A 34-year-old Chicago man is in federal custody, after being arrested on Wednesday and charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS via social media.
Iraqi-born Ashraf Al Safoo was using social media to spread propaganda supporting violent jihad, to recruit operatives, and to encourage others to carry out terrorist attacks, according to the Justice Department.
Al Safoo, who also goes by “Abu Al’-Abbas Al-Iraqi,” “Abu Shanab,” and “Abbusi,” was in court on Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. David Weisman and was ordered held without bond and to be detained in federal custody.
#Breaking Chicago man charged with conspiring to support ISIS following @FBIChicago JTTF investigation. SAC Sallet: “Home-grown terrorists & ‘lone-actor’ operators continue to represent a threat to the homeland.” @Chicago_Police @DHSgov
— FBI Chicago (@FBIChicago) October 19, 2018
His next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25 at 1:30 p.m.
Al Safoo was born in Iraq and relocated to the U.S. in 2008. The complaint states that Al Safoo had been employed as a web developer by the Chicago software company BlueBolt Solutions on North LaSalle Street.
U.S. Attorney Lausch said, “This charge demonstrates that in order to keep our communities safe, law enforcement will vigorously pursue those who provide material support – in whatever form – to designated foreign terrorist organizations. Today’s arrest is a testament to the commitment and dedication of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners who stand watch over our country.”
Assistant Attorney General Demers said, “At a time when the threat from internet-inspired terrorism remains high, we must be vigilant against those who disseminate on-line propaganda promoting violence in support of ISIS, like Ashraf al Safoo is alleged to have conspired to have done. His arrest shows that the Department of Justice remains alert to this threat and continues to seek to hold people accountable for conspiring to support foreign terrorist organizations.”
“Al Safoo, a naturalized American citizen of Iraqi descent, is an active member of the Khattab Media Foundation, an organization that creates pro-#ISIS videos, articles & essays…”#Chicago man charged with conspiring to support ISIS @NBCNews https://t.co/0jUwD7xMOg
— Laith Alkhouri (@MENAanalyst) October 20, 2018
“The safety of the American public is the FBI’s highest priority. Home-grown terrorists and ‘lone-actor’ operators continue to represent a threat to the homeland. The arrest today should send a clear message to these individuals, no matter who you are or where you may be, we will find you and arrest you. This case would not be possible without the combined efforts of the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, and in particular the work of our partners at the Chicago Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security,” FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey S. Sallet said.
The complaint against Al Safoo states that he is a member of the Khattab Media Foundation, an internet-based organization, that has sworn an oath of allegiance to ISIS and created and disseminated ISIS propaganda online.
Al Safoo and other members of Khattab have created and posted pro-ISIS videos, articles, essays, and infographics across multiple social media platforms, at the direction of — and in coordination with — ISIS, according to the complaint.
On Nov. 4, 2017, in a social media application for Khattab members, Al Safoo reposted an encouragement for people to help ISIS in any way possible, including by offering money or themselves.
“Thus, it was incumbent on us to support them verbally and with money and soul and by inciting others to target the tyrants and expose the evil scholars and the Saudi rulers,” Al Safoo wrote in his post.
On May 23, 2018, he wrote, “Brothers, roll up your sleeves! Cut video publications into small clips, take still shots, and post the hard work of your brothers in the apostate’s pages and sites. Participate in the war and spread fear.”
According to the complaint, several disturbing photos and videos were distributed online by Al Safoo and other members of Khattab, which included violence during the Christmas season, celebrations of terrorist attacks and mass shootings in the United States, and encouragement for “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in western countries.
Illustrations included graphic pictures of a beheaded Santa Claus with a tagline stating, “The Khilafahs presents are on their way,” ABC 7 reported.
If convicted, Al Safoo faces up to 20 years in a federal prison.