CNN reports that federal indictments on charges including “conspiracy to kill, and sending money and weapons to terrorists” have been handed down against a ring of six Bosnian immigrants arrested in St. Louis and Illinois in early February. More specifically, they stand accused of sending money and equipment to both ISIS and al-Qaeda.
According to the indictment, the gang “communicated via social media and conspired to send money and military equipment to terrorists in Syria and Iraq.”
Fox News clarifies that “The suspects sent multiple payments using PayPal, as well as U.S. military uniforms, combat boots, tactical clothing and gear, military surplus goods, firearms accessories, rifle scopes and first aid supplies to Turkey.” Officials have reason to believe these materials made it into Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq intentionally, with the knowledge of the accused.
The suspects already in custody include “Nihad Rosic, Armin Harcevic, and married couple Ramiz and Sedina Hodzic, all from St. Louis, along with Illinois residents Mediha Salkicevic and Jasminka Ramic,” according to CNN’s roll call.
The sixth indicted individual, Abdullah Ramo Pazara, left the United States in May 2013, is thought to be somewhere in Syria, and might have been killed while fighting for the Islamic State. ABC News relates the assertion of a senior law enforcement official that Pazara is dead, and “before he was killed, he bragged on social media about killing numerous individuals and capturing prisoners that he and his counterparts intended to slaughter the following day.”
WISH News in Indianapolis has more details from the indictments: the suspects employed the U.S. Postal Service to mail some of their supplies to terrorists; Nihad Rosic was on the verge of boarding a plane from JFK Airport in New York to Syria last summer, to join up with ISIS, but changed his mind at the last minute for reasons not yet clear; Rosic was actually arrested by the FBI near Indianapolis on February 6, while President Obama was in town to deliver a speech at Ivy Tech Community College, but the FBI assures us the President was not in danger; and the lengthy electronic surveillance process that led to busting the gang included using FBI experts to decipher the coded terrorist lingo written into their Facebook posts, plus pulling data from their smartphones using sophisticated spyware programs.
WISH says it could take “months, or even years” to prepare the “thousands of documents, wire taps, search warrants, and U.S. Mail interceptions” for trial. While WISH said the defendants could potentially face life sentences, other sources speak of a 15-year maximum prison sentence and up to $250,000 in fines.
Curiously, CNN avoids mentioning either ISIS or al-Qaeda in its report (or in a report from early February about the arrests), simply reporting that the suspects were indicted for supporting generic “terrorists.” CNN also fails to mention that the suspects were Muslims. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch relays strong condemnations of the terrorist support ring from the Islamic Community of North American Bosniaks, which said it was “very shocked that a few individuals of Bosnian descent who live in the United States have recently been arrested and charged because of their support of terrorist activities,” and the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, which said, “We are saddened to hear the accused were from the local St. Louis community. The actions of any terrorist organizations or its supporters do not represent the tenets of Islam or the values of our local Muslim community.”
There does not seem to be any indication that the gang was planning to conduct terrorist attacks on American soil, but these indictments are further evidence of the Islamic State’s disturbingly long reach and support from outside the Middle East. There is also the lingering question of just how difficult it would be for ISIS to persuade people willing to send it money and military supplies to carry out operations in their local communities. Also, the indicted suspects were evidently soliciting money from an even larger network of jihad supporters in the United States, which will probably be a topic of much interest during their pre-trial negotiations with prosecutors.