For some time now, the threat from the Syrian terrorist group, ISIS, has been growing. ISIS is an aspiring extremist Islamic State that has made recent news and separated itself from other militant groups by making dynamic viral threats against the United States, ravaging local Syrian and Iraqi villages, and conducting videotaped beheadings. The concern over ISIS really hit home for many more Americans recently when a 19 year old man from Illinois tried to board a plane headed to the Mideast in order to join the group.
Federal authorities stopped Mohammed Hamzah Khan as he tried to go through security and board a plane to Vienna and then Istanbul from O’Hare airport in Chicago. From Turkey, Khan planned to make his way to Syria or Iraq—where ISIS is rapidly gaining ground and support.
Khan explained these plans and his extreme views in a letter written to his family which he left in his apartment. The letter not only begged his parents not to alert authorities because “if [that] were to happen it will jeopardize not only the safety of us but our family as well” but it also extended an invitation to them and Khan’s extended family to join him in the Middle East on his mission. Khan described the pull to Syria and to join ISIS as an “obligation.”
On top of this, his disgust with the immortality of western society is something Khan states: “I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this.” Among other things, the letter made statements such as “We are the lions of war. My nation, the dawn has emerged” and expressed anger that his tax money to the American government was being used to fight and kill his “Muslim Brothers and Sisters.” This letter was among maps of the Iraq/Syria region, other documents showing radical support, and an ISIS flag with “come to jihad” in Arabic on it; all of this served as evidence for the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Chicago. These objects were found in Khan’s apartment as he was being held at the airport.
When Khan appeared briefly in court, he was charged with allegedly attempting to provide material support for a terrorist organization. If he is found guilty, he could be facing 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
As ISIS gains more control in the Middle East, it becomes more and more of a problem for the United States. Even as the U.S. is about sixty days into Obama’s air strike campaign, the group has not let up. This incident with Mohammed Khan is an example of their growing influence because ISIS propaganda clearly encourages U.S. citizens and other Western Muslims to come join their cause. Khan gained information and created connections with ISIS members by reaching out to people online.
The most disturbing fact? Mohammed is not the first and likely will not be the last: according to top security officials, about 100 other Americans have travelled to the Middle East to join terrorist groups against the United States, including but not exclusive to ISIS.