A Virginia man, Haris Qamar, age 25, was arrested for attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Like many others that have tried to help ISIS, Qamar is an American citizen. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. In 2014, he originally tried to join ISIS but was prevented from boarding his plane to Turkey when his parents confiscated his passport. As one would expect, his parents threatened to go to the authorities and he called his father a traitor to Islam. The insult apparently worked as his parents never turned him in to law enforcement. In 2015, the FBI started monitoring him as his 60+ pro-ISIS Twitter accounts encouraged terrorist attacks and praised those that committed terrorism such as the attack on Charlie Hebdo. The Twitter accounts provided the FBI the perfect opportunity to go into action.
In September 2015, pretending to be a cousin of an ISIS fighter, an FBI informant or confidential witness (CW) contacted Qamar through one of his Twitter accounts. Once Qamar’s trust was earned by the informant, the two began to discuss prime locations for potential lone wolf style attacks for ISIS in the Washington D.C. area in May 2016. For planning purposes, they needed to get photographs and video of the target locations. On June 6th and June 10th, both men drove around taking photos and video of the previously discussed targets. In an audio recording obtained by the informant, Qamar can be heard saying, “bye bye DC, stupid ass kufar, kill’em all.”
According to the DOJ press release,
During numerous conversations with CW, Qamar expressed his interest and excitement in the extreme violence ISIL is known for. Qamar said he loved the bodies, blood and beheadings, and he recalled watching a video of a Kurdish individual being slaughtered, and liked the cracking sound made when the individual’s spinal cord was torn. On several occasions Qamar allegedly said he could slaughter someone and described how he would do it. Qamar also stated that he admired lone wolf attackers because they love Islam so much that they are willing to die as martyrs for Islam and in the same conversation, Qamar and CW allegedly discussed suicide bombings. CW said that he did not believe in suicide bombings, but Qamar allegedly responded “I believe in it 100 percent.”
On Sept. 11, 2015, terrorists connected with ISIL posted a “kill list” to the internet containing the names and addresses of U.S. military members. A few days later, Qamar allegedly told CW that the residences of several service members who appeared on the “kill list” were near Qamar’s own home, and that Qamar had observed undercover police cars near those residences. According to the affidavit, on Sept. 16, 2015, Qamar tweeted his prayer that Allah “give strength to the mujahideen to slaughter every single US military officer.”
Qatar appeared in federal court in Alexandria for the first time on July 8, 2016 and could face up to a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Looking at his documented behavior and the comments he made to the FBI informant, 20 years does not appear to be enough to keep him from injuring or killing his fellow Americans. This case should also focus attention on the family and friends closest to those vulnerable to ISIS propaganda and ideology. If his parents turned him in when they first realized he was a danger to society, the FBI could have stopped him long before he started to recon targets for attacks. However, if the FBI did intervene at an earlier time, he could have been charged with a lesser crime or no crime at all, putting him back on the streets sooner if convicted.
Illustration courtesy of Bill Hennessy