New York - Three men were arrested on Wednesday on charges of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group and wage war against the US, and federal officials said one of them spoke of attacking President Barack Obama or planting a bomb in Brooklyn.
The arrests come as US officials have expressed alarm at the idea that Americans could travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State or train there and return to the United States to carry out attacks against the homeland.
There have been more than 20 arrests in the US in the last year of people trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups.
On Wednesday, authorities said that Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul; Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month and was arrested in Brooklyn; and Abror Habibov, 30, accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov's efforts, was arrested in Florida.
Saidakhmetov is a Brooklyn resident and citizen of Kazakhstan. Juraboev and Habibov are residents of Brooklyn and citizens of Uzbekistan.
They are charged with attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organisation. If convicted, each faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Habibov appeared in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, and was appointed a public defender. It was unclear if the two other men had attorneys who could comment on the charges. They were scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn later on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors say Juraboev first came to the attention of law enforcement in August, when he posted on an Uzbek-language website that propagates the Islamic State ideology.
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"Greetings! We too want to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while not present there," he wrote, according to federal authorities. "Is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here?"
Officials said they believed he planned to travel from Turkey to Syria to join the terror group. Prosecutors say Saidakhmetov also threatened an attack in the US if he was unable to join the Islamic State. Juraboev's plans included attacks against Obama or planting a bomb on Brooklyn's Coney Island, officials said.
Federal officials say Juraboev identified Saidakhmetov as a friend and co-worker with a shared ideology. The two exchanged messages on how to get overseas, and Saidakhmetov and an informant watched videos of Islamic State training camps in Syria, according to court papers.
Habibov operates kiosks that repair phones and sell kitchenware in malls in Jacksonville, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Philadelphia. He employed Saidakhmetov last fall and winter and said he would help fund his travel, though he did not mention a specific sum of money, prosecutors said. The two were spotted in Brooklyn purchasing a ticket for Saidakhmetov to travel to Turkey, officials said.
The Islamic State group largely consists of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria but has also drawn fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe.