A federal criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn Monday charges Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, a former resident of Staten Island living in Hawaii, with lying about a failed attempt to travel to Pakistan to wage jihad with the Taliban.
In mid-2008, Shehadeh, then a resident of Staten Island, flew on a one-way ticket from New York's Kennedy airport to Islamabad in Pakistan. He told U.S. authorities during an interview before boarding the flight that he was traveling to Pakistan to attend a madrassa, or an Islamic school. But he was sent back to the U.S. after Pakistani officials refused to grant him entry.
Later, when questioned by FBI agents and NYPD detectives about the purpose of his trip, Shehadeh lied and said he had gone to visit an Islamic university and attend a friend's wedding. He subsequently admitted to federal agents that the true purpose of his trip to Pakistan was to join the Taliban. Once there, he expected to receive training in "guerilla warfare" and "bomb-making" with the terrorist group. Shehadeh also confessed to authorities that he considered al Qaida and the Taliban to be "one and the same," and he wanted "to do whatever was necessary to drive the United States out of Muslim lands."
Shehadeh had been under investigation along with several other individuals in connection with a plot to wage violent jihad against the U.S. and coalition military forces, the complaint said.
In meetings with FBI agents Shehadeh described the radicalization process for young Muslims in the United States. He believed if he died a martyr in Pakistan he would receive 72 virgins as a reward. Shehadeh also operated several websites under the alias "Abdul-Qasim" that were dedicated to spreading violent jihadist ideology. The websites included speeches from top al Qaida leaders such as Abu Yahya al-Libi and Ayman al-Zawahiri. One of the websites contained a video of Osama bin Laden called "To the Peoples of the West." The site also included a link to Yemeni-based al Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki's website that supports violent jihad against the U.S. and its allies. According to the complaint, Shehadeh also attempted to recruit another person to wage jihad after the two discussed a sermon by Awlaki.
Several weeks after Shehadeh botched attempt to join the Taliban in Pakistan, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army at a recruitment station in Times Square. Shehadeh's application was denied when it was discovered that he had concealed his trip to Pakistan.
If convicted of lying about a failed attempt to join the Taliban, Shehadeh faces a maximum of eight years in prison.
The complaint can be found here.