For the last three years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says a man living in Lackawanna attempted to provide support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Prosecutors say 44-year-old Arafat Nagi, a U.S. citizen, attempted to support the terrorist organization. A raid was conducted by the FBI at his Olcott Street home in Lackawanna early Wednesday morning.
7 Eyewitness News in Buffalo was on the scene at the time of the raid. Our reporters saw six children leaving the home. It is unclear what, if anything, was found inside the home.
Nagi could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Lackawanna Police arrested Nagi in July 2013, on charges he threatened to kill his daughter. Police say a witness was with Nagi’s daughter when Nagi pulled up next to them and displayed a large knife.
Nagi’s daughter ran inside her home and called 911. The witness told police Nagi stated he was going to shoot and behead his daughter. Nagi was charged, but it's unclear what became of those charges.
The investigation into Nagi's alleged involvement with ISIL was long and methodical and lasted several months. It began when the FBI says a grand jury subpoena connected a Yahoo e-mail account to the Lackawanna address.
Nagi returned to the U.S. in September after being overseas for two months and the FBI says his phone number was the same as the phone number used for the Yahoo account.
The FBI says Nagi had traveled to Istanbul in Turkey in July 2014 and stayed for 10 days before traveling to Yemen in early August, where he apparently stayed until returning to the U.S.
Nagi was interviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and reportedly told agents that he had stayed at a Holiday Inn in Istanbul before visiting an uncle in Yemen. He said specifically that he does not support terrorist organizations.
But the FBI says they found a Twitter account where Nagi spoke of his support for those organizations, spoke to people in Turkey where he expressed support for those organizations, and performed web searches from his electronic devices in Turkey that would show his support for those organizations.
In November 2014, a judge authorized a search and seizure warrant for Nagi’s electronic devices. Once seized, investigators found a conversation from August 2013 between Nagi and an individual identified as “Nada” on his iPhone that referenced a trip Nagi took to Turkey in October 2012.
In that conversation, which investigators believe was with a cousin, Nagi said, “I’m good not worried I wanted help the Syrian people I feel for them walla my heart bleeds for them (…) Bad.”
Nagi had traveled to Turkey and stayed for one day in October 2012. The FBI says Nagi purchased a tactical vest, army combat shirt, body armor, Shahada Flag and combat boots before the trip.
Though he was booked for three months, according to conversations on his iPhone, Nagi cut the trip short after just one day due to a gallbladder infection.
The FBI says before and after the August 2013 conversation with his cousin, Nagi purchased several other military combat items, including night vision goggles, a hunting knife, and first aid kits, and items associated with ISIL, such as a seal and flags, before his July 2014 trip to Turkey.
He also allegedly posted several pro-ISIL tweets on his Twitter account. One message the FBI attributes to Nagi said, “I am Abu Amir al-Yemeni of the Quhayf tribe, and give my pledge to hear and obey Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”
Al-Baghdadi is the self-proclaimed Caliph of ISIL.
Other evidence the FBI says it found against Nagi included more Twitter postings, searches about crossing into Syria, as well as places to stay.
When he returned from his July 2014 trip, the FBI says he spoke to a person in December 2014 that they later interviewed. That person told the FBI that Nagi had told him/her that Nagi had pledged an oath to ISIL and agreed with their tactics of killing men, women and children, which was justified because the victims were not Muslim.
That same person told the FBI that in February 2015, he/she had a conversation with Nagi where Nagi had said the burning of a captured Jordanian pilot by ISIL was acceptable because “do to them as they do to you,” arguing that because the pilot would “drop bombs and burn people,” it is permissible to do the same to the pilot.
The FBI says the same person told them that Nagi told him/her he would be traveling to Turkey and then to Yemen again soon. Nagi also allegedly tried to recruit others to join him.
Nagi had a detention hearing in federal court Wednesday morning. The U.S. Attorney's Office argued he is a danger to the community and a flight risk. A judge agreed. Nagi will be held until at least his next hearing, which is scheduled for Friday.