The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that Aaron Travis Daniels, a 20-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).”
Daniels (pictured on the right*) was arrested on Nov. 7, 2016 at an airport in Columbus, Ohio before he could fly to Trinidad. His ultimate destination was to be Libya, where he hoped to join the Islamic State.
“Daniels admitted that he attempted to travel abroad to provide material support to ISIS,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente said in a statement. “Identifying, thwarting and holding accountable individuals who attempt to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations is a top priority of the Department of Justice.”
Daniels communicated with at least one significant Islamic State operative, according to the DOJ. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Ohio man allegedly communicated with an Islamic State ‘external attack planner’.]
Daniels was in contact with an Islamic State operative known as Abu Isa Al Amriki, who acted as a “recruiter and external attack planner.” According to the DOJ, Daniels said at one point that it was al Amriki who “suggested” he go to Libya “to support jihad.” Daniels also “wired money to an intermediary for Abu Isa Al Amriki.” When Daniels’ arrest was first announced last year, the DOJ specifically cited a sum of $250 he sent to an Islamic State “operative” in Jan. 2016.
Al Amriki and his wife, an Australian national known as Umm Isa Amriki, were killed in an airstrike near Al Bab, Syria on Apr. 22, 2016. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced their deaths in early May 2016, saying that Abu Isa al Amriki was a Sudanese national also known as Abu Sa’ad al Sudani. Al Amriki (Al Sudani) “was involved in planning attacks against the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom,” Cook said at the time. “Both al Sudani and his wife were active in recruiting foreign fighters in efforts to inspire attacks against Western interests.”
Indeed, al Amriki and other online recruiters for the Islamic State corresponded with a number of recruits in the US and throughout the West. In some cases, they sought to direct would-be jihadists to commit terrorist attacks inside their home countries. But in other cases, such as Daniels’, they recruited young men to wage jihad abroad. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security.]
Daniels (also known as Harun Muhammad and Abu Yusef) “faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison,” according to the DOJ.
Just weeks after Daniels’ arrest, the Islamic State lost its safe haven in Sirte, Libya to a coalition of local forces backed by the US and its Western allies. The self-declared caliphate referred to Sirte as one of its three most important capitals, almost on par with Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria. And Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s propagandists repeatedly called on the group’s supporters to travel to North Africa.