— -- Federal officials today arrested an 18-year-old Indiana man who the FBI said had researched potential terrorist targets in his home state before attempting to make his way out of the country and eventually join ISIS in Libya.
Akram Musleh was intercepted by authorities at an Indianapolis Greyhound bus station this afternoon as he tried to board a bus to New York, according to a criminal complaint unsealed by the Department of Justice. From there, the complaint said Musleh planned to fly to Morocco and then make his way to ISIS fighters in Libya.
But before he attempted to leave the U.S., Musleh searched online for information about potential terror targets in Indiana, explosive materials and pressure cookers. An FBI agent followed him in early May to a local Walmart where the complaint says Musleh appeared to “shop for pressure cookers, but left without making a purchase.” Pressure cookers have been used to house explosive devices, such as the twin bombs that exploded during the Boston Marathon in April 2013.
The FBI apparently first came across Musleh back in August 2013 when he posted videos on YouTube of the late American al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a man who is thought to have at least partly inspired a growing number of homegrown jihadists. Officials at Musleh’s high school, “in coordination with the FBI, took steps to dissuade Musleh [from] engaging in radical extremism.”
Apparently, it didn’t take. In September 2014, Musleh purportedly bought a black flag often associated with ISIS online and a few months later posed for photos in front of it. In several online conversations apparently monitored by investigators, Musleh discusses with ISIS sympathizers -- and at least one FBI "confidential human source" -- his desire to join ISIS and in one part says he pledged his allegiance to the terror group, according to the complaint.
Musleh made his initial court appearance today and is being represented by a public defender, according to Tim Horty, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice. He is scheduled to be back in court on Monday and faces up to 20 years in prison, the DOJ said.