A 22-year-old resident of Bronx, New York has been charged with attempting to provide material support to Da’esh (ISIS) and for making a false statement on a passport application. The suspect, a native of Albania, was caught by undercover FBI agents.
He was indicted Tuesday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Attorney Sylvie Levine told the court that Sajmir Alimehmeti, a plumbing assistant who has studied funeral services, was not dangerous. “In many ways he’s just like any other 22-year-old college-age student,” Levine said, according to the NY Daily News.
But Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein ordered the suspect held without bail, noting his “very strong ties” to his native Albania.
Undercover agents met with Alimehmeti in his Bronx apartment, where he explained that he played a “nasheed,” (music video) of ISIS terrorists decapitating prisoners to “keep him motivated while he is exercising.”
Neighbors told reporters they heard exercising and “weird sounds of things moving around.” The next door neighbor took deliveries for him for nearly a year – usually small packages – never realizing what they contained.
He was allegedly stockpiling weapons, including two steel spike knives, an Air Force survival knife, a ‘credit card sized folding knife” and a “24-inch survival pocket chain saw.” He also purchased a reversible face mask, handcuffs, and gloves with steel knuckles, according to court papers quoted by the NY Daily News.
Sometime within the past two years, Alimehmeti disappeared for a while and when he returned, he was dressed in traditional Muslim clothing. The once-friendly young neighbor began to keep to himself. But although he looked more religious, the local imam said he rarely showed up at the mosque for prayers.
The suspect also went by the nom de guerre of “Abdul Qawii.” He allegedly had jihad and martyrdom files on his computer, as well as a photo of himself with an ISIS flag in the background.
During one of their meetings, Alimehmeti was told by the undercover agent that a second man was already fighting in Syria, and shown pictures to this effect. This prompted the young suspect to ask the agent to “hook up with his connections.” When introduced to a third man, Alimehmeti said he had already saved $2,500 for his own travel, but still needed a passport. He also “needed to see someone” for a passport in a different name, because he was already “in the system,” NY Channel 7 Eyewitness News reported.
He and his brother “had our own plan” to travel from Albania to Raqqa, he said, but he brother had instead been arrested last year in Albania.
When the third man took a call from the passport “facilitator” the suspect asked whether he could “tell the (facilitator) about me, too.”
According to testimony by the agent to prosecutors, as reported by Channel 7, Alimehmeti then said in an excited voice, “I’m ready to go with you, man … you know I would … I’m done with this place. There are kuffar everywhere.” This indicated the suspect wanted to travel overseas to join ISIS, according to the agent. The suspect also wrote down his contact information for the third man to give to the “facilitator.”
Prosecutors told the court that Alimehmeti was denied entry into the UK twice in 2014, at Manchester and at Heathrow airports. The first time he was found to have camouflage and nunchucks in his luggage. The second time images of ISIS flags and IED (improvised explosive device) attacks were found on his laptop. Both times, he was sent back to the United States, and UK officials notified the FBI.
If convicted on the current charges, he faces up to 30 years in prison.Hana Levi Julian