N.J. man tried to join Islamic State with group of other Americans, FBI says

A 23-year-old New Jersey man was arrested and charged Monday with trying to aid Islamic State, and court records show he was part of a larger group of young men who had planned to travel overseas from New York and New Jersey, federal officials said. 

Alaa Saadeh of West New York, N.J., was charged with attempting to provide support to a terrorist organization and with witness tampering after he was arrested at his home Monday, according to the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey.

Court records tied to Saadeh's arrest suggest that as many as five men were involved in the plot to travel overseas. Saadeh and his brother also spoke of "uniting" their group once they reached territory controlled by Islamic State, according to a criminal complaint.

Saadeh and the other young men were trying to join the terrorist group, according to court documents. Saadeh's older brother, whose full name was not revealed, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to support Islamic State after traveling to Jordan in May, according to the criminal complaint.

The criminal complaint also suggested that Saadeh had been working with Munther Omar Saleh, a 20-year-old resident of Queens, N.Y., who was arrested June 13 in connection with a reported plot to detonate a bomb in New York City at the behest of Islamic State.

Although the complaint doesn't mention Saleh by name, it does refer to a "co-conspirator No. 2" who lived in Queens and was arrested June 13. Saleh has been accused of plotting the bomb blast with a Staten Island man, Fareed Mumuni, who was captured June 17 after the FBI said he tried to stab an agent.

Another New Jersey resident, 21-year-old Samuel Rahamin Topaz, had also been discussing plans to travel overseas with the Saadeh brothers, according to the criminal complaint. He was arrested June 17.

Alaa Saadeh appeared in federal court in Newark on Monday afternoon, an FBI spokeswoman said.

According to the complaint, Saadeh had expressed support for attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris and on an event in Texas featuring satirical images of the prophet Muhammad.

But after his brother and Saleh were arrested, Saadeh struck a more conciliatory tone in conversations with government informants and repeatedly told friends to lie to the FBI about his or his brother's dedication to Islamic State, according to the complaint.

When asked how the number of defendants in this case compares with other cases, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, N.J., declined to comment in depth. But he did point to the arrest of six Minnesota men who, according to federal prosecutors, were trying to join Islamic State in April. 

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