Authorities arrest former UF student for aiding ISIS

The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Florida has announced it arrested a former Gainesville resident overseas and returned him to the area for prosecution on terrorism charges.

A Department of Justice (DOJ) press release announced the case on Monday, hours before the suspect, a 33-year-old U.S. citizen named Mohamed Fathy Suliman, made his first court appearance at the Alachua County Courthouse. Suliman will next appear at the court on Feb. 8.

According to the criminal complaint, Suliman was born in Washington, D.C., and has lived overseas at times, but he’s spent the majority of his life in Florida. He was a UF student in 2005-06.

Between 2009 and 2012 Suliman allegedly obtained audio files, stored in his email, featuring messages “calling for jihad, justifications for jihad, rewards for those who participate in jihad and martyrdom, and that encouraged fighting against the crusaders, infidels (non-Muslims), and those that insult the Prophet Muhammad.”

FBI investigators say in June 2014 Suliman traveled to Turkey and was arrested attempting to illegally cross the border into Syria to join ISIS. The Turkish government fined him and deported him to Sudan—his requested destination—according to the complaint. Investigators say he had not returned to U.S. soil prior to his extradition on Sunday.

The complaint says Suliman hid his plans from his family, but after leaving he indicated in emails his desire to reach paradise through martyrdom. 

“This arrest resulted from years of work and coordination by our prosecutors and FBI agents from the Jacksonville Field Office,” said Lawrence Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. “Terrorists and would-be terrorists need to understand that no resource will be spared when it comes to protecting U.S. citizens and prosecuting those who seek to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

If convicted, Suliman faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the DOJ.

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