A woman accused of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda was arrested Tuesday by federal agents in Sylvania, Ohio.
Alaa Mohd Abusaad was charged by criminal complaint in Birmingham, Alabama, with attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization, and aiding and abetting others, the U.S. Justice Department announced in a release.
Beginning in February 2018, while living in Birmingham, Abusaad made contact with an FBI undercover agent through a mobile-messaging app and instructed the agent on how to send money to al-Qaeda fighters in Syria, according to an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
Abusaad told the agent that money “is always needed. You can’t have a war without weapons. You can’t prepare a soldier without equipment.”
She also coached the undercover agent on how to send money in a manner that would avoid detection by law enforcement, including by using fake names and addresses when conducting electronic money transfers.
The undercover agent read the text messages prior to Abusaad deleting them, which stated that Abusaad’s contact could help with sending money to the mujahedeen fighters, and that sending money “is the same as doing jihad.”
Abusaad then introduced the agent to a financial facilitator who could route the agent’s money to “brothers that work with aq” (meaning al Qaeda).
In another chat session on March 12, according to the affidavit, Abusaid instructed the undercover agent as follows:
Okay. He can say where he wants it to go specifically. Like for instance if he wants it to be zakat money [a charitable contribution under Islamic law] it can go to the Widows’s ofmj. Or if he wants it could be for weapons. Bullets. Clothing … Or you can give it to the widow and orphans. Supporting a mujahids family is like taking part in jihad.”
In one of the more disturbing chat sessions, on April 5, the following conversation was captured in which an “Individual A” gave the undercover agent instructions, stating:
Name: MUSTAFA YELATAN Location: Istanbul, Turkey. Once u send it, send me the complete receipt.” The agent replied, ” … it’s not going to the groups killing innocent women and children … it’s going to the groups that are killing the kufar right?” INDIVIDUAL A replied, “Yes in sha Allah. Infact should try to give it specific to bros who go for the cause of fighting the clear enemies only.”
In the Islamic belief system, a “kufar” is any non-Muslim or “unbeliever.”
The Justice Department did not provide any information on Abusaad’s immigration status, or how she came to be living in the U.S. or in northern Ohio.
“We have nothing to add beyond what is contained within [the release],” said Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi in an email.
If convicted, Abusaad faces a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and up to a life term supervised release.
Investigation of the case was conducted by the FBI, including FBI offices in Birmingham, Cleveland and Toledo. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Henry Cornelius and Manu Balachandran, and Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.