Authorities have charged a U.S. citizen for allegedly attempting to join and support the ISIS terrorist group after traveling to Turkey, according to court documents.
Mohamed Fathy Suliman, a 33-year-old former University of Florida student, has been returned to the United States and charged with attempting to provide material support for a designated foreign terrorist organization, FBI Special Agent R. David Collins wrote in a criminal complaint (pdf) released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Gainesville, Florida on Monday.
If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in federal prison and pay an additional $250,000 fine.
Suliman has been accused of knowingly seeking to support “violent jihad” between February 2009 and June 2014 by traveling to areas of conflict in an effort to provide material support—including himself—to organizations designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government, according to the affidavit.
“At all times relevant to the current charge, there was a conflict in Syria, with multiple groups engaged in violent armed fighting,” Collins wrote.
According to the complaint, Suliman booked a one-way ticket via a New York travel agency in June 2014 to travel from Orlando, Florida to Alexandria, Egypt, with two stops that include Istanbul, Turkey.
Once he arrived in Turkey, he never transferred to his flight’s final destination, Egypt, but rather paid cash—allegedly eliminating his credit card trail—for another one-way airline ticket to the Turkish/Syrian border.
He was arrested by Turkish authorities two days after his arrival in Istanbul and accused of illegally crossing into Syria. Authorities released him again about one week later.
“Suliman stated that his intent for traveling to Syria was to meet with members of ISIS, Al-Nusrah Front, Jaish al-Islam, and “Jabhah Shamiyah” and he claimed that he wanted to find the truth from each of these groups so he could determine who to support,” the special agent wrote in the affidavit.
He has since signed a written statement that documents his actions and intent to support these groups while also admitting he purchased the ticket from Florida to Egypt and then paid cash for a one-way ticket to the Syrian border, adding that “he did not support the beheadings and torture that ISIS engaged in, but he was willing to assist and support them in their media section.”
Suliman also claimed he has bipolar disorder, a mental health issue, and stopped taking his medication in July 2009, leading to a change in his beliefs and support in terrorist groups.
Besides these accusations, a search warrant authorized by U.S. officials found about 36 emails on a Gmail account belonging to Suliman that contained various audio files consisting of messages calling for jihad and encouraging fighting against non-muslims, officials said.
FBI officials also found a Facebook account belonging to Suliman that displayed an ISIS profile picture featuring a black flag with the terrorist group’s symbol. The account was created around the same period of his travel to the Turkish/Syrian border on June 30.
Suliman is being held at the Alachua County Jail and had his initial court appearance on Monday in Gainesville.