New evidence entered in a terror-related hearing today provides unique insight into the minds of three teenagers -– including a 17-year-old girl –- as prosecutors say they decided to try to make their way to Syria where at least one meant to join a brutal terrorist group.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, appeared in a Chicago court today for a pretrial hearing in which it was revealed that when he was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare airport last month for allegedly trying to join the terror group ISIS, authorities also stopped his two younger siblings who were traveling with him.
Today the government entered into evidence writings from all three teenagers in which they attempt to explain their motives for leaving a “comfortable” life in the U.S. for one of jihad halfway around the world.
In a letter from Khan’s then 17-year-old sister to her parents, the girl says her decision to go is the “hardest thing [she’s] ever done.”
“The truth is Mama, I could not bear to live in that land [the U.S.], a land… who’s [sic] people mock my Allah,” the letter reads. “This world is a place of delusion. It fools you into thinking you can have happiness when in reality, it’s not true. The only place of true happiness is the hearafter… The future is really uncertain. By the time you are reading this, we could be captured, or stranded or possibly even killed.”
In another note, prosecutors say the 17-year-old wrote, “the men of my time are cowards like women, who only sit around and gossip like old lions.”
“When talk of jihad comes up… they say ‘the time has not come yet, our elders are not doing it, if the scholars have not said it, who are you to? It is pointless, Islam does not preach violence’ and so on,” the letter says. “My ears bleed with such talk...”
The sister, as well as Khan’s 16-year-old brother, were not identified because they are minors.
In Khan’s own letter, he says that since he is considered an adult, he must pay taxes which will “be used automatically to kill my Muslim brothers and sisters.”
“I simply cannot sit here and let my brothers and sisters get killed with my own hard earned money,” he writes, saying ISIS has established an Islamic caliphate and that he’s obligated to “migrate” there.
The other minor, Khan’s 16-year-old brother, makes similar points to his sister, saying the “evil of this country [the U.S.] makes me sick.”
All three start their letters to their parents by begging them not to call the police.
Khan was arrested at O’Hare Oct. 4 as authorities say he was making his way to the Middle East where he wanted to link up with ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The terror group has boasted of horrifying mass executions and the beheading of several Westerners. Khan was charged with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Federal officials allege Khan’s plan was to meet up with a contact in Turkey, whom he had met online, to facilitate travel into Syria or Iraq, where ISIS operates. Investigators say he worked a retail job to save up $2,600 for three tickets to Istanbul.
Khan’s attorney, Tom Durkin, said in court today that the prosecution’s argument was the “most absurd presentation I’ve ever heard in a courtroom” and likened the case the government is trying to make to one accusing his client of “thought crime.”
After the hearing, Durkin said his client was very devout and bought into some “slick advertising” by ISIS online. Still, he said there was no evidence any of the teenagers intended to do anyone harm.
“To start branding these kids as terrorists is very stupid, I think,” he said. “They’re Americans.”
At today’s hearing, a Chicago judge ordered Khan to be held in federal custody pending trial, as he was ruled to be a flight risk and a potential danger to the community. The unidentified minors have not been charged with any crime.