On Saturday, March 4, a man from Long Island was ordered to be held without bail after being accused by federal authorities of traveling to the Middle East twice in the last few years to try and join ISIS and its efforts to “wage violent jihad.” Then during a brief hearing Monday afternoon in Central Islip federal court the man was ordered by a federal magistrate to be detained permanently after new court papers allege he threatened to attack federal agents, behead his mother, and tried to use a knife to remove his tattoos.
According to federal officials, on Friday, March 3, Elvis Redzepagic, was arrested at his home in Commack, New York, on charges of attempting to provide terrorists with resources and material support.
A criminal complaint that was unsealed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Saturday revealed that the 26-year-old Redzepagic stands accused of trying to join the Islamic State or the Nusra Front in 2015 and 2016.
In a statement, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Robert L. Capers said, “This defendant made numerous attempts to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad. We will continue to track down and prosecute individuals like the defendant before they are able to become foreign fighters or harm the United States and its allies.”
Back in February, after being arrested on an unrelated offense in Suffolk County, Redzepagic first spoke to federal agents, according to the complaint. He told investigators from a joint terrorism task force during an interview that he became Muslim while he was in Montenegro.
The New York Times reports, “In 2015, the complaint said, Mr. Redzepagic began communicating with a cousin who he believed was a member of the Islamic State or the Nusra Front and the commander of a battalion in Syria. Mr. Redzepagic told the authorities that the cousin, who was not identified, instructed him to travel to Istanbul and contact him when he got there, according to the complaint.
Based on Mr. Redzepagic’s account and airline and customs records, the complaint said, the authorities determined that he had indeed traveled to Turkey that year, spending about seven days in Istanbul and making ‘several unsuccessful attempts to obtain help and cross the border into Syria.’”
According to the complaint Redzepagic told the authorities “he was prepared to strap a bomb on and sacrifice himself for jihad.”
The complaint also said that he told investigators that he didn’t want to hurt innocent people and that fighting in Syria was different from an act of domestic terrorism.
NYT reports, “After obtaining a search warrant, investigators searched a Facebook account used by Mr. Redzepagic where they found messages he had sent, including ‘I read a lot about jihad,’ and ‘since I got back from turkey from trying to perform Jihad and join Jabhat Al Nusra the cia has been bothering me,’ according to the complaint.
In August 2016, the complaint said, Mr. Redzepagic went to Jordan planning to enter Syria. But he was stopped by Jordanian officials and returned to the United States. Mr. Redzepagic told Customs and Border Protection officials who debriefed him when he returned that the purpose of his trip was to learn Arabic.Mildred M. Whalen, a lawyer for Mr. Redzepagic, said in an email that he had been ‘fully cooperative with law enforcement.’
Whalen said, “We will be working with his family in the hope that the court and the government will see that what he needs is counseling and support, not imprisonment.”
By Hannah Hayes