ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A man accused of plotting to kill members of the U.S. military and others pleaded not guilty Thursday to new federal charges that he tried to aid the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, entered the plea in Rochester to three counts of attempting to provide material support and resources to the group, designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.
According to an indictment Tuesday, the Rochester food store owner tried to arrange for three individuals to travel to Syria to join the extremist group in 2013 and early 2014. Authorities said two of those people were actually FBI informants.
Elfgeeh was arrested in May after federal authorities said he bought two handguns and two silencers as part of a plan to kill members of the U.S. armed forces returning from war and Shiites in the Rochester area.
The investigation included linking Elfgeeh's home computer to tweets from alias Twitter accounts expressing support for al-Qaida, violent holy war and Sunni insurgent groups in Syria, according to court papers.
In an affidavit seeking court permission to obtain some of Elfgeeh's social media and messaging records, an FBI agent said Elfgeeh asked for donations to be sent along to jihadists in Syria and asked one of the FBI informants to help raise money for a Yemeni man to travel to Syria. That man subsequently had trouble getting a visa to enter Turkey, according to the court documents, which also said Elfgeeh encouraged the informants to join the fight in Syria and said he would join them.
The FBI said it had been investigating Elfgeeh, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen, since early last year.
The FBI said it paid one of the informants $21,700 and provided help on immigration matters for that person's family. The other informant, who had two previous convictions for drug offense a decade ago, was paid $7,000.
Elfgeeh's lawyer in the federal defender's office didn't return a call seeking comment.