An Iraqi-born man living in California swore that “America will not isolate me from my Islamic duty” as he used a social media account associated with Islamic State to plot a return to Syria, according to court documents made public Friday.
Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab was indicted in Sacramento on Thursday on one federal charge that he lied to investigators about traveling to Syria to fight against the government there. He was arrested last week and remains jailed, though prosecutors and his attorney said there was no indication he intended harm within the United States.
Authorities said Al-Jayab, 23, fought in Syria as a teenager before coming to the United States and went to Syria again in late 2013 and early 2014, joining a group later affiliated with Islamic State. He faces up to eight years in prison if he is convicted of falsely telling investigators that he was visiting his grandmother in Turkey.
The investigation apparently began with information from the search of a Virginia-based Facebook account in April 2014, shortly after Al-Jayab returned to the United States, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The account “appeared to be used to distribute propaganda [for] the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” or ISIL, as the terrorist organization also is known, the court filings said.
Al-Jayab used the link to communicate in Arabic between August 2013 and February 2014 as he planned his trip and while he was in Turkey and Syria, according to the affidavit.
“America will not isolate me from my Islamic duty,” he wrote at one point. He also warned that he was “afraid of being imprisoned in America [because] the government is alert for everything, [and] my trip here constitutes a charge.”
Al-Jayab's attorney said he couldn't comment on the newly released material until he had a chance to review it and discuss it with his client.
“But I can say that my client had no intention of committing a terrorist act on American soil, nor did he have any intention of hurting any American citizen,” Ben Galloway wrote in an email.