Homegrown Terrorist Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Support ISIS

By Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and a recognized expert in left-wing activism.
July 9, 2019 Updated: July 10, 2019

A 20-year-old Texas man who was a would-be copycat of the Boston Marathon bombers entered a guilty plea to attempting to provide material support to the overseas terrorist group ISIS by offering to be martyred and disseminating information about making bombs.

Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya, a U.S. citizen, presented the plea to District Judge Andrew Hanen in federal court in Houston, on July 8.

Hanen scheduled sentencing for Sept. 30, at which time Damlarkaya faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The defendant accepted a plea bargain and admitted the material support charge, in exchange for the government agreeing not to proceed on the charge of unlawfully distributing bomb-making instructions.

Damlarkaya now has “significant remorse,” his lawyer, Gary Tabakman, told the court, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. “I think the unique aspect of this case is Kaan grew up in a non-religious family,” he said. His father is Turkish and his mother is Latin American.

Damlarkaya’s big mistake was being overly “influenced by online content.”

“It was a dangerous fantasy, which morphed into a federal case,” he said.

It was the internet that allowed authorities to catch Damlarkaya in the act of trying to aid ISIS, also known as Islamic State and Daesh, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

From August 2017 until his arrest in December 2017, Damlarkaya tried to sign up with and support ISIS, according to the Department of Justice. He shared information with other ISIS supporters about how to use machetes, how to construct an automatic weapon, and how to make and use explosive materials.

Beginning in August 2017, Damlarkaya had online conversations with individuals he thought were fellow ISIS backers. As part of the chats, he described his plans to go overseas to fight as a soldier for ISIS in Afghanistan or Syria. In December 2017, he bought an airplane ticket to Istanbul for January, presumably to carry out his plan to join ISIS.

He said if he failed to join ISIS abroad, he would carry out an attack on non-Muslims in the United States, and that it was his “dream” to become a jihadist martyr.

When Damlarkaya, who was 18 at the time of his arrest, shared information with other ISIS supporters about how to make a bomb, he described how to make explosives using triacetone triperoxide, known as TATP, and warned the others to “take safety seriously while you make this” to be “useful until you can strike.”

Prosecutors said the goal was to make a pressure cooker device into a bomb, which is what two Chechen immigrant brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, did before detonating the deadly device at the Boston Marathon in 2013. Tamerlan was killed by police; Dzhokhar was captured, convicted, and sentenced to death by a federal jury.

Damlarkaya said online that he could buy a “GIANT machete for $15” and added, “a lot of us are poor …  or we don’t have experience. So not all of us can get a gun or make explosives, but we can afford to buy a $15 knife.”

He boasted that he slept with a machete under his pillow ready to be used if law enforcement raided his house.

When agents arrested Damlarkaya, they executed a search warrant at his residence and discovered a machete by his bed.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed the “big mistake” to the wrong person. It was Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya’s big mistake to being overly “influenced by online content,” according to his lawyer, Gary Tabakman. The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and a recognized expert in left-wing activism.