Van Haften has been in custody in Turkey since October, however, and his criminal complaint remained sealed until he was sent back to the United States.
According to an FBI affidavit, Van Haften wanted to travel to into Syria via Turkey to wage jihad with ISIL forces. Turkey’s 248-mile open border with Syria provides an attractive point of entry for several jihadi wannabes seeking to join the Islamic State.
Van Haften posted and “liked” radical comments on his Facebook page, the affidavit said. While in Turkey last October, he posted, “It’s calling, I can smell it’s [sic] perfume! Allah!!!” The post linked to a “Tour of Jannah Paradise video” by now-deceased radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki. The video “describes what paradise looked like for worthy Muslims who went there in the afterlife.” Awlaki’s teachings have inspiredseveral Westerners to wage terrorist attacks.
Van Haften was also Facebook “friends” with extremists, including Adouw At-Taghout who lived in Raqqah, Syria, an ISIL stronghold. At-Taghout posted a photo showing the Islamic State’s beheading of American journalist James Foley. Haften commented on the post: “Yet, their cursed secular laws are worse than the laws of Islam, and they want to say Shari’ah is worse than their secular laws. A bunch of morons sucking on melons … If the goddam Americans and sons of satan, Israeil [sic] wanna mutilate the dead, s*** we get an eye for an eye fool. Grow a set of nuts! Climb that f***in tree and getcha some.”
Van Haften left for Turkey last August but ran out money and his jihadi handlers abandoned him before he could meet up with the Islamic State. He complained in a Facebook post: “And all the boys supposed to help me wanted money too! And I didn’t have anything left as the man who was supposed to help me cross for free as he supposedly help those on the path to mujahideen wanted my last lira. So when these young brothers took me into the country dropped me off telling me someone was gonna come & I waited 3 hours with no one showing up in the middle of nowhere.” Another man who was “totally against Dawlah” [a reference to the Islamic State], helped fund Haften’s way back into Turkey.
If convicted, Van Haften could face a maximum 15-year prison sentence.