CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An 18-year-old Ladson man appeared in federal court Friday following his arrest on charges he intended to join ISIS.
Zakaryia Abdin was arrested at the Charleston International Airport Thursday night, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Crick. Abdin was arrested by special agents of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force before he boarded an outbound flight.
Abdin is accused of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a designated foreign terrorist organization, Crick said. The charge is based on Abdin's alleged attempt to travel overseas to join the terrorist organization, he said.
Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Abdin, whose family is from Syria, was charged in 2015 with being in possession of a firearm unlawfully.
He was 16 at the time he was charged in that incident, Brackett said. He said reports on his arrest in 2015 did not identify the teen because he was a juvenile.
The investigation revealed Abdin had been talking with a person in North Carolina and was planning to use one or two firearms to rob a gun shot to get larger weapons, Bracket said. Those larger weapons would then be used to attack a North Carolina military installation, investigators said, adding the pair planned to leave the United States and go to the Middle East and join ISIS.
Brackett said Abdin could not be charged with a federal crime in the 2015 case because of his age. But Brackett said his office worked closely with law enforcement to seek a strong sentence.
"In court, we explained to judge the gravity of the offense," Brackett said. "We were deeply concerned about the safety of the public if he got out."
Brackett said Abdin told the court he was troubled, that his father had died, and swore this was an isolated incident, adding he had just been confused. He promised they wouldn't hear from him again, Brackett said.
"Everybody hopes that people learn the error of their ways, you want to hope and believe it was a one-off, isolated incident, that he's moving on with his life, becoming a productive member of the community," Brackett said.
The judge sentenced Abdin to the maximum punishment, an indeterminate sentence that would keep him behind bars until his 21st birthday, Brackett said.
Abdin served time at the juvenile justice facility in Columbia but was paroled a few months ago, Brackett said. He said he and York Police Chief Andy Robinson had strong objections to Abdin's parole.
"Given nature of allegations and the incident here, and evidence I saw in 2015, I'm not terribly surprised. I always thought these beliefs were much more deeply rooted," Brackett said. "I'm grateful that the federal authorities were keeping close tabs on him and able to intervene before anyone got hurt."
Late Friday afternoon, Robinson said he was not upset, but only because no one was hurt.
I am disgruntled that the juvenile parole board would not heed our warning and that the federal government did not pursue terrorism-related charges when he was a juvenile, which forced us to charge him with a misdemeanor gun charge rather than with a more serious terrorism-related charge," Robinson said. "This is exactly why we have been pushing our state legislators to pass HB3208 and make it state law so this sort of thing doesn't happen again in the future, possibly with a much graver outcome. Just frustrating that we knew he was not reformed and that he would continue to pursue these sorts of activities."
United States Attorney Beth Drake for the District of South Carolina and Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord made the announcement.
This investigation is being handled by the FBI-JTTF. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Kittrell of the District of South Carolina and Trial Attorney Jennifer Burke of the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.