A Chicago-area man was charged on Monday with attempting to support a foreign terrorist organization after he was arrested on Saturday at O’Hare International Airport allegedly on his way to Syria to join the militant group Islamic State.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, of the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Susan Cox in U.S. District Court in Chicago where he was advised of the federal charges against him.
Judge Cox ordered Khan held pending a detention hearing on Thursday.
Federal agents said in a criminal complaint that Kahn was detained at the airport where he had a ticket to fly to Istanbul on Austrian Airlines.
Under questioning at the airport, he told federal agents he planned to travel to Syria to join Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
In a search of his home agents found notebooks where he planned the trip.
Khan also left a note to his family that read in part: “I extend an invitation, to my family, to join me in the Islamic State,” according to the complaint. In the note, Khan allegedly wrote that he had an obligation to migrate to territory controlled by the group, and that he was upset that as an adult he was obligated to pay taxes that would be used to kill his Muslim brothers and sisters.
The United States has been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August and in Syria since September, and has been seeking to build a wider coalition to destroy the group. Islamic State has killed thousands and beheaded at least four Westerners while seizing parts of Syria and Iraq.
U.S. officials say about 100 Americans have gone to Syria to join groups fighting there against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Those groups include Islamic State as well as a U.S.-backed rebel force and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra front.
The United States has no specific law preventing individuals from joining such groups, but it has anti-terrorism laws that it has used to prosecute those associated with such groups.
If found guilty of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, Khan faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a news release from the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)