A Texas man who claimed to have traveled to Syria to fight with the Free Syrian Army was arrested Thursday on charges that he lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the terrorist group ISIS, reported NBC News reports. Federal agents arrested Bilal Abood, 37, an Iraqi-born naturalized American citizen, on Thursday. He has been charged with making a false statement to FBI agents who interviewed him, the complaint states.
The Mesquite, Texas, security guard, who speaks Arabic and English, was refused permission in 2013 to board a flight in Dallas bound for Iraq as reported by New York Daily News. He told agents who interviewed him at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport that he was going to visit family in Iraq. A month later, he traveled to Mexico and eventually made his way to Syria via Turkey, the complaint says.
Upon his return to the U.S. later that year, he admitted to FBI investigators that he had stayed in a Free Syrian Army camp and fought with its members.
In July of 2014, agents obtained a warrant to search his computer and found social media posts showing Abood had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the complaint says. Abood denied posting such messages. It is not clear why agents waited until Thursday to arrest Abood, who faces up to eight years in prison. He is not charged with any terrorist activities. A confidential informant told investigators that Abood had been watching al Qaeda and ISIS videos on the internet and that Abood said he wanted to help build the Islamic State of Iraq, according to the criminal complaint.
On Thursday, ISIS issued a rare message purportedly from al-Baghdadi in an apparent attempt to quash rumors that he had been killed. On Wednesday, the Iraqi government claimed a deputy leader of ISIS, Abu Alaa al-Afri, was killed in an airstrike.
Federal authorities are said to be stepping up surveillance and arrests in Texas following the attack earlier this month by two gunmen who were killed outside a “Draw Mohammed” cartoon contest in Garland, which is about 25 miles from where Abood was arrested in Mesquite. The gunmen were shot to death by SWAT team members at the Curtis Culwell Center on May 3. FBI Director James Comey said the FBI is investigating hundreds of potential homegrown extremists in the U.S.
Read more about ISIS in another article from the Inquisitr.