FBI: Mississippi Teen Girl ISIS Wannabe Praised Chattanooga Shooting
Couple allegedly confessed to trying to travel to Syria to join ISIS.
— -- Before a 19-year-old girl from a small city in Mississippi was charged with attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS, the young woman allegedly praised the Chattanooga shooting, which claimed the lives of five American servicemen.
“What makes me feel bette[r] after just watching the news is that an akhi [brother] carried out an attack against US marines in TN! Alhamdulillah [Thanks be to God], the numbers of supporters are growing,” Starkville resident Jaelyn Delshaun Young told an undercover FBI agent in a conversation online on July 17, a day after the deadly shooting, according to the FBI. Four Marines were killed in the attack and a Navy sailor later died of his wounds.
Overnight authorities unsealed a criminal complaint against Young and 22-year-old Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, another Mississippi resident. The FBI says the couple planned for months to travel to Turkey in order to slip into Syria and join ISIS.
“The only thing keeping me away is $$$ but working all of this overtime will be worth [it] when I am finally there,” Young reportedly said online.
The Vicksburg Post described Young as a high school honors student and a member of the homecoming court just two years ago. She attended Mississippi State and originally planned to become a doctor, the paper said. The FBI said she expressed interest in “giving medical aid to the injury [sic]” once she got to Syria.
According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent, Young and Dakhlalla said they had an Islamic marriage for the purposes of traveling together to Syria. Initially, Dakhlalla allegedly said he wanted to use his computer science and media skills to help ISIS counter anti-ISIS messaging in the West, and then he would fight on ISIS’s behalf.
“I wish to be a mujahid akhi [holy warrior]. I am willing to fight. I want to be taught what it really means to have that heart in battle!” Dakhlalla allegedly told an undercover agent.
The couple appeared uninformed about many aspects of living under ISIS rule – they said they did not know much about Sharia [Islamic] law, and feared a test that was said to show if they were Sunni or not. ISIS follows an extreme version of Sunni Islam. Young also doubted Western media reports that ISIS uses sex slaves.
The FBI said authorities waited until the couple had their passports and plane tickets to Turkey before picking them up in a small Mississippi airport, where they allegedly confessed their plans. The couple has been formally charged with attempting to support a terrorist organization.
A federal magistrate judge today ordered the pair held without bail, pending a grand jury action on the charges against them, according to ABC News’ local affiliate WAPT.
Young’s parents did not immediately return requests for comment for this report. Public defenders assigned to each suspect were not made available for comment.
Crystal Worley, a college friend of Young, told ABC News she was shocked and didn’t imagine Young to be “that kind of person” reflected in the court documents.
Worley, who hasn’t spoken to Young in a few months, said Young came from a good family and was very sociable in college.
“It’s just so insane that this happened,” Worley said. “It’s just really disappointing... She is a kind, bubbly person.”
Dennis Harmon, a local attorney representing Dakhlallah’s family and who has known them since Muhammad Dakhlallah was a child, told ABC News Dakhlallah’s parents are “pretty shook up” over their son’s arrest.
“You know if you’ve been hit right between the eyes, you’re still shaking your head, trying to clear things up? That’s where they are right now,” Harmon said. The last the family knew, Dakhlallah was supposed to begin graduate school in psychology at Mississippi State on Monday, Harman said.
Oda Dakhlallah, Muhammad’s father, is a part-time imam at the local mosque in Starkville, but Harmon said he never preached anything close to extremist ideology and that Harmon used to eat dinner with the family from time to time.
“His father is somebody who teaches Islam as a religion of peace and that you treat Christians, like me and my wife, as the Koran teaches them that they’re people of the book, deserving of respect,” Harmon said. “I’m not too far from the family in being stunned by this.”
Harmon said the family is cooperating with investigators and that they trust the FBI to ferret out the facts of the case.
ABC News' Enjoli Francis contributed to this report.