Nearly two weeks ago, President Donald Trump announced the death of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. During a speech at the White House, he credited the brave men and women of the United States military for getting the job done.
"Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, was violently eliminated – he will never again harm another innocent man, woman or child. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place. God bless the United States of America!” President Trump said.
But the path to Baghdadi was not an easy one, and a reminder of the terror organization's reach, right into America.
With case after case, the Department of Justice has revealed an alarming trend through arrests, indictments and convictions. ISIS recruits didn’t simply travel to the caliphate of Syria and Iraq from Europe, but also the United States. If they couldn’t travel, they planned to carry out attacks in America -- as naturalized American citizens.
In August, Awais Chudhary, a naturalized citizen from Pakistan and living in Queens, was indicted for planning a bombing or stabbing attack in New York City.
“A criminal complaint filed today in federal court in Brooklyn charged Awais Chudhary, 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization," the DOJ released. "In August 2019, Chudhary communicated to undercover law enforcement officers through text messaging that he planned to conduct a stabbing or bombing attack on behalf of ISIS. Chudhary also wanted to record his attack to inspire others to commit similar acts of violence. Chudhary identified the pedestrian bridges over the Grand Central Parkway to the Flushing Bay Promenade (the Promenade) and the World’s Fair Marina (the Marina) as locations for the attack."
"Awais Chudhary had accepted the call from ISIS to kill fellow New Yorkers in the city he called home,” NYPD Commissioner O’Neill stated about the case. “He had carefully planned, conducted reconnaissance, picked a target, and was in the process of obtaining the weapon. All he has left to do was to strike. The FBI agents and NYPD detectives of the JTTF should be commended for the disruption of this plot. Their work almost certainly saved lives.”
That same month, 43-year-old Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was arrested after sabotaging the navigation system of an American Airlines flight out of Miami. Upon arrest, Alani, who is a naturalized American citizen from Iraq, claimed he made the plane dysfunctional as a way to get additional overtime pay. However, according to federal prosecutors, Alani had ISIS propaganda videos on his phone and has a brother who is a member of the terrorist organization in Iraq. The videos were of gruesome murders carried out by ISIS fighters.
“U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley imposed pretrial detention for 60-year-old Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani at Wednesday’s hearing,” the Associated Press reported. “The new evidence presented by prosecutors includes that Alani has a brother in Iraq who may be involved with the Islamic State extremist group as well as statements Alani made about wishing harm on non-Muslims.”
In September, DOJ prosecutors announced a five-count indictment against Ruslan Maratovich Asainov. Asainov is a naturalized citizen from Kazakstan who was living in Brooklyn. In 2013, Asainov went to Syria on a one-way ticket through Turkey and climbed the terrorism ladder to become one of ISIS' most hardened fighters. In fact, he was used to train others on how to use weapons, how to build bombs and how to become an effective sniper. Once the caliphate began to collapse, he came back to the United States.
“In December 2013, Asainov traveled on a one-way ticket to Istanbul, Turkey, a common transit point to obtain entry into Syria. He subsequently entered Syria, joined ISIS and became a sniper for the terrorist organization. Over time, Asainov rose through the ranks to become an ISIS 'emir' in charge of training other ISIS members in the use of weapons. He also attempted to recruit another individual to travel from the United States to Syria to fight for ISIS," DOJ released in a statement.
These are just three examples, but there have been others over the years.
The number of naturalized U.S. citizens who either joined ISIS domestically or traveled to the caliphate to fight on the battlefields of the Middle East is highly alarming.