A Virginia teenager pleaded guilty to using social media to recruit U.S. fighters and raise funds for Islamic State as the government continues to target America-based efforts to support the terror group.
The Justice Department said Thursday that Ali Shukri Amin raised funds for Islamic State, also known as ISIL, and helped facilitate travel for supporters. The charges come as the government expands its effort to prosecute not only Americans seeking to join the group but also those attempting to recruit for it.
“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that those who use social media as a tool to provide support and resources to ISIL will be identified and prosecuted with no less vigilance than those who travel to take up arms with ISIL,” Dana J. Boente, the U.S. Attorney in Richmond, Virginia, said in a statement.
Dozens of U.S. residents have been recruited by Islamic State to fight in the Middle East or carry out attacks in the U.S. In Garland, Texas, two Muslim men from Phoenix attacked a Muhammad cartoon contest last month and were killed by security guards. ISIS claimed responsibility for inspiring them.
Amin, 17, admitted to using Twitter to provide advice and encouragement to ISIL and its supporters, according to a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement.
He allegedly provided instruction on how to use Bitcoin to mask funds sent to the group and helped an 18-year-old Prince William County resident travel to Syria to join it in January. That teen, Reza Niknejad, was charged Wednesday with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill and injure people abroad.
Separately, prosecutors made a fifth arrest in an alleged plot by two New York roommates to travel to Syria and join Islamic State. Akmal Zakirov, an Uzbek national, pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court Thursday to charges of attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
Zakirov along with two other men, including one who operated mobile phone repair kiosks in shopping malls, are accused of helping to finance the Brooklyn roommates’ travel plans. U.S. Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky ordered that Zakirov be held without bail. He faces as long as 30 years in prison if convicted.
Dressed in a green-and-black plaid button-up shirt and khaki pants, Zakirov spoke clearly in English when questioned by the judge despite being accompanied by an interpreter. Prosecutors declined to say after the hearing where he had been living or where he was arrested.
The case is U.S. v. Amin, 15-cr-65, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria). The Brooklyn case is U.S. v. Juraboev, 1:15-cr-00095, U.S.District Court, Eastern District of New York.