SANTA ANA, California – Two Orange County men, one of whom attempted to travel to the Middle East to allegedly join ISIL, have been arrested on federal charges of conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Muhanad Badawi, 24, and Nader Elhuzayel, 24, both of Anaheim, were arrestedThursday evening by special agents with the FBI.
Badawi and Elhuzayel were charged in a criminal complaint filed this morning in United States District Court in Santa Ana, and both me are expected to make their initial court appearances this afternoon.
The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint outlines a scheme in which Badawi and Elhuzayel used social media to discuss ISIL and terrorist attacks, expressed a desire to die as martyrs and made arrangements for Elhuzayel to leave the United States to join ISIL.
According to the affidavit, on May 3, Elhuzayel saw a tweet from Elton Simpson, one of the two gunmen who were killed trying to attack a conference in Garland, Texas. In this tweet, Simpson stated that he and his “bro” had pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIL. In response, Elhuzayel tweeted his support for the attempted attack and praised Simpson as a “martyr.”
In recorded conversations last month, Badawi and Elhuzayel “discussed how it would be a blessing to fight for the cause of Allah, and to die in the battlefield,” and they referred to ISIL as “we,” according to the complaint affidavit. When Badawi expressed concerns about ISIL struggling due to airstrikes by Coalition forces, Elhuzayel responded that they had to be patient and “can you imagine when al-Qaeda joins with Islamic State”? According to the affidavit, Badawi responded: “We will be huge.” The two men also discussed local Muslim leaders and Elhuzayel complained that these leaders were not “legitimate” because they believed in democracy and were not fighting for an Islamic State.
The men discussed where in the Middle East they would rather be, and Elhuzayel said he wanted to fight and did not want to be in the United States, according to the conversations recounted in the affidavit.
On May 7, Badawi allowed Elhuzayel to use his credit card to purchase a one-way airline ticket for travel from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, Israel, via Istanbul, Turkey, on a Turkish Airlines flight scheduled to depart on May 21. Badawi indicated that he would be traveling to the Middle East in the future, according to the affidavit.
Elhuzayel was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport. According to the allegations in the complaint, Elhuzayel admitted after being read his Miranda rights that he planned to disembark in Istanbul to join ISIL and did not intend to travel on to Israel.
If convicted of the charge in the criminal complaint, Badawi and Elhuzayel each would face a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to ISIL.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Orange County, which includes the following agencies: the Anaheim Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Secret Service, IRS – Criminal Investigation, the City of Orange Police Department, the Irvine Police Department, and the Buena Park Police Department.
Release no. 15-050