A Long Island man was arrested Friday for attempting to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The arrest came exactly one week after an Orange County man was arrested for attempting to travel abroad to join Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Both arrests highlight the continued trend of American citizens joining terrorist groups abroad and the continued allure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. At least three American citizens or permanent residents have attempted to join AQAP in 2013 alone. And at least nine others have attempted to join foreign terrorist groups this year.
Marcos Alonso Zea, also known as Ali Zea, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to provide material support to terrorists, attempting to provide material support to AQAP, and obstruction and attempted obstruction of justice.
Zea, a 25-year-old Muslim convert from Brentwood, Long Island, allegedly flew from New York to London with plans to continue from there to the Arabian Peninsula on January 4, 2012. He was detained by customs officials and returned to the United States.
His own plans stymied, Zea allegedly encouraged a co-conspirator from his mosque, 18-year-old high school senior Justin Kaliebe, to make the trip. Zea discussed plans to fight abroad and provided him with money to fund the trip, according to the indictment. Kaliebe was arrested at JFK International Airport on January 21, 2013, and is scheduled to be sentenced December 6, 2013.
Zea’s computer reportedly contained a number of materials designed to encourage radicalization, including copies of Inspire Magazine, AQAP’s English-language periodical, and a video from Al Qaeda in Iraq depicting an attack on a military vehicle.
Since 2007, over 50 American citizens and permanent residents have been arrested or charged in connection with attempts to join terrorist groups abroad, including Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition to Zea, eight others have attempted to join foreign terrorist groups this year. They are:
- Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of California, arrested on October 11, 2013 for attempting to join Al Qaeda.
- Amir Farouq Ibrahim, of Pennsylvania, linked with ISIS and assumed dead in Syria in July 2013.
- Justin Kaliebe of New York, arrested June 25, 2013 for attempting to join AQAP.
- Nicole Mansfield of Michigan, killed in Syria in May, 2013, reportedly fighting with Jabhat al Nusrah.
- Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinios, arrested April 19, 2013 for attempting to join Jabhat al Nusrah.
- Eric Harroun of Arizona, arrested March 27, 2013, for traveling to Syria to fight with Al Qaeda linked rebels. He pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in September, 2013, and was sentenced to time served. That Harroun fought in Syria is uncontested; however, reports differ as to whether he fought with Al Qaeda affiliates.
- Matthew Aaron Llaneza of California, arrested February 8, 2013, for attempted domestic terrorism and plans to travel to join the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Shelton Thomas Bell of Florida, arrested January 29, 2013 for attempting to join AQAP.