A Northern California man faces numerous decades in prison after agreeing to setting up social media accounts to support the Islamic State group, prosecutors said.
Amer Alhaggagi, 23, of Oakland, pleaded guilty in federal court early this year to attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, possession of device-making equipment and recognise theft, according to the U.S.
Attorney’s Office and FBI.A video gotten by the Bay Area’s KQED-TV shows Alhaggagi driving around the region with an undercover FBI agent while seeming to brag about his intentions to commit terrorism.
He says in the video “I’ve been so excited about it…(I’ve been) hyped up,”.
Alhaggagi allegedly told an FBI source that he wanted the terrorist threat in the U.S. to reach the level where “every American here thinks twice or three times before he leaves his home. Like, ‘is it necessary for me to leave right now?’”
Alhaggagi was detained in November 2016 for identity theft but later agreed to creating social media accounts for people he thought were ISIS supporters, San Francisco’s KPIX-TV reported.
Detention documents from December 2017 and quoted by the station shows Alhaggagi spent time in Yemen, where he allegedly met undercover agents “to plan a potential terrorist attack.”
Alhaggagi also allegedly applied to the Oakland Police Department with the mind to steal weapons and planned to bomb gay bars, plant bombs on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, and sell cocaine laced with poison, according to court documents cited by the Bay Area’s FOX 2.
He says at one point that “There are so many homeless people here that would do it for you, like for a dollar or something,”.
Alhaggagi’s lawyer and family maintains that he is a “sarcastic young man” who enjoys being provocative, but didn’t actually commit any crimes.
Alhaggagi’s family said in a statement “Amer did not commit or plan a violent act. He opened a small number of social media accounts for ISIS sympathizers, “He knows now that this was wrong and is sorry to have caused so much trouble. Amer has the support of his family and his community, who are committed to working with him and making sure that he will be well integrated into daily life when he is released from prison.”
But sarcastic or not, releasing plans to commit terrorist acts will have consequences, says security analyst Jeff Harp.
“You can’t do that. And if you do it in an undercover operation and you want to say that you’re going to harm the American people, the government is going to come after you for that.”
Alhagaggi was slated to appear in federal court in San Francisco at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. He faces up to 33 years in prison if he’s convicted.