Indiana teen tried to join ISIS, court documents say

Akram I. Musleh long sought to join ISIS, federal court documents allege, hoping to travel overseas to join the terrorism group as a fighter.
The Brownsburg teenager's alleged involvement began on social media in 2013, according to court documents, when he posted videos of terrorist leaders. FBI agents spoke with Musleh back then, hoping to prevent him from pursuing extremism. The teen told investigators he posted those videos simply to understand Islam's history.

Provided by Federal Court Documents
Akram I. Musleh
His activity grew more alarming when Musleh, 18, snapped pictures of himself standing in front of a flag associated with ISIS and asked young people in a Brownsburg park if they wanted to join ISIS. He also researched potential terror targets in Indiana and how to create explosives, court documents say, and started communicating with suspected members of ISIS.
In at least one online conversation with a suspected ISIS member, according to court documents, Musleh was urged to carry out attacks against members of the U.S. military in Florida.
Musleh attempted to leave the country on several occasions to join ISIS, only to have his travel plans fall through, court documents say. On Tuesday, Musleh’s latest attempt ended at the Greyhound station in Downtown Indianapolis.
FBI agents arrested him on a charge of material support of terrorism. They also searched the teen's home in the Brownsburg Pointe apartment complex.
If convicted, Musleh faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, according to a Justice Department news release.
“The radicalization of American citizens by terrorist organizations like (ISIS) is a threat to our safety here and abroad,” U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler said in a statement. “I am committed to using the full authority of the United States attorney’s office to identify, investigate and prosecute those that materially support terrorism."

Michael Anthony Adams / IndyStar
The apartment building of suspected Islamic State sympathizer, Akram Musleh, 18, in Brownsburg, Indiana.
IndyStar reporters knocked on Musleh’s door, but a voice from inside declined to answer questions, saying only "go home." Someone who answered a phone number associated with a member of Musleh’s family declined to comment.
Standing steps away from that apartment, Kelly Jackson told IndyStar she had goose bumps. She was shaking, almost crying.
"This is wrong," said Jackson, a mother of three. "We live in America. We should feel safe. It just makes me sick."
Jackson moved from Indianapolis' east side to Brownsburg in 1996. She said she wanted to live in a community where her children could grow up and play outside without her having to worry.
"My children were playing in his (backyard)," Jackson said, "not knowing that at any moment, anything could have happened."
Rodrick Miller, who has lived at Brownsburg Pointe for about a year, said he was surprised to see an investigation underway just a few doors down.
"It was crazy," said Miller, 32. "It was kind of shocking to see all the FBI agents out here. It was ... mind-blowing."
Miller said his neighbors always seemed nice and that he was surprised to hear about Musleh's arrest.
"They didn't look like they were harmful,” Miller said. "Every time I see them, they've been outside playing baseball or football."

Federal Court Documents
Akram I. Musleh
Throughout 2015, Musleh made five reservations to travel to Iraq and Turkey, court documents said. Trips in April and May 2015 fell through. By June 2015, Musleh attempted to board a flight in Chicago but was stopped and questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Court documents said he first told investigators he was going to visit family. He then said he was going to get married. FBI officials learned that while Musleh had no family in Turkey, his alleged fiancee lived in Sweden and was believed to be an ISIS sympathizer.
A search of Musleh’s baggage revealed that he was carrying a journal with quotes by known terrorists Abu Musab ZarqawiAbdullah AzzamAnwar al-Awlakiand Osama bin Laden, according to court documents.
In April 2016, Musleh purchased a one-way ticket from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Morocco, court documents said. That's when he also purchased his Greyhound bus ticket to travel from Indianapolis to New York.
About a month after buying his plane and bus tickets, Musleh viewed a news article about an Indiana Department of Homeland Security list of about 8,500 potential terror targets in Indiana, court documents said.
Around that same time, he researched explosive materials online. He also was seen shopping for pressure cookers by an FBI agent in a Wal-Mart in Brownsburg. Court documents state that pressure cookers are used as a component in some improvised explosive devices.
In the days after making his travel plans, according to records, Musleh held a conversation through social media expressing his desire to travel to join ISIS.
During the exchange with an unidentified person listed as “User #1" in court documents, Musleh said he renewed his passport and explained why he was unable to travel in 2015. In response, User #1 expressed concern about Musleh traveling to Syria. He also told the teen to be patient, and that he could be helped with traveling.
In subsequent exchanges with User #1, Musleh discussed carrying out violent operations for ISIS in the United States.
User #1: How about operations there [?]
Musleh: What kind [?] As many people [k]ept on telling me that [.]
User #1: Kill a few kufr [non-Muslims or non-believers] or go to a drone place and blow the boots [u]p[.]
Musleh: Where is a drone place[?] Do you know where?
User #1: Find out yourself[.] Florida maybe[.]
Court documents say that when Musleh expressed concerns about carrying out an attack in the United States, User #1 suggested that the teen travel to Florida and carry out an attack against members of the U.S. military.
In another online conversation with someone identified as “User #3” in court documents, Musleh again asked for help traveling overseas to join ISIS. User #3 then uploaded an ISIS propaganda video that featured User #1 explaining why he had not responded to Musleh’s requests for help.
Musleh then said he would like to be in a video. User #3 said if Musleh traveled overseas to join, he could be.
In mid-May, a confidential FBI source contacted Musleh online and began a series of conversations, court documents said. During one conversation, Musleh said that he was prepared for travel and was working with members of ISIS to make it happen.
They talked about life in the Islamic State and how much ISIS members are paid, according to court documents. Musleh also said that he pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
In late May, FBI agents searched Musleh’s phone, court documents said. They recovered files about jihad, martyrdom and ISIS, as well as several ISIS-produced magazines.
The phone also contained several images of ISIS fighters, along with photos of Musleh making a hand gesture commonly used by ISIS fighters, according to documents.

Provided by Federal Court Documents
Akram I. Musleh
On June 1, Musleh talked to someone referred to as User #4 in court documents about traveling through Sudan to join ISIS in Libya. User #4 then advised him that using direct messaging is not a safe way to communicate considering he lives in the United States.
On Tuesday, FBI agents saw Musleh enter the Greyhound station, court documents said. As he presented his ticket to board his bus, he was taken into custody.
A Google Plus account that is connected to a YouTube account highlighted by investigators as belonging to Musleh shows posts and comments on YouTube videos, at least one of which included a reference to ISIS. In some videos, the user of the account, presumably Musleh, shared his views on Islam. In others, he appeared to advocate violence.
In 2013, he commented on a video that referenced Hitler, writing, “Gays are going to hell.” On another video shared on his Google Plus account in 2014, he wrote [sic]: “Someone Should Of Shot All Those Cops And Then Burn There Bodies.” The video purports to show a 2010 attack on Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who angered some at a speech at a Swedish university when he showed a film that depicted Muhammad walking into a gay bar.

Michael Anthony Adams / IndyStar
The Brownsburg Pointe Apartments, where FBI agents raided the home of suspected Islamic State sympathizer Akram Musleh.
In another video shared in 2014, he commented on an explainer of the Iraq War, writing: “A bunch of lies the Isis never kidnapped children.”
The account has a tagline that reads: “I am a Muslim, not a terrorist.” He posted on the account that he loves playing football, basketball and soccer.
His arrest comes amid reports of attempts by ISIS to recruit, radicalize and influence people living in the United States to support the terrorist organization.
A gunman last week carried out the deadliest mass shooting on American soil in Orlando, Fla., when he targeted a gay nightclub, declaring himself an “Islamic soldier.” Authorities, though, have said they do not believe Omar Mateen had direct contact with ISIS.
A Bosnian national was arrested last year in Plainfield in connection with an alleged plot to funnel financial support to ISIS troops in Iraq and Syria. Authorities believe Nihad Rosic, 26, was driving through the state. An indictment out of Missouri accused Rosic and others of providing terrorist organizations with thousands of dollars, along with firearms accessories, camouflage clothing, optics and surplus military equipment.
Three Minneapolis men were found guilty earlier this month of attempting to travel to Syria and join ISIS.
The United States has been ramping up airstrikes against ISIS, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq. The terrorist organization grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq, following the occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. It began calling itself the Islamic State in 2014.
USA TODAY contributed to this story.
Call IndyStar reporter Sara Salinas at (317) 444-6157. Follow her on Twitter: @saracsalinas.
Call IndyStar reporter Michael Anthony Adams at (317) 444-6123. Follow him on Twitter: @michaeladams317.
Call IndyStar reporter Madeline Buckley at (317) 444-6083. Follow her on Twitter: @Mabuckley88.
Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at (317) 444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.



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