Six people living in the U.S. have been charged with providing money and supplies to terrorists in Syria and Iraq, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
An indictment unsealed Friday describes a terrorist support network that spanned three states and used code names and Facebook to exchange secret messages about plans to support militant groups such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Federal documents filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Missouri show all six suspects are Bosnian immigrants. Two of them, a husband-and-wife team living in St. Louis, had come to the United States as refugees, and the other four were either naturalized citizens or legal permanent residents, the indictment says.
The suspects are Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, 40, his wife, Sedina Unkic Hodzic, 35, and Armin Harcevic, 37, all residing in St. Louis; Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica, N.Y.; Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 34, of Schiller Park, Ill.; and Jasminka Ramic, 42, of Rockford, Ill.
Five of them have been arrested, the Department of Justice said; a sixth remains at large.
According to the indictment, the group collected and donated money to be transferred to intermediaries in Syria and Iraq or used to purchase U.S. military uniforms, combat gear and tactical equipment to be sent abroad. The group used Western Union and PayPal to complete the transfers, which ranged from $250 to about $1,800, the indictment says. Sedina Hodzic also shipped six boxes of military and tactical supplies to Turkey via the U.S. Postal Service, it says.
To avoid detection, prosecutors say, members of the group used code names such as "Brothers," "Lions" and "Bosnian Brothers" to refer to various people, and dubbed places in Syria and Iraq with names such as "the beach."
All six have been charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to terrorists. Three of them -- the Hodzics and Rosic -- also face a charge of conspiring to kill and maim people in a foreign country.
All six face penalties including a maximum of 15 years in prison for each count and fines up to $250,000, prosecutors say. The three defendants facing the extra charge could face life in prison.
"Today's charges and arrests underscore our resolve to identify, thwart, and hold accountable individuals within the United States who seek to provide material support to terrorists ... operating in Syria and Iraq," U.S. Assistant Atty. Gen. for National Security John P. Carlin said in a statement.
"Preventing the provision of supplies, money, and personnel to foreign terrorist organizations like ISIL remains a top priority," he added, using an acronym for Islamic State.
The indictment also named Abdullah Ramo Pazara, another native of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who had become a U.S. citizen. Prosecutors say Pazara, who had been living in St. Louis, left the United States for Syria in May 2013 and served as a key intermediary for the group's contributions to terrorist organizations abroad.
The case was investigated by several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Immigrations and Customs, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and county and city police in St. Louis.
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