BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A western New York man traveled overseas in a bid to join the Islamic State group after buying night-vision goggles, a machete and body armor and pledging his loyalty to the militant organization on Twitter, federal authorities said Wednesday after arresting him on a charge of attempting to provide material support to the group.
Arafat Nagi, 44, of Lackawanna, posted multiple photos of beheadings and severed heads in 2014 before flying to Turkey, where he stayed for 10 days before continuing on to Yemen for a month, according to a criminal complaint. He was planning another trip, this time to Syria, within a few months, the complaint said.
Investigators learned of Nagi's activities after being tipped off by residents alarmed by his jihadi beliefs, which he espoused in person and on social media, the complaint said.
"One community member ... felt that Nagi did pose a threat to this area," U.S. Attorney William Hochul said at a news conference. "As you go through some of the (purchased) items of combat military gear, which include at least in one instance, a weapon, we certainly took it very, very seriously, the possibility of danger to the community."
Nagi appeared in U.S. District Court, where he was ordered held without bail pending a hearing Friday. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. His court-appointed attorney, Jeremy Schwartz, told reporters it was too early to comment on the charges.
Nagi is a U.S. citizen but authorities did not know whether he was born in this country. A law enforcement truck remained parked outside his house Wednesday afternoon following a raid earlier in the day.
"They swarmed the house," said neighbor Julio Alvarado, who said he was surprised by the accusations against Nagi. "He was helping with the soccer club. It's not like he was a bad guy."
Hochul said Nagi's 2014 trip was his second to Turkey within the past three years. The first was cut short by a gallbladder infection.