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Flatbush man pleads guilty to trying to join ISIS

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A Flatbush man pleaded guilty to providing support to ISIS on Feb. 16.

Mohamed Rafik Naji, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support or resources to the terrorist group, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Naji sought to assist ISIS both before and after travelling to join the group in 2015 in Yemen, according to the office.

“Naji viewed and distributed ISIS propaganda before travelling from New York to Yemen in March 2015 in an effort to join ISIS,” the press release stated. “While in Yemen, Naji repeatedly tried to travel to areas controlled by ISIS.”

Prosecutors said Naji wrote in emails to his wife claiming to have almost died at the hands of armed groups, and sent her videos of fighting in Yemen.

“First day on the job. I think we’re taking fire,” he said in one of the videos over the sounds of automatic weapons.

Naji also sent his wife ISIS propaganda videos and declared allegiance to ISIS in an online conversation.

Naji returned to the U.S. in September of 2015, and discussed how to travel to then ISIS-controlled territory in Syria by way of Turkey, and also talked about the apparent ease of carrying out a truck attack in Times Square, according to prosecutors.

A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman said that Naji discussed the travel to the Syria and the Times Square attack with a “confidential source for law enforcement.”

In a press release in November of 2016 following Naji’s arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office described Naji as a legal permanent resident of the U.S., and said he started making pro-ISIS social media posts in December of 2014.

Naji faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison, according to the spokesman, but there is no date set for sentencing.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 5:48 pm, July 9, 2018
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