A National Guard specialist was arrested and charged with attempting to join the Islamic State extremist group and helping his cousin plot a possible terrorist attack at a U.S. military base in Illinois, federal investigators said Thursday morning.
Hasan Edmonds, 22, was planning to board an Egypt-bound flight when he was arrested by FBI agents at Chicago's Midway International Airport on Wednesday night, the Department of Justice said in a statement. His cousin, 29-year-old Jonas Edmonds, was also arrested at his home.
“The defendants allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIL and planned to travel overseas to support the terrorist organization,” Assistant Atty. Gen. John P. Carlin said in a statement, using an acronym to refer to the radical group. “In addition, they plotted to attack members of our military within the United States. Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack."
Hasan Edmonds, a U.S. citizen and specialist with the Illinois Army National Guard, came to the attention of the FBI last year, authorities said. Hasan, who often posted Facebook messages that were sympathetic to Islamic State, was contacted by an undercover FBI agent in late 2014, and the two began discussing Hasan's desire to travel to Syria, according to court filings made public Thursday.
Hasan and Jonas Edmonds communicated with the FBI employee, whom they believed lived outside the country, for several months. Hasan told the agent he had been a member of the U.S. Army National Guard for three years, and had converted to Islam at some point during that time, according to the criminal complaint.
The 22-year-old was excitable in most conversations with the undercover agent, sometimes referencing other high-profile terrorist attacks as inspiration.
“Honestly we would love to do something like the brother in Paris did," Hasan said during one conversation in January, referring to the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in France.
Jonas Edmonds often expressed concern that he might not be able to travel outside the U.S. because of a prior criminal conviction, the complaint said. In the event he was unable to follow his cousin to Syria, Jonas Edmonds told the undercover agent he would carry out an attack in Illinois.
On Monday, the cousins met with a second undercover FBI agent and discussed an assault on the base where Hasan Edmonds had been training, the complaint said. Hasan offered to loan his military uniforms to Jonas, and explained the best ways to enter the base and which areas to avoid during an armed assault. They also discussed how to target ranking military members during an attack, the complaint said.
Jonas Edmonds said he planned to kill between 100 and 150 people during such an attack, according to the complaint. The cousins, along with the undercover agent, traveled to the base the next day and continued to discuss the attack, the complaint said.
Both men are expected to appear in court Thursday at 3 p.m. local time. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The incident marks the second time in two weeks that a man with a U.S. military background has allegedly attempted to join Islamic State. Earlier this month, 47-year-old Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a former mechanic with the U.S. Air Force, was deported back to the United States and arrested after Egyptian security forces intercepted him as he tried to travel to Turkey, with plans to enter Syria, where he planned to join the terrorist organization, authorities said.
Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news