CHICAGO (CBS) — The FBI arrested an Aurora teen they allege attempted to travel to Syria to join a jihadist militant group, according to an FBI press release.
Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, 18, was taken into custody at O’Hare Airport last Friday attempting to board a flight bound for Istanbul, Turkey.
Tounisi, a U.S. citizen, was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He has been ordered held until he appears in court again on April 23.
Tounisi could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The FBI says the arrest was unrelated to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
The FBI says it has been investigating Tounisi since 2012. The FBI claims he was a close friend of of Adel Daoud, who was arrested in September 2012 for attempting to detonate a bomb outside a bar in Chicago.
“Since 9-11, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Al Shabab have found it increasingly difficult to plant and mount a 9-11 type terrorist attack so what they’re resorting to is enlisting u-s citizens or people who are in this country legally, radicalizing them and then getting them to do terrorist acts on their behalf,,” said security consultant Ross Rice.
The FBI claims Tounisi conducted online research on overseas travel and violent jihad from January to April 2013, focusing on the Jabhat al-Nusrah terrorist group. In late March 2013, the FBI claims he made contact with a man he believed was an undercover agent posing as a recruiter for the terrorist group and exchanged a series of emails in which Tounisi shared his plan to get to Syria by way of Turkey and willingness to die for the cause.
Tounisi purchased an airline ticket for a flight from Chicago to Istanbul on April 10 and the undercover agent provided him with a bus ticket from Istanbul to Gaziantep, Syria, according to the FBI. He was arrested after passing through airport security.