CHICAGO (CBS) — FBI agents have arrested a southwest suburban teenager, for allegedly trying to travel overseas to join the terrorist group ISIS.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Randall Samborn said the 19-year-old Mohammed Hamzah Khan of Bolingbrook appeared in federal court Monday morning, after he was arrested at O’Hare International Airport on Saturday.
Khan has been charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically by attempting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS or ISIL.
Khan, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, appeared in federal court Monday morning, when a judge ordered him held in custody, pending a detention hearing on Thursday.
The charge of attempting to support terrorism carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said Khan was arrested Saturday afternoon as he was passing through a security checkpoint at O’Hare.
Khan allegedly had purchased a ticket on Austrian Airlines to travel to Vienna, Austria, and then to Istanbul, Turkey. He also purchased a ticket for a return flight on Wednesday from Istanbul to Zurich, Switzerland, and then to Chicago.
However, Khan allegedly told federal agents he planned to stay in the Middle East permanently, and that he knew he would be arrested if he returned to the U.S.
Khan’s U.S. passport was issued on May 2 of this year.
After Khan was detained at O’Hare, federal agents obtained a warrant to search his home, where they allegedly found hand-written documents there that appeared to be drafted by Khan and/or others, expressing support for ISIL.
The notebook indicated Khan wanted to travel to Syrian border.
“We are the lions of War,” Khan wrote. “My nation, the dawn has emerged.”
The notebook also had a drawing of the ISIL flag.
Prosecutors said Khan also left his parents a three-page note, explaining his trip overseas, and advising them they should not contact the authorities.
“If this were to happen it will jeopardize not only the safety of us but our family as well,” Khan allegedly wrote.
According to a copy of the charges, Khan was “upset that, as an adult, he was obligated to pay taxes that would be used to kill his ‘Muslim brothers and sisters,’” and was angry about “the decline of Western societies.”
“We are all witness that the western societies are getting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this,” he allegedly wrote. “I extend an invitation, to my family, to join me in the Islamic State.”
Former FBI agent Ross Rice says Khan’s attempt to get on that plane was likely the move agents needed to nab him.
“It would appear to me he was under investigation before he left for the airport,” Rice said.
Khan’s parents did not comment after their son’s court hearing. He is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center until his next court date.
Khan’s public defender told the judge his parents hoped to hire a private defense attorney for him so his detention hearing was postponed to Thursday.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports the family did not want to comment to reporters after outside their home in Bolingbrook. Neighbors say Khan was frequently seen heading across the street to the Furqaan Academy and the nearby Mosque where they believe he prayed daily.
CBS 2 has been told Khan lived in the home with his parents, a younger brother and a younger sister. Neighbors described the family has friendly and hard-working.
“I figured ‘hey, they are just a hard-working family like just us,” said Steve Moore.
U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) applauds the Feds for nabbing the suspect before he left the country.
“That’s the new mission of the FBI after 9-11 to switch from prosecution of crime to prevention of terrorism,” Kirk said. “I would say to this kid, if the evidence is solid lets ship him off to Gitmo and never let him go.”
Benedictine University told CBS 2 that Khan was enrolled as a student at the university for the 2013-2014 academic year but is not currently registered.