A Bangladeshi citizen has been charged with plotting to kill a member of the US military on behalf of Islamic State.
Nelash Mohamed Das, 24, of Maryland’s Hyattsville, made an initial appearance in court on Monday and was ordered detained until a hearing on Thursday, reports Reuters.
In July, Nelash told a confidential informant working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he wanted to kill a service member, the US Justice Department said in a press release.
According to the press release, the informant had provided Nelash with false information about a member of the military and led him to believe Islamic State would pay about $80,000 to conduct the attack.
Nelash was taken into custody by FBI agents on September 30 as he and the informant arrived at the residence of the target to carry out the attack, it added.
He will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted. He was admitted to the United States in 1995 and is a legal permanent resident.
Besides, the Washington Examiner reported that the 24-year-old man first came under the FBI's radar last September for declaring his support for IS on social media and praising terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California.
"Our goal is to catch dangerous suspects before they strike, while respecting constitutional rights," US Attorney Rod Rosenstein for the District of Maryland said in a statement. "That is what the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what we aim to deliver."
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The Washington Examiner in its report said Nelash tweeted the name of an individual who planned to join the US military last October, telling his followers this person "aspires to kill Muslims." The individual's personal information was also posted on social media to give anyone interested in attacking the potential victim the means to do so.
Nelash's arrest follows the murder of four Bangladeshis including an imam and a freedom fighter in the US in possible hate crimes in just two months.
In August 2013, a New York court sentenced Bangladeshi national Quazi Mohammed Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis to 30 years in prison for attempting to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Nelash in January tweeted a picture of an AK47 assault rifle with the phrase, "This is more than just a gun. This is a ticket to Jannah," a reference to the Quran's post-life paradise.
By April, the FBI was aware that the suspect attended a Handgun Qualification License class at a firing range in Prince George's County, Md. He had told a classmate he wanted to purchase a Glock 9mm handgun and an AK47. Nelash regularly practised shooting at the range and also submitted his fingerprints to get a license.
Nelash met with an undercover FBI agent in May. He allegedly told the informant he had relationships with ISIS members overseas and wanted to kill a specific US service member whose personal information had been hacked and published online. The undercover agent said he had connections to ISIS and could get Nelash two guns. He later gave Nelash guns that the FBI had rendered inactive, but Nelash was unaware of that at the time.
In late September, Nelash and the FBI agent drove to a firearms store in Virginia. Nelash purchased ammunition for his 9mm and 0.40 caliber firearms. The agent had given Nelash information about the military member he had wanted to kill, but the information was inaccurate in order to protect the person's life while leading on the suspect.
Nelash and the informant made it all the way to where the FBI had told him the service member lived. Nelash allegedly loaded his guns with the ammunition and sent a text to someone he thought was a member of ISIS saying, "I'm ready." He got out of the vehicle and federal agents approached him. Nelash ran, but was apprehended by the FBI.
110 IS-linked cases in US since 2013
In September, US Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said that more than 110 people had been publicly charged in federal court since late 2013 on counts related to the Islamic State militant group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq, reports Reuters.
Carlin said in early September the US Justice Department needs the American public to be more proactive about alerting federal authorities when they witness someone showing support for foreign terrorist organisations, such as the IS.
In more than 80% of the IS-related cases that have been prosecuted since 2013, someone in the community of the accused person believed they had witnessed the activity for which the person was ultimately charged, according to Carlin. In more than half of those cases, the witnesses did not report anything to law enforcement authorities until after the charges were made.
Many of the Islamic State supporters prosecuted since 2013 have been charged under "material support" statutes that prohibit supporting designated foreign terrorist organisations. No groups based on domestic ideology, such as white supremacists have that designation.
Carlin said he is open to considering whether affiliation with a domestic extremist group could "warrant a special penalty" for people already charged with committing a violent crime.
Simply supporting a domestic group where some of the members have committed crimes, should not be prosecuted, Carlin said, because it "runs into our Constitution and our values."
"You're getting close to making illegal ideas," Carlin said.
The Department of Justice charged 60 people last year with supporting or committing crimes because of their sympathies to Islamic State, the largest annual figure on record. The number arrested this year has been less than last year's figure.