US

New York Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Attempting to Join ISIS

By Victor Westerkamp

The department said that earlier in the day, Mohamed Rafik Naji was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release by a federal court in Brooklyn, for attempting to provide material support or resources to the ISIS terrorist group.

Naji pleaded guilty to the charges back in February 2018.

“Time and again, the United States has brought to justice those who have traveled from here to try and fight for ISIS,” Assistant Attorney General Demers said of the sentence, according to the statement. “This is just what Naji did.

“Today’s sentence holds him accountable for his crime, and I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this result.”

According to the statement, by late 2014, Naji had become increasingly involved with Islamic extremism, engaging in hate propaganda on social media.

In March 2015, he traveled to Yemen, allegedly to try and enlist with ISIS, although the statement did not say whether he was successful. Naji had also contacted an undercover agent of the FBI, code name CS, and explained how to travel to Yemen and sign up for ISIS. In an online conversation, Naji told CS, “I belong to Islamic state only.”

Upon his return to New York in September 2015, he again posted many violent messages on the internet propagating his support to ISIS and their interpretation of jihad.

After the deadly ISIS-inspired terrorist truck attack in Nice, France, in July 2016, Naji reportedly bragged to CS how easy it would be to execute a similar assault on Times Square. He detailed that ISIS “want[s] an operation in Times Square.” Naji went further and said, “if there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck and one drives it there to Times Square and crushes them … Times Square day.”

United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said that, “With today’s sentence, Naji has been held accountable for trying to enter a foreign war zone and join ISIS’ murderous cause,” according to the statement.

“This Office, together with the FBI, the NYPD, and all the members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force will take every step necessary to incapacitate terrorists like Naji and protect the American people. I commend the Task Force for its outstanding work in this case.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said, “Extremists like Mr. Naji believe murdering innocent people advances their political agendas.

“In the end, Mr. Naji, like many others before him, find the only thing their actions lead to is a different vantage point from which to watch the world pass by—through the steel bars of a federal prison. Mr. Naji will remember today as sentencing day, nothing more.

“Working day in and day out with our partners on the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, safeguards have been put in place to secure Times Square and other popular attractions so any would be terrorist will find it extremely difficult to carry out their plans. Our unified goal is to remain proactive and prevent acts before they occur, and once again, I would like to thank all of those who ensure our safety,” he added.

“This case is a reminder that New York City remains the top target for terrorism in the U.S.,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill.  “The NYPD and its partners in law enforcement will never relent in the fight against terror. I want to thank the dedicated members of the JTTF who worked on this investigation to keep our City safe and the prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York.”