Long Island High School Student Arrested En Route To Join AQAP

  • July 3, 2013

On June 25, 2013, government officials announced that an 18-year old Babylon High School student had been arrested in January at JFK International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Oman en route to join a terrorist organization in Yemen.

In announcing the newly unsealed charges and a guilty plea, government officials alleged that Justin Kaliebe, an American citizen, had made travel arrangements to attempt to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). On February 8, 2013, Kaliebe pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, namely AQAP. He had been arrested while attempting to board a flight to Oman on January 21, 2013. The arrest and guilty plea were apparently kept sealed due to an ongoing investigation.

According to the press release on the case, Kaliebe “had been searching for an opportunity to travel abroad and fight jihad for two years” before coming into contact with undercover law enforcement officers. The investigation dates from at least early June 2012, indicating that Kaliebe had been interested in terrorism since around the age of 15.

In preparation for his planned travel to Yemen, Kaliebe applied for a new United States passport and purchased a ticket to Oman, reportedly planning to continue on to Yemen from there. In recorded conversations and emails with undercover law enforcement during this period, he expressed his expectation to fight the “Yemeni army” and “those who are fighting against the Sharia of Allah...whether it’s the U.S. drones or the [sic], their puppets, in the Yemeni army...or, who knows, if American agents or whatever, U.S. Special Forces...who they got over there.” He also indicated that he was prepared to die for the cause, saying that his “standard is… [those] who bore witness to the truth for their blood,” including Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, and also “for me, the only way out is [martyrdom].”

According to a transcript of recorded conversation, Kaliebe indicated that he knew his plans to join AQAP were illegal and that he expected to be charged with conspiracy to “to kill, maim, and kidnap in foreign countries,” as other Americans who have traveled abroad to join terrorist organizations have been, according to quotes from a June 2012 recorded conversation.

Kaliebe had also allegedly pledged his “loyalty, allegiance and fidelity to the Mujahedeen of Al-Qaa’idah in the Arabian Peninsula and its leaders” in emails with undercover agents and expressed his admiration for bin Laden for bringing “an entire nation to its knees.”

Kaliebe is scheduled to be sentenced in September 2013, at which point he faces up to 30-years in prison.