A Chicago man has been charged with working with the Islamic State to support “violent jihad” by sharing the message of terrorism to support existing Islamic State members and recruit new ones.
Ashraf Al Safoo, 34, faces one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. He was arrested last week, with the charges announced on Friday.
“This charge demonstrates that in order to keep our communities safe, law enforcement will vigorously pursue those who provide material support — in whatever form — to designated foreign terrorist organizations,” U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch said Friday in a news release, according to NBC. “Today’s arrest is a testament to the commitment and dedication of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners who stand watch over our country.”
— Daniel Lopez (@4danlopez) October 20, 2018
“At a time when the threat from internet-inspired terrorism remains high, we must be vigilant against those who disseminate on-line propaganda promoting violence in support of ISIS, like Ashraf Al Safoo is alleged to have conspired to have done,” Lausch said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Jeffrey S. Sallet, the special-agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, said the arrest is a reminder that federal officials will go anywhere to track down those who support terror.
“Home-grown terrorists and ‘lone-actor’ operators continue to represent a threat to the homeland,” Sallet said. “The arrest today should send a clear message to these individuals, no matter who you are or where you may be, we will find you and arrest you.”
An affidavit supporting the charges against Al Safoo said he and several other co-conspirators worked to promote the Islamic State.
“Al Safoo and the (co-conspirators) were working at the direction of and in coordination with ISIS and ISIS’ media office, created and disseminated ISIS propaganda, recruited for ISIS, encouraged individuals to carry out attacks on behalf of ISIS, and supported violent jihad on behalf of ISIS and ISIS’ media office,” the affidavit charged.
In one instance, a November 2017 video of a beheading that was banned by YouTube was pushed out by Al Safoo on social media, the affidavit said.
The affidavit said Al Safoo worked with the Khattab Media Foundation.
“Khattab was formed to create and disseminate propaganda on behalf of ISIS. Khattab members have stated that the images, articles and videos created and distributed by Khattab are meant to, inter alia, spread fear and recruit for ISIS,” the affidavit said.
“Khattab created and published a video called ‘Our gifts are ready’ which was disseminated on multiple social media forums,” the affidavit said. “The video begins with a computer-generated animation of families standing around a Christmas tree with presents underneath. In the background there is a large castle with a fireworks display; the castle appears to resemble a Castle in an amusement park.”
The reference is to Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World.
“Next there is a brief clip of President Trump, stating: ‘You have to fight fire…’ before the video cuts to explosions overseas with images of dead and injured children being pulled from the rubble,” the affidavit said.
In May, the affidavit said Al Safoo used social media to post encouragement to others affiliated with the Islamic State.
“Brothers, roll up your sleeves! Cut video publications into small clips, take still shots, and post the hard work of your brothers in the apostate’s pages and sites. Participate in the war, and spread fear. The Islamic State doesn’t want you to watch these publications only, rather IS wants to mobilize you. If you can’t, then work on mobilizing others for the cause,” he wrote, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit said that in March 2017, Al-Safoo invited an undercover officer to join the group. From that point on, officials gathered information on the group and its activities.
The affidavit said Al Safoo was born in Iraq and moved to Chicago in 2008.
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