Munther Omar Saleh, a 21-year-old Muslim man who was arrested in 2015 for suspected ties to the Islamic State (ISIS), admitted that he was in contact with a recruiter from the ISIS. Omar admitted that the ISIS recruiter helped him with a plan to execute a terror attack on U.S. soil. According to CBS News, Saleh’s planned terror attack in the U.S. was modeled on the Boston Marathon attacks of 2013.
Omar’s revelation came after he pleaded guilty on Friday to terror charges.
The ISIS recruiter he was in touch was identified as Junaid Hussain who was later revealed as a convicted hacker from Britain who fled to Syria in 2014. After reaching Syria, Junaid went on to become one of the ISIS’ top online recruiters. Junaid is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone attack, Saleh revealed. According to a federal prosecutor, Omar Saleh pleaded guilty in a federal court in Brooklyn, and as part of the plea, he admitted that he communicated with the group “knowing that it was involved in terrorism.”
According to court papers, Saleh had in several of his online communications identified himself as a “full-fledged” member of ISIS. After authorities had suspected Omar was involved with the ISIS, they set up an electronic surveillance web around him to track and monitor his online activities. It was after this surveillance that authorities found that he had conducted thorough research on how to build a pressure-cooker bomb. He also used a map of New York City to look for landmarks and tourist attractions in the city where he planned to carry out the attack. Authorities were also able to intercept voice messages between Omar and his handlers. In one such conversation, Saleh told a source, “I’m in NY and trying to do an Op.”
In the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Solomon told the judge that Junaid Hussain was an “attack facilitator” who kept Omar motivated and encouraged him to make a pressure-cooker bomb to conduct a terror strike on U.S. soil modeled after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Munther Omar Saleh was arrested at a time when there were reports of several young people across the U.S. (and even in across Europe) traveling to war-torn Syria and Iraq where a sizable portion of the territory was under ISIS control. Most of these young men and women were radicalized by ISIS propaganda content that was easily available online. This was around the same time that ISIS took the help of many of its online recruiters to use popular social media channels to go on a recruitment drive for future terrorists. Most of the young were Muslims who were driven by the hope of living in a state where they thought the Islamic Sharia law would be strictly implemented. They were also attracted by ISIS’ global ambitions which talked about the entire world being united under one single Islamic caliphate.
Meanwhile, officers also revealed that Omar was also aided by another man, a person identified as Fareed Mumuni of Staten Island. Mumuni had also pleaded guilty to similar charges on Thursday. Mumuni also faces additional assault charges after he reportedly charged at an FBI officer and attempted to stab him when he was arrested.
Most of the people caught attempting to leave the U.S. or were found to have been involved in plotting terror attacks in the U.S. were arrested and charged. Both Omar and Mumuni are expected to be sentenced on May 16 this year. According to reports, Saleh, if convicted, could face up to 53 years in prison. For Mumuni, he could face up to 85 years in prison.
[Featured Image by Khalid Mohammed/AP Images]