A Brentwood, N.Y., man was arrested on Friday in his Long Island home and charged with wanting to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and wage holy war against the foes of Islam, officials said.
Marcos Alonso Zea, also known as Ali Zea, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to provide material support to terrorists, attempting to provide material support to the Al Qaeda group in Yemen, obstruction and attempted obstruction of justice. The case is related to an arrest of another Long Island man, Justin Kaliebe.
“Despite being born and raised in the United States, Zea allegedly betrayed his country and attempted to travel to Yemen in order to join a terrorist organization and commit murder,” Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a prepared statement. “When that plan was thwarted, Zea continued to support terrorism by assisting his co-conspirator's efforts to travel to Yemen to fight violent jihad.”
The Al Qaeda group in Yemen has been linked to a number of attacks against targets in Yemen and the United States. It has been blamed for the attack in Yemen on the USS Cole in 2000 when 17 Americans were killed. The group, which has been a frequent target of U.S. counter-terrorism activities, has also claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009.
Zea, 25, will be arraigned on Friday. Prosecutors are expected to argue that he should be detained because he represents a flight risk.
According to the five-count indictment in the case, Zea is accused of conspiring with others to travel to Yemen to wage jihad, or holy war. He is accused of flying from John F. Kennedy International Airport to London in January 2012. Customs agents blocked him from going on to Yemen and he was returned to the United States.
Back home, Zea allegedly “encouraged and supported his co-conspirator, Justin Kaliebe, who also was plotting to travel to Yemen to fight jihad. In August 2012, in a covertly recorded conversation between Zea and Kaliebe, Zea bragged about his lies to UK authorities when he was detained, instructed Kaliebe regarding methods to evade electronic surveillance by law enforcement authorities, and discussed Kaliebe’s plans to fight jihad,” according to prosecutors.
Learning he was under suspicion, Zea in April this year directed an associate to erase the hard drive on his home computer.
In February, Kaliebe pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to a foreign terrorist organization, according to officials. Kaliebe is being held in a federal psychiatric facility in North Carolina.
He faces 30 years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 6.
The charges against Zea were investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, which includes the FBI and the New York police.