DAYTON – A federal judge has convicted a Jordanian national residing in Dayton of attempting and conspiring to join ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
U.S. District Judge Walter H. Rice returned a guilty verdict today following a bench trial that started November 13, convicting Laith Waleed Alebbini, 28, of Dayton, Ohio, of one count of attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, and one count of conspiring to do the same. Alebbini attempted and conspired to provide material support and resources to ISIS in the form of personnel, namely himself.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent in Charge Todd Wickerham of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division and other members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) announced the guilty verdict.
Alebbini was arrested by the FBI on April 26, 2017, at the Cincinnati/Kentucky International Airport, as he approached the TSA security checkpoint. Alebbini waived his right to trial by jury, and the case proceeded to trial before the Court. The evidence at trial showed that at the time of his arrest, Alebbini had a ticket and boarding passes in hand for a flight to Amman, Jordan, with a connection in Istanbul, Turkey. The evidence also showed that Alebbini intended to step off the plane once in Istanbul, forego the flight to Amman, and instead make his way from Turkey into Syria in order to join ISIS there.
According to court documents and testimony, the investigation began in January 2017, when Alebbini trespassed onto the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., in an effort to speak to the Turkish Ambassador about the Syrian conflict. Security personnel apprehended and escorted Alebbini off the embassy, but no charges were brought. Two days later, Alebbini left the United States for Turkey, in a proclaimed effort to join up with forces fighting in Syria. Turkish authorities denied Alebbini entrance because he was traveling on an expired passport, and Alebbini returned to the United States. At this time, he lived in Gordonsville, Va.
Alebbini moved to Dayton, Ohio on March 1, 2017. Two weeks later, Alebbini entered a Dayton-area mosque, grabbed anti-ISIS brochures from a table, threw them in the trash and challenged mosque leaders for distributing anti-ISIS brochures.
Alebbini told relatives and others that he regularly watched ISIS-related videos on YouTube, and that Facebook had disabled his account due to his posting of ISIS material.
On April 20, 2017, during a six-hour conversation with a friend who tried to talk Alebbini out of traveling and joining ISIS, Alebbini told his friend: “I did not say the Islamic State does not cut off heads. The Islamic State is the beheader and throat cutter…I agree with you on that…, but they still treat captives well. The captive, before he is beheaded, is treated well, but when it’s time to behead him, he will be beheaded….But the Islamic State is fighting a survival war. They ask people to migrate to the State. When migrants get there…they will assign them accordingly to a…district where they will recruit them as inghimasi. I, cousin, want to go to be an inghimasi soldier.” As explained at trial, an “inghimasi soldier” is a particularly lethal type of suicide bomber – one who seeks to cause as much death and destruction as possible prior to detonation. Alebbini told a relative days later: “I am now ready to migrate.”
Alebbini also told his friend during the six-hour call that he had heard and was following the “calling” of ISIS’ self-proclaimed leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Alebbini also stated to his friend: “I will not enter the United States of America except, God willing, as a conqueror.” When Alebbini’s friend asked how Alebbini would know “who the group you’re firing at belongs to or is affiliated with,” Alebbini responded: “This group…belongs to the Crusaders, belongs to America.” Alebbini expressed to others similar sentiments about America and Americans.
After learning of Alebbini’s arrest, Alebbini’s friend visited his nearest FBI field office to report his conversation with Alebbini and Alebbini’s intentions.
In a WhatsApp conversation on April 26, 2017, about an hour before Alebbini arrived at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport, another relative pleaded with Alebbini not to travel. Alebbini responded in three separate back-to-back messages: “Do you think I am a criminal” “I am a terrorist” “I am mujahid”.
After his arrest at the CVG airport, Alebbini told agents that ISIS is an “unbreakable” “justice state, a state of justice,” and that he and his “brethren” in the Islamic State wanted an “Islamic State of Arabia, you know, just like the United States of America…What if the founding fathers were Muslims? What about that?”
Further, Alebbini told agents the “time is already here” for “picking up the gun” and “fighting with” ISIS, stating that “his people” are being attacked by a “Crusader Coalition” of “66 nations.” Alebbini told agents and others that he would rather spend years in jail than remain in America.
Attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and conspiracy to do so, are each federal crimes punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Alebbini arrived in the United States in 2011 and has been a “green card” holder (lawful permanent resident) ever since. After serving his sentence, Alebbini will face deportation.
“Today the district court found Laith Alebbini guilty of attempting to join ISIS,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said, “The verdict followed a trial in open court, where the defendant had the assistance of able lawyers, and the United States proved the charges with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the American criminal justice system as envisioned by the Founding Fathers – and it is the exact opposite of the murderous regime Alebbini sought to support.”
“Terrorism continues to be a significant threat to our country,” stated Special Agent in Charge Wickerham. “The FBI and our partners on the Joint Terrorism Task Force are committed to preventing individuals from supporting terrorism.”
The JTTF includes officers and agents from the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Oakwood Police Department, Dayton Police Department, Cincinnati Police Department, Colerain Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, University of Cincinnati Police Department, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, West Chester Police Department, and Cincinnati State Police Department.
Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the JTTF, as well as First Assistant Vipal J. Patel, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dominick S. Gerace, and Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, all of whom prosecuted the case through trial.
# # #