via DFP: Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, of Dearborn Heights has not been charged with terrorism crime. FBI says it’s been tracking him since May, that he threatened attacks against police and church in support of ISIS
A 21-year-old Dearborn Heights man threatened terror attacks in support of ISIS with targets including police and a Detroit church with up to 6,000 members, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday.
Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, has not been charged with any terrorism crime. In an affidavit filed in a criminal complaint on a weapons and marijuana charge, he’s described as being an ISIS supporter who talked about committing violent acts of terrorism, including shootings and beheadings.
In his affidavit, FBI Special Agent Alan Southard said that Abu-Rayyan had been investigated by the FBI since May.
“Since May of 2015, the FBI has been conducting an investigation of Khalil Abu-Rayyan regarding increasingly violent threats he has made to others about committing acts of terror and martydom — including brutal acts against police officers, churchgoers and others — on behalf of the foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraqi and Levant.”
A family member or attorney for Abu-Rayyan could not be reached late Friday. FBI Detroit spokeswoman Jill Washburn told the Free Press he is in custody and faces a detention hearing on Monday. He appeared in court on Thursday, said Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan
The FBI had been tracking Abu-Rayyan through social media, phone conversations, and surveillance. He had two Twitter accounts on which he expressed support for ISIS, the FBI said in the complaint.
According to the affidavit in the complaint, an undercover FBI employee was communicating with Abu-Rayyan. In December, the undercover FBI employee and Abu-Rayyan had “daily conversations” that took place “over the course of several weeks,” said the affidavit.
“During these conversations, Abu-Rayyan consistently expressed support for ISIL and repeatedly expressed his desire to commit a martyrdom operation.”
According to the affidavit, Abu-Rayyan also told the undercover FBI employee: “I tried to shoot up a church one day. I don’t know the name of it, but it’s close to my job. It’s one of the biggest ones in Detroit. Ya, I had it planned out. I bought a bunch of bullets. I practice a lot with it. I practice reloading and unloading. But my dad searched my car one day and he found everything. He found the gun and the bullets and a mask.”
“Abu-Rayyan said he targeted a church because, ‘it’s easy and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus, it would make the news. Everyone would’ve heard. Honestly, I regret not doing it. If I can’t do jihad in the Middle East, I would do my jihad over here.'”
The FBI said a church that has up to 6,000 members and fits the description given by Abu-Ryyan is about half a mile from where he works.
Abu-Ryyan said he didn’t carry out the shooting because a gun he bought in October “only held six shots and he would have to keep on reloading.”
Abu-Ryyan also took photos of himself at gun ranges firing an AK-47-type and AR-15-type rifles. He “captioned one of the photos, ‘Sawhat hunting,’ ” said the affidavit.
“Sawhat is a term for Iraqis who oppose ISIL,” said the affidavit.
On Oct. 7, Detroit Police had pulled over Abu-Ryyan for speeding, finding marijuana on him and a pistol. He told police he didn’t have a concealed pistol license.
On Nov. 17, Wayne County prosecutors issued a warrant charging him with carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a controlled substance, marijuana.
On Jan. 15, he pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana. He faces a trial on Feb. 16 on the charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
On Jan. 21, he told the undercover FBI employee that “he wanted to kill the officer who arrested him in October.”
He told the undercover FBI employee that his trial had been delayed because the officer who arrested him was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack.
“Abu-Rayyan explained he wanted to do a martyrdom operation in the hospital, killing the police officer in the process,” said the affidavit.
On Jan. 22, he talked about having a large sword or knife in case he gets into a fight.
“Abu-Rayyan also said hearing about shootings and death makes him excited. He continued, ‘I would gladly behead people if I needed to…It is my dream to behead someone.”
Dearborn attorney Majed Moughni, who often deals with Arab-American issues, said that what Abu-Rayyan was planning to do was “terrifying …Clearly terrorism is not a joking matter. … Muslim Americans are working with law enforcement to stamp out threats to our community.”
As in other cases tied to ISIS, Abu-Rayyan used social media to communicate support for the group.
The FBI said in the affidavit that Abu-Rayyan had been using a Twitter account since at least November 2014 to retweet, like and comment “on ISIL propaganda.” The propaganda included videos of a Jordanian pilot burned alive, Christians being beheaded, and men being thrown from buildings in executions.
In his Twitter profile, Abu-Rayyan described himself as Palestinian and Muslim, according to Tweet Tunnel, which captures images of old tweets and Twitter accounts.
In November 2015, Abu-Rayyan got another Twitter account, using the same Twitter profile photo in his previous account: a photo of him standing in the driveway of his residence, his right hand raised with his index finger pointing upward.
“Raising a single index finger is a gesture commonly found in images of ISIL supporters,” the FBI said in the affidavit.
Both Twitter accounts that the FBI said Abu-Rayyan used have been suspended.
The use of Twitter by ISIS supporters has been a concern for law enforcement officials. On Friday, Twitter announced it had “suspended over 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.”