World / Crime & Legal

Chicago-area teen ordered held for trying to take siblings to join Islamic State


A federal judge on Monday ordered pre-trial detention for a Chicago-area 19-year-old accused of trying to fly with his two younger siblings to the Middle East to join the militant group Islamic State.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan of suburban Bolingbrook was arrested a month ago at O’Hare International Airport as he tried to board a plane to Turkey, and later charged with attempting to provide material support to a group the United States has designated a terrorist organization.

Federal prosecutors revealed for the first time at Khan’s detention hearing on Monday that he had tried to take with him his sister, then 17, and his 16-year-old brother.

All three left behind writings indicating they were trying to get to Syria to join Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which has killed thousands and beheaded a number of American and British captives while seizing parts of Syria and Iraq. U.S. forces began bombarding Islamic State targets in August.

Khan’s siblings, who were not named in court because they are minors, have not been charged, and after being interrogated at O’Hare were sent home to their parents.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Cox said Khan represented a flight risk and a danger to the community.

“He was prepared to abandon his family, home, citizenship and country. … I cannot believe his views have changed,” Cox said. “The commitment to jihad is expressed over and over again in his writings.”

Prosecutors said Khan raised money working at a big-box retailer to buy three tickets to Turkey, and obtained passports and visas for himself and his siblings.

Their parents knew nothing of the plan until the three were stopped at the airport.

All three siblings wrote of their religious obligation to participate in jihad and Khan expressed frustration he could not talk about it with adult Muslims.

“The men of my time are cowards.. When talk of Jihad comes up they lash out at me and they ridicule me. I will not give this up even if the entire world turns against me,” he wrote.

Khan’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, said his client was misguided and had been tricked by Islamic State’s slick Internet recruiting tools. He asked Cox to release Khan to live with his uncle under supervision, wear a monitoring device and receive counseling to “deprogram” him of his radical beliefs.

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