An Illinois teenager was arrested Saturday night at Chicago's O'Hare airport for allegedly attempting to travel to the Middle East to join the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, appeared in federal court Monday and was charged with one count of "attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization," authorities said. If convicted, Khan could face 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to an official affidavit, federal agents observed Khan making his way through security on Saturday night. He apparently planned to fly to Istanbul, Turkey, via Vienna, Austria, before he was detained by members of the Chicago FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Khan had purchased a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Istanbul, but in an interview with authorities, he said that he had no plans on returning to the United States.
While Khan was in custody, federal agents executed a search warrant on his house and found handwritten documents that appeared to support ISIS and jihad, as well as a detailed plan for traveling to the Turkish border and crossing into Syria. He appeared to have the names of several ISIS fighters as well as telephone numbers to contact them once he arrived in the Middle East.
Authorities also discovered a 3-page letter, apparently by Khan, addressed to his parents, in which he explained the reason for his departure and asked his family not to tell the police of his plans. In the letter, he said that all Muslims were under an obligation to travel to join ISIS now that the "Islamic State" had been established and urged his parents to join him there. Furthermore, he claimed to be upset that his tax dollars would be used to "kill Muslim brothers and sisters," and deplored the declining morality of Western society.
U.S. security officials estimate that as many as 100 Americans have traveled to the Middle East to join militant groups in Syria and Iraq, including ISIS.