ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Rochester man was indicted Tuesday on charges that he tried to help three people go to Syria and fight for Islamic State.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Mufid A. Elfgeeh, 30, was indicted on three counts of attempting to provide material support and resources to the group known as ISIS or ISIL. He was also charged with one count of attempted murder of current and former U.S. military members, and possessing firearms with silencers.
The indictment was announced Tuesday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin, and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. for the Western District of New York.
“We will remain aggressive in identifying and disrupting those who seek to provide support to ISIL and other terrorist groups that are bent on inflicting harm upon Americans,” Holder said in the release. “As this case shows, our agents and prosecutors are using all the investigative tools at our disposal to break up these plots before individuals can put their plans into action. We are focused on breaking up these activities on the front end, before supporters of ISIL can make good on plans to travel to the region or recruit sympathizers to this cause.”
Prosecutors claimed Elfgeeh tried to help three people go to Syria to join and fight on behalf of ISIS. Those three people have all decided to cooperate with the FBI, the release said.
In 2013 and into early 2014, Elfgeeh allegedly encouraged two confidential sources to go to Syria to fight for ISIS, and took several steps to prepare them for the plan, prosecutors said. He also allegedly sent $600 to a third person in Yemen, so that person could also go to Syria and fight for ISIS, prosecutors said.
Court documents also claimed that Elfgeeh in December 2013 first talked about shooting current and former military members who had come back from Iraq, and told one of the informants he was planning to send to Yemen that he was considering getting a gun and ammunition, donning a bulletproof vest, and “just go(ing) around and start shooting,” prosecutors said.
Elfgeeh allegedly gave the informant $1,050 in cash to buy two handguns with silencers and ammunition. The guns were made inoperable by the FBI before Elfgeeh got them, and he was arrested by the Rochester Joint Terrorism Task Force soon afterward, the release said.
CBS affiliate WROC-TV in Rochester reported that Elfgeeh was born in Yemen, but is a U.S. citizen. He was the owner of MoJoe’s Store and Food Mart on North Clinton Avenue in Rochester, which was hit by an overnight fire in July, the station reported.
When Elfgeeh was first arrested in June, a former employee, Victor Montalvo, told WROC that Elfgeeh was unpredictable and full of anger and rage.
“He’s a crazy guy, should be in prison,” Montalvo told the station in June.
Montalvo said he began working for Elfgeeh at MoJoe’s in March 2011, and told WROC that Elfgeeh would fire shotguns into the air in the middle of the street without warning.
“There was a fight in the middle, so he came with a shotgun outside and started to shoot to the air like crazy,” Montalvo said.
The announcement of Elfgeeh’s indictment upstate came the same day authorities warned of a threat to Times Square from ISIS militants. A post on an online message board for ISIS sympathizers encourages would-be terrorists to attack tourist hot spots in the United States, — and Times Square is the top target.
The post is titled “To the Lone Wolves in America: How to Make a Bomb in Your Kitchen, to Create Scenes of Horror in Tourist Spots and Other Targets.” It includes bomb-making instructions and a list of ingredients, even how to pack it with shrapnel, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
Other American tourist spots are also on the threat list, including the Las Vegas Strip.
“This is a new world, if you will, or the evolving world of terrorism, and we’re staying ahead of it,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Tuesday. “We’ve been focused on it, and I believe that we are as prepared as any entity could be to deal with the threats.”
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the threat now has the NYPD more worried than they ever were about al Qaeda.
“We are quite concerned, as you would expect, with the capabilities of ISIS much more so than al Qaeda,” Bratton said.
Meanwhile, the nation’s top military officials testified Tuesday about President Barack Obama’s plan to stamp out ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey told lawmakers that U.S. troops could be called to the battlefield if air strikes fail.
“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraq troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president,” Martin said.
Elfgeeh remained in custody in Rochester Tuesday night.
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