman said.
He’s been working on “some aspect of this plan” for months, Glassman said.
Almadaoji had his first appearance in U.S. district court to hear the charges against him and the potential penalties.
He 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.
He will be held in custody until his detention hearing, which is Tuesday afternoon. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8.
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.”