The FBI took a New York resident into custody after the man's numerous recorded attempts to go into the Middle East and his broadcast interest for joining a terrorist group.
Ali Saleh, 22, was arrested by the FBI on Sept. 17 in Queens for attempting to provide resources, material support and his own services to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), a foreign terrorist organization.
Pieces of information and evidence confirming Saleh's motive, attempted travels and willful intent of joining ISIS were gathered from September 2014 to August 2015.
According to unsealed FBI documents, between mid-2013 and the present month, the 22-year-old has shown support for the terrorist organization through his Twitter account. The FBI also got hold of Saleh's attempted travel route to the Middle East within the same time period.
On Aug. 28, 2014, Saleh booked a flight from New York to Kiev, Ukraine, and another from Kiev to Istanbul, Turkey. The flight was supposed to depart on Sept. 12, 2014, but he was prevented from making the trip after his parents took his passport.
"Based on my knowledge, training and experience, Turkey is a common transit point to obtain entry into Syria," said Bret Luhmann, the FBI special agent in charge of the case. "Many of the citizens from Western countries who have travelled from the United States to Europe to join ISIL in Syria followed the route entering Turkey legally and then being smuggled by facilitators across the border into Syria."
Less than a year later, on July 24, 2015, Saleh attempted to once again travel to the Middle East by attempting to reserve a seat in a flight from JFK International Airport to Cairo, Egypt via Doha, Qatar.
Egypt is another common transit point for travelling to other locations within the Middle East.
Saleh dropped his plans of boarding the flight after getting interviewed by authorities at JFK. During the interview, Saleh stated that he planned to travel to the Middle East for a vacation, while not booking his return to the United States.
He then proceeded to the Liberty Airport in Newark, N.J., where he made inquiries and spent the night.
On July 26, 2015, he once again attempted to fly out of the United States to Doha, Qatar through a Qatar Airways flight in Philadelphia Airport. However, he was denied boarding and during an interview with agents later that day, Saleh stated that his true purpose is to join a militia and protect the Sunni people, from whom he traces his roots.
Saleh denied any intent of joining ISIS/ISIL but noted that he would continue his attempts of travelling to Yemen and his cause of helping his people, unless he is arrested.
He then made plans to travel to Toronto and, from there, book a flight to Yemen, but he was not granted access into Canada.
However, when presented with multiple accounts on which conversation with an ISIS facilitator were recorded, Saleh admitted they were his and that he was the one having an exchange of messages with the ISIS recruiter.
The accounts were traced and confirmed by cross-referencing the IP address and emails, on which he used his name and birthday. The same email was listed during his attempts to book a flight.
Contrary to most reports, the FBI noted it was Saleh's attempted travels and private messages with an ISIS recruiter that are the basis for his arrest, not his public support for ISIS through Twitter posts.