First US trial for ISIS-linked terrorist begins

For the first time in its history, the US has put a terrorist linked with ISIS on trial for involvement in terrorism.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff
Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem

Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem. (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

An Arizona man set for trial this week is believed to be the first person the US government is trying on terror charges linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.

Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, 44, is accused of providing the guns used in an attack at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas last year.

Investigators say he and the two shooters watched videos depicting violence by jihadists, tried to get pipe bombs, planned the May attack in suburban Dallas and researched travel to the Middle East so they could join ISIS terrorists.

Kareem faces charges including conspiracy and conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Kareem denies the allegations. Kareem and his lawyer, Daniel Maynard, declined requests for an interview. Maynard has previously said the case was trumped up and based largely on the work on an unreliable confidential informant.

The other two men, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, brought semi-automatic rifles and an ISIS flag to the contest featuring cartoons they deemed offensive to Muslims. They died in a shootout with police before they had a chance to hurt anyone attending the event.

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ISIS-Ordered or ISIS-Inspired?

It’s unknown whether the thwarted attack was merely inspired by the ISIS or carried out in response to an order from the group, which has taken control of parts of Syria and Iraq while carrying out beheadings, mass shootings and other violence.

FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers in December that one of the attackers exchanged more than 100 messages with an overseas terrorist in the days before the attack. Kareem’s indictment says Simpson used social media to communicate with Islamic State terrorists and other violent jihadists.

The US Justice Department didn’t respond to questions about the case.

“I believe the shooters were motivated by what they thought was the Islamic State, but I’m not sure they were directed by the Islamic State,” said Scott Stewart, a vice president for the Texas-based global intelligence company Stratfor.

The US government has charged 78 people with crimes related to the Islamic State group since March 2014, said Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security, which tracks terrorism cases. While 24 people charged with crimes related to the radical group have pleaded guilty, no one has yet gone to trial on such charges.

James Newman, Kareem’s younger brother, told The Associated Press that his brother never expressed a radical political or religious view to him and is a victim of guilt by association with the two Muslims who carried out the attack. He rejects the government’s portrayal of his brother as a supporter of terrorists.

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Newman said Kareem was a Muslim throughout his adulthood, but his faith deepened over the last five years after he was jailed on a drunken driving conviction. He used his religion as a way to cope with his longtime struggle with alcohol.

“It probably wasn’t the smartest decision to hang with these guys, but he was probably just building his faith,” Newman said of Simpson and Soofi.

ISIS’ mounting influence and terror activity in the US is keeping security and law enforcement authorities on edge as they work to prevent the next Islamic terror attack on US soil.

The US Justice Department has charged a record number of at least 60 suspects in 2015 with terrorism-related crimes.

The FBI has opened investigations in all 50 states, and the cases cross ethnic and geographic lines, officials said. In November, FBI Director James Comey said the FBI is pursuing 900 active ISIS terror-related investigations.