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American Man Arrested in Hawaii on Terror Charges

Posted: October 27, 2010

An American citizen who attempted to join the Taliban and fight against American troops has been arrested in a terrorism investigation.


A criminal complaint unsealed in a New York federal court on October 25, 2010, charged Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, 21, with "making false statements in a matter involving international terrorism." He and several others allegedly plotted to travel overseas and wage "violent jihad" against American and coalition military forces. Shehadeh, who was arrested in Honolulu three days earlier, will be returned to New York for further proceedings and faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison if convicted.


Shehadeh, an American citizen of Palestinian descent born and raised in New York, drew the attention of federal authorities when he purchased a one-way ticket to Pakistan in June 2008. According to the criminal complaint, Shehadeh traveled to Pakistan in an attempt to join the Taliban or other-like minded groups and receive training in "guerrilla warfare" and "bomb-making," but was denied entry into the country by Pakistani authorities and returned to the U.S. In interviews with federal authorities, Shehadeh denied that he attempted to join the Taliban and claimed that he traveled to Pakistan to study at a madrasa, or Islamic school, and to attend a friend's engagement party.


Subsequent investigations revealed that Shehadeh had created and operated several Web sites that "advocated violent jihad against the West," propagating Al Qaeda and other terror-related materials. These Web sites, according to the complaint, included various statements and recordings from Al Qaeda-second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri and American Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn.


Shehadeh subsequently disclosed to federal authorities that one of his Web sites was designed to "mirror and reformat" the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric living in Yemen who encourages American Muslims to attack non-Muslims and has been designated by the U.S. as a "key leader" of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen. The complaint also alleged that Shehadeh admitted to sending al-Awlaki several emails regarding his Web site but never received a response from the Yemeni-based cleric.


Shehadeh also commented on several lectures on al-Awlaki's Web site. "[I am] 100% supporting you, yaa Imam Al-Gharb [West]," Shehadeh wrote on al-Awlaki's blog in June 2008, under the username Abul-Qasim. "Yaa Imam please come out with a new lecture. The Muslims of the west [sic] need a push."


Shehadeh also operated a YouTube channel on which he posted a video entitled "Benefits of Jihad in our times," and, under the Abul-Qasim username, posted on the Web site for Revolution Muslim, a New York-based fringe anti-Semitic Muslim organization that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence against non-Muslims. Using the Abul-Qasim alias, Shehadeh also commented on a blog operated by Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American known for distributing terrorist propaganda material online, who has aligned himself with Al Qaeda in Yemen. "I am with you 100%" Shehadeh wrote.


In October 2008, four months after traveling to Pakistan, Shehadeh attempted to join the U.S. Army at the Times Square recruiting station in New York City. Shehadeh was denied entry into the Army after failing to disclose to the Army recruiter his trip to Pakistan and only divulging that he had recently returned from a one-month trip to Israel, during which he visited family.


Shehadeh later told federal authorities that he was motivated to join the Army because of the promised benefits, training and career opportunities. Statements from a cooperating witness, however, belie Shehadeh's claim that he sought to join the Army for such opportunities. According to the criminal complaint, Shehada told the cooperating witness that he thought joining the U.S. Army was an "easier way to join the jihad because the military would provide him with training, transportation and a weapon." As a member of the U.S. Army, the complaint alleged, Shehadeh hoped to be deployed to Iraq, commit "treason" and join the insurgency there to fight against U.S. soldiers.


That same month, Shehadeh flew to Jordan but was again denied entry into the country by Jordanian authorities. He moved to Hawaii the following April to facilitate his revised plan to travel to Somalia. While in Hawaii, Shehadeh allegedly practiced with various firearms at a Honolulu gun club and purchased an airline ticket to Dubai, with an ultimate destination of Somalia. Prior to his scheduled flight, Shehadeh was intercepted by federal agents who told him that he had been placed on the federal "no fly" list.

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Profile: Anwar al-Awlaki

Backgrounder: Revolution Muslim

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