Fifth terror suspect arrested for trying to join ISIS: Feds

By Sadef Ali Kully

A Queens man has been arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, the foreign terrorist organization, according to federal prosecutors. He is the fifth person in Queens to be brought in on such charges this year.

Based on a federal criminal complaint unsealed Sept. 17, Ali Saleh, a 22-year-old American citizen who once lived in Jamaica, allegedly made multiple attempts to travel to the Middle East to join ISIL, also known as ISIS.

Saleh was arraigned the afternoon of Sept. 17 before U.S. District Judge Roanne Mann in Brooklyn federal court.

Federal investigators had been watching Saleh’s social media activity since last September. In August 2014, he made a flight reservation to travel from JFK airport to Istanbul, Turkey, just a few days after he tweeted: “I’m ready to die for the Caliphate, prison is nothing,” according to the criminal complaint. Saleh was unable to travel last August because his parents took away his passport, but that did not end his efforts to join ISIS overseas, according to federal prosecutors.

In Queens, four other alleged terror suspects have been arrested and charged so far this year alone. In April two women, Asia Siddiqui, 31, and Noelle Velentzas, 28, were charged with plotting a terror attack and having alleged ties to terrorist network Al-Qaeda, according to the U.S. atttorney’s office in Brooklyn.

In June, federal investigators arrested and charged Munther Saleh, 20, and an unnamed co-conspirator for allegedly plotting an attack as well as allegedly communicating with ISIS.

In the latest case, Saleh again made repeated attempts to travel overseas between July 23 and Aug. 5, the complaint said. He first went to JFK to board a Qatar Airways flight on a one-way ticket to Cairo. He was questioned by airport law enforcement officials as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and then denied a ticket.

Later in the day, law enforcement agents observed him at Newark Airport trying to board another flight to go overseas. Prosecutors said the next day Saleh took a train to Philadelphia, made his way to the airport, and approached an airline ticket counter where he was again turned away. Federal agents questioned him again.

According to federal investigators, Saleh told them he was leaving for Yemen and that his parents would be upset if they found out about his trips. He was asked about ISIS, investigators said, and in the criminal complaint he was quoting as saying, “It’s hard to figure out who’s right or who’s wrong.”

But Saleh’s attempt to leave the country did not stop there, according to federal prosecutors. He traveled July 30 to Indianapolis International Airport, where he was again stopped by federal investigators. He mentioned to law enforcements agents that he had lived in Fort Wayne, Ind. for several months but was originally from Jamaica, Queens.

Then on Aug. 2, Saleh attempted to board a train to Canada, but investigators stopped him and said he would be denied entrance into Canada. Saleh then changed his train ticket destination to Cleveland, Ohio and left the train station.

In between these alleged attempts to travel overseas and join ISIS, the criminal complaint said Saleh had four different Twitter accounts, which constantly tweeted out rhetoric supporting the terrorist organization ISIS and communication with ISIL facilitators.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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