PHOENIX (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Friday asked a jury to convict a Phoenix moving company owner of a terrorism charge, saying he provided the guns, ammunition and motivation to two Islamic State followers in an attack on an anti-Islam event last year in Texas.
Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem is charged with providing support to the Islamic State terrorist group for what prosecutors describe as a crucial behind-the-scenes role in a plot by two friends to shoot up a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in the Dallas area. They were killed in a police shootout outside the event.
Kareem, 44, is believed to be the first person to stand trial on charges related to Islamic State. A trial in New York that started halfway through Kareem's trial concluded Wednesday with a guilty verdict against a U.S. military veteran charged with attempting to join the terrorist group.
Prosecutor Joseph Koehler told jurors in his closing argument that witness testimony shows Kareem knew that Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi were Islamic State members and planning an attack at the cartoon contest and an Arizona military base.
Kareem taught Simpson and Soofi how to operate and maintain rifles and provided the guns and ammunition they brought to the cartoon contest, he said.
"He was a motivator. He was a bankroller," Koehler said. "He was a trainer and an intended participant."
Koehler noted that the two men printed out an Islamic State flag and brought it to the cartoon contest.
"They want to announce to the world that we are here on behalf of ISIS," he said.
Kareem surprised many in the courtroom by taking the stand in his own defense, testifying steadfastly that he knew nothing about the plans for the attack. His lawyers believe it is a flimsy case that is nothing but guilt by association with Simpson and Soofi.
Kareem told jurors that he evicted Simpson from his home because he believed Simpson was putting tracking devices in his car. He also said he strongly disapproved of Simpson using Kareem's laptop to watch al-Qaida promotional materials.
Authorities say Kareem, Simpson and Soofi had researched travel to the Middle East so they could join Islamic State fighters. It's unknown whether the attack was inspired by the Islamic State or carried out in response to an order from the organization.
Prosecutors said Kareem tried to carry out an insurance scam to fund the conspiracy to support Islamic State and attempted to indoctrinate two teenage boys in his neighborhood on radical jihadism.
They also say Kareem, Simpson and Soofi initially wanted to blow up the Arizona stadium where the 2015 Super Bowl was held, but when that plan failed, they set their sights on the contest in suburban Dallas.
Sipmson and Soofi regularly watched Islamic State videos showing beheadings and mass executions. Kareem admitted that he saw on Simpson's phone images of a Jordanian pilot being burned in a cage by Islamic State, Koehler said.
"He knew exactly what was going on with these folks," Koehler said.
Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jacques-billeaud.