On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that three naturalized U.S. citizens in Lansing, Michigan were arrested and charged with planning to aid Islamic State. The DOJ press release reads:
Members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) arrested Muse Abdikadir Muse (Muse Muse) at the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after checking in for a flight to the first of a series of destinations on his way to Mogadishu, Somalia. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement arrested alleged coconspirators Mohamud Abdikadir Muse (Mohamud Muse), and Mohamed Salat Haji (Haji). All three defendants are naturalized U.S. citizens who were born in Kenya.
According to the complaint affidavit, Muse Muse purchased airline tickets earlier this month to travel from Grand Rapids to Mogadishu, departing on Monday, January 21, 2019. Among other support, the complaint alleged Haji and Mohamud Muse aided in the purchase of the ticket and drove Muse Muse to the Grand Rapids airport, each knowing the true purpose of the travel was for Muse Muse to join and fight for ISIS.
ABC News reports that Muse Muse and Mohamud Muse are brothers, and that Haji is their brother-in-law. The threesome initially came on the FBI’s radar due to Mohamud Muse’s pro-Islamic State social media postings. The government’s complaint against the trio, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, states that Mohamud Muse’s postings “revealed frequent posts of photos, videos, and statements and commentary that were pro-ISIS in nature and what can be described as violent, extremist propaganda.” All three had openly pledged their allegiance to Islamic State. Numerous undercover FBI agents ultimately helped foil the threesome’s plot.
The criminal complaint charges all three men with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339(b). The formal description of the charge reads: “Conspiring to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization; to wit: ISIS.” All three men face up to 20 years in federal prison.
The Washington Times reports that, at the time the FBI arrested Muse Muse, he was at Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan in order to board a flight to Somalia.
DOJ has been no stranger to charging naturalized American citizens with conpiring to support Islamic State. In October, a naturalized citizen of Iraqi descent was arrested in Chicago for allegedly violating the exact same statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2339(b).
Naturalized — and even natural-born — citizens have invariably caused headaches for U.S. counterterrorism interests for some time now. In September 2011, President Obama assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen via drone strike. Al-Awlaki, a New Mexico native whose frequent online jihadist propaganda videos had dubbed him the nickname of “bin Laden of the Internet,” was a natural-born U.S. citizen. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has subsequently been at the forefront of advancing legislation to revoke the citizenship any U.S. citizen who so much as tries to join Islamic State or related jihadist groups. In 2017, the Washington Examiner reported:
Hundreds of Americans have tried to join the Islamic State in recent years, according to Cruz. He said another 124 U.S. citizens or green card holders have traveled overseas to join other jihadist groups in the years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “This should be an idea that even Senate Democrats can support given that Hillary Clinton, when she was in the Senate, supported very similar legislation,” he said.