Two California men convicted of plotting to support Islamic State

Isis and the Internet
Isis and the Internet

LOS ANGELES, June 21 (Reuters) - Two men from Anaheim, California, were found guilty on Tuesday of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants, one of them going so far as to attempt to travel to the Middle East to join the extremist group, federal prosecutors said.

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A U.S. District Court jury in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, returned the guilty verdicts against Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi, both 25, after deliberating for just over an hour, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The decision caps a two-week trial.

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In addition to convictions on charges of plotting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, Elhuzayel was found guilty of actually attempting to provide such support and Badawi was found guilty of aiding and abetting those attempts.

Those counts stem from aborted arrangements the two men made for Elhuzayel to travel to Syria, where he intended to enlist as a fighter for Islamic State, prosecutors said.

Moreover, the jury convicted Elhuzayel on 26 counts of bank fraud, and Badawi on a single count of financial aid fraud in connection with their conspiracy, according to U.S. Attorney's Office statement.

Both men were arrested on May 21, 2015, when Elhuzayel tried to board a Turkish Airlines plane at Los Angeles International Airport for a flight to Turkey, from which point he planned to make his way to the Syrian border, prosecutors said.

Elhuzayel's one-way plane ticket, for a flight to Israel that included a layover stop in Istanbul, had been purchased by Badawi, authorities said.

Weeks before, according to prosecutors, Elhuzayel had tweeted his support for two gunmen who had attacked an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Garland, Texas, and were shot to death by police.

According to court documents, Elhuzayel previously appeared in a video swearing allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and pledging to join the militant group as a fighter.

Prosecutors said Badawi and Elhuzayel also used social media to express their support for Islamic State. In recorded conversations they "discussed how it would be a blessing to fight for the cause of Allah, and to die in the battlefield," according to the U.S. attorney statement.

Sentencing was set for September. Elhuzayel faces up to 30 years in prison on each bank fraud count, Badawi up to five years for financial aid fraud. Both men face up to 15 years on each charge related to material support for terrorists. (Editing by Dan Grebler and Matthew Lewis)