Federal authorities announced charges Monday against a Bangladeshian immigrant accused of plotting to kill U.S. troops in the name of an international terrorist organization.
The Department of Justice filed a federal criminal complaint against 24-year-old Nelash Mohamed Das, of Hyattsville, Maryland, in district court Saturday, charging him with “attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”
Federal agents apprehended Das outside a private residence in Maryland on Friday just moments before he planned to carry out an attack with the aid of an FBI informant he believed to be a like-minded supporter of ISIL.
“Our goal is to catch dangerous suspects before they strike, while respecting constitutional rights,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein for the District of Maryland in a statement released Monday. “That is what the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what we aim to deliver.”
Das became a legal permanent resident after immigrating to the United States in 1995 as a child. Authorities first learned of his radicalization via social media posts dating back to September 2015.
The complaint alleges Das routinely used Twitter over a year-long period to express support for ISIL, posting messages such as “sitting on Twitter is not enough I envy seeing brothers getting shahada n slaying kuffar while I’m at home not gettin any action.”
According to the complaint, shahada translates to “dying as a martyr” and kuffar is another word for “infidels” and “disbelievers” who do not support Das’s interpretation of Islam.
Das also tweeted identifying information about a man he knew wanted to join the military in hopes of inspiring other like-minded supporters to carry out an attack against him.
“Nelash Mohamed Das is alleged to have plotted to kill a U.S. service member on behalf of ISIL,” said Assistant Attorney for National Security John P. General Carlin. “Individuals intent on carrying out violence in the name of foreign terrorist organizations pose one of the most concerning threats that law enforcement faces today and stopping these offenders before they are able to act is our highest priority.”
In January, Das tweeted a photo of an AK-47 with the caption “This is more than just a gun. This is a ticket to Jannah.” Jannah, according to the complaint, is a term for the Islamic concept of paradise.
Authorities said Das completed a Handgun Qualification License class at a firing range in Prince George’s County, Maryland, on April 30. He told several classmates he planned to buy a Glock 9mm handgun and an AK-47 and returned to the same range over the next five months for target practice.
Das submitted fingerprints to the Maryland State Police in June for a handgun permit, though the complaint does not state whether his application was approved.
The FBI informant befriended Das in May and together the two searched online for military members to attack.
Das told the informant he was “100 percent committed” to attacking U.S. military personnel because “that’s like my goal in life.”
The informant also supplied Das with two firearms and on Sept. 28 drove him to a gun dealer in Virginia where Das bought one box each of 9mm and .40-caliber ammunition.
Two days later, the men drove to a fake address supplied by the FBI to attack a military member Das believed lived in the home in exchange for $80,000 from the informant’s ISIL contact.
“The danger posed by Mr. Das during this investigation was very real. He was committed to carrying out an attack against a military member,” said Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division. “Through our proactive investigative stance, we were able to ensure the citizens of Maryland were protected. The covert nature of the defendant’s alleged actions is a stark reminder of the challenges we face in preventing attacks, and underscores the critical need for those with knowledge about terror plots to come forward.”
Das, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.