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NY man made several attempts to fight for ISIS, feds say. Now he’s going to prison

ISIS flag (DoD Photo/Released)

A New York resident made several attempts to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a foreign terrorist organization better known as ISIS, and now he’s going to prison, federal officials in New York said.

Ali Saleh, a 28-year-old Queens, New York native, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Nov. 17 after pleading guilty to providing materials to support ISIS in July 2018, according to a Justice Department news release.

Saleh “made at least six separate attempts to travel to the Middle East and wage violent jihad on behalf of ISIS,” court documents obtained by McClatchy News said. A jihad is defined as a holy war waged for Islam.

“When those efforts failed, [he] attempted to assist others in joining the terrorist organization,” Matthew G. Olsen, the assistant attorney general for the department’s national security division, said in a statement.

Saleh was also sentenced to an additional eight years and four months in prison after slashing a federal correctional officer with an “improvised knife” he crafted while being detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn in 2018 following his attempts to join ISIS, according to the release. That sentence will run upon the completion of his 30-year sentence.

He pleaded guilty to the attack and possessing contraband in June 2019 after damaging the officer’s radial nerve when he cut him through his cell, telling him “I hope you die” and smiling.

McClatchy News reached out to Saleh’s attorneys for comment but has not heard back.

He came ‘from a loving home’

Saleh, who was born and raised in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, swore allegiance to ISIS in 2013 and is described as coming “from a loving home, surrounded by parents and siblings, and was both educated and employed,” court documents said.

ISIS is “responsible for more deaths than any other terrorist or extremist group over the past several years,” court documents noted in providing background on the organization, and tens of thousands of “extremists” have traveled to the Middle East to join the group.

At the time of Saleh’s “offense conduct,” the group was trying to establish “an Islamic state, or caliphate, based in the Middle East and controlled territory in Syria, Iraq, and Libya,” according to court documents.

“I’m ready to die for the Caliphate, prison is nothing,” Saleh wrote online in 2014, the release said.

Throughout 2014, he became active in voicing his support for ISIS on many online platforms including Twitter and Facebook.

“We are going to see a lot of be headings of American soldiers and I want front row seats,” Saleh commented on a post by CNN on July 10, 2014, court documents show.

He first tried to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS on Aug. 28, 2014 by attempting to make it to Turkey, “a common transit point to obtain entry into Syria.”

His plans were thwarted by his parents, who took away his passport, according to court documents.

More attempts to fly to the Middle East

Saleh continued to voice his online support for ISIS in 2015, the year he briefly moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, court documents show.

“‘Promises of Allah of things to come: Defeat of occupying Jews’; ‘Conquest of Rome’; ‘Conquest of the White House’; ‘Domination of the world by Islam,’” Saleh retweeted on June 10, 2015.

Then, he resumed trying to join ISIS overseas and embraced the group’s “directive to either travel to the Middle East to support the establishment of an Islamic State or take action at home to do so,” court documents said.

In July 2015, he bought 48 pyrotechnic mortars — referred to as “artillery shells” with explosive powder — and drove toward New York City but his car broke down and had to be towed while keeping the fireworks concealed. He ultimately abandoned his car for cash and headed to New York City another way, court documents state.

Law enforcement agents later found “detailed instructions regarding how to create a bomb, including a hand thrown improvised explosive device, a pipe bomb, and a pressure cooker bomb, using explosive powder from fireworks,” on a phone Saleh used at the time, according to the release.

He then made at least five separate and unsuccessful attempts over 10 days to fly to the Middle East to join ISIS.

He spoke with law enforcement after those failed attempts to persuade them to lift travel restrictions that were placed on him and “repeatedly lied about the true purpose of his travel.”

Arrested at his home

Ultimately, Saleh was arrested at his home on charges of trying to provide material support to ISIS in September 2015, the release said. When authorities searched his home, they found a black trunk containing 29 machetes and survival gear such as flashlights.

When he was detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn following his arrest, he attacked multiple federal officers and staff members.

He was cited on over 90 separate occasions for disciplinary infractions, according to the release.

“Today’s sentence demonstrates the strong commitment of this Office and its law enforcement partners to rooting out and prosecuting dangerous jihadists like Saleh and stopping their efforts to support terrorist attacks at home or abroad,” Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for New York’s eastern district, said in a statement.

ISIS is mostly defeated in Syria and Iraq but still poses a threat due to its capability to launch attacks in those countries, the court documents noted.

The group “has also inspired individuals and affiliated groups to stage attacks in other parts of the world, including the United States.”


© 2021 The Charlotte Observer

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