More details have emerged about Wednesday’s news of three Uzbekistani men arrested in New York City for allegedly plotting to join ISIS and possibly carry out terror attacks in New York: one of the men, 19-year-old Akhror Saidakhmetov, turned out to have dual citizenship in Kazakhstan, not Uzbekistan, and the senior member of the group, 30-year-old Abror Habibov, was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, not at his residence in Brooklyn.
Habibov illegally remained in the United States after his visa ran out.
As WJXT News in Jacksonville reports, Habibov had business in Jacksonville because he “runs kiosks in malls in Orange Park, Savannah, and other cities” that “sell kitchenware and repair mobile phones,” including one evidently located at the Orange Park Mall. Akhror Saidakhmetov was employed by Habibov at one of these kiosks.
According to First Coast News, Habibov was taken into custody at a traffic stop on I-10 westbound in Jacksonville on Wednesday morning and appeared for arraignment on federal charges in Jacksonville shortly thereafter.
Habibov is portrayed as the money man and mastermind for the plot in the FBI’s charging documents, although it was the online activity of the two younger suspects that drew the attention of counter-terrorism experts. The charging documents say the money did not come exclusively out of Habibov’s pocket. Rather, he solicited donations from a network of jihad supporters inside the U.S. Habibov was trying to set the others up with plane tickets to join ISIS in Syria and weapons if they felt their jihad experience would be better enjoyed back on American soil. Among the activities discussed by the group were airplane hijackings, planting bombs on Coney Island, shooting up police and FBI offices, and assassinating President Obama.
The third suspect, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev (who reportedly also uses the alias “Ibn Hasan”), stipulated that killing the President was nothing personal, but “rather because of Allah,” according to the FBI. That seems unlikely, as the administration has repeatedly made the assertion that these terrorists have no connection whatsoever to any religion.
WJXT News quotes retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Homeland Security official Rick Parker expressing concerns about the growing threat of ISIS sympathizers acting within the United States:
I think this is going to be our new normal. To me, this is going to be a regular lead story just like local crime is, which is unfortunate. Training takes place here in the United States. They don’t try to make foreign flights over there. That’s the concern that opens a lot of doors about we won’t be able to vet or find these folks on foreign aircraft and they don’t have to leave the United States.
FBI Director James Comey was on the same page as Parker:
Those people exist in every state. I have homegrown violent extremist investigations in every single state. Until a few weeks ago there was 49 states. Alaska had none, which I couldn’t quite figure out. But Alaska has now joined the group so we have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states.
It is especially troubling that these three were so obvious and clumsy in their alleged efforts. They left a clear trail of footprints across jihadi websites. When the FBI dropped in on Juraboev for a chat last August, he let the agents have a look at his cell phone … and reportedly, they swiftly found the ISIS-affiliated Uzbek-language website where he posted his Obama death threat in the phone’s list of frequently-visited websites. These aren’t espionage masterminds like Phil and Elizabeth Jennings of The Americans, it appears. The lingering question is whether like-minded domestic jihadis will be smart enough to learn from their mistakes–or smart enough not to make such mistakes to begin with.