CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Ladson man who is accused of trying to join ISIS pleaded guilty in a downtown Charleston federal courtroom Wednesday morning, changing his previous plea of not guilty.
Zakaryia Abdin, 19, will be sentenced at a later date and faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the charge of trying to provide support to a terrorist organization.
He was arrested in March 2017 at the Charleston International Airport 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, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Crick said. The charge is based on Abdin's alleged attempt to travel overseas to join the terrorist organization, he said.
An affidavit unsealed Tuesday alleges Abdin sought help online from a person he thought was affiliated with ISIS, but was really an undercover FBI agent. Abdin told the agent he had pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014 and wanted help joining.
The 18-year-old told the agent he was "very close" to doing something similar to the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting and was willing to commit an attack on U.S. soil if needed.
According to the affidavit, Abdin started buying and selling guns at the beginning of the new year. He also practiced at shooting ranges, it says.
When he was 16, the man was convicted of planning to steal guns that would be used in an attack at a North Carolina military installation. He was sentenced to be behind bars until his 21st birthday, but was paroled.