Mohamed Rafik Naji, 37, has been arrested for attempting to join the Islamic State in Yemen and fight on their behalf. He also allegedly discussed plans for a terrorist attack in Times Square.
According to CBS News, Naji is a Yemeni citizen and legal permanent resident of the United States. He has been “expressing support for ISIS on social media since September 2014,” and made several attempts to join the Islamic State in Yemen between March and September of 2015.
“It’s very hard to get in I’m on my 5 try its difficult mad po po military and ppl here very scared inshallah I make it m keep trying if not m have to go from somewhere else,” Naji told his girlfriend in an email. He followed this up with a selfie showing himself in black terrorist garb with a knife, and then a video of himself apparently taking gunfire. The girlfriend gave him financial support while he was in Yemen.
The New York Daily News reports that Naji’s Facebook page includes “a photo of an ISIS flag, videos of jihadists engaged in fighting, and a YouTube link of an ISIS spokesman exhorting attacks on Western targets, according to court papers.”
After his efforts to join ISIS in Yemen failed, Naji returned to New York City, where he told an associate that ISIS wanted “an operation in Times Square.”
He said ISIS has “already put up scenes of Times Square,” which he thought was “an indication for whoever is smart to know” that the terror state wanted its supporters to conduct an attack.
Many reports about Naji’s arrest say the attack he had in mind would have been similar to the vehicular homicide perpetrated by an ISIS jihadi with a truck in Nice, France.
The associate he had this conversation with turned out to be a confidential informant. CNBC reports that Naji told the informant via Facebook that ISIS was “spreading like a virus,” and non-believers “can’t stop it no matter what they do.” He also met with the informant in person on numerous occasions.