The arrest of a Chicago man for allegedly attempting to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demonstrates the extent to which Americans attempting to join terror groups abroad are able to communicate with foreign contacts and formulate their travel plans.
Mohamed Hamzah Khan, 19, was arrested Sunday at Chicago O’Hare International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey.
While many of the Americans arrested for attempting to join terrorist organizations in the past two years – including fellow Chicagoan Abdella Tounisi – have not necessarily had a well-formulated plan, Khan’s case represents an example of an individual whose efforts seem to have been informed, if not directed, by members of the terrorist group itself.
In a notebook found in his home, Khan allegedly had drawn maps of the Syria-Turkish border, with arrows showing possible crossings. He also allegedly listed steps to take, including an itinerary for a trip by bus in Turkey that would get him to that border. His knowledge of what to do in order to join ISIS likely came from online sources. According to the criminal complaint, he had received phone numbers for contact people in Syria from an individual he was allegedly in touch with online. Khan had reportedly bought a round-trip ticket to Turkey, possibly to avert suspicion.
The search of Khan’s home also allegedly uncovered an ideological affinity for ISIS. Police reportedly found a farewell note in which Khan had written, “We are all witness that the western societies are getting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this,” and urging his parents to join him in Syria. According to the criminal complaint filed in his case, authorities also found a notebook in his home with a drawing of a fighter with an ISIS flag and the words “Come to Jihad” written in Arabic.