A Virginia Muslim man pleaded guilty this week to helping a friend who wanted to travel overseas and fight for ISIS – a scheme that included discussion of “chopping off heads” and warring against the U.S. military.
The case involved Mahmoud Elhassan, a taxi driver, and his friend Joseph Farrokh, both of Woodbridge, Virginia. In January, FBI officials secretly tracked Elhassan picking up Farrokh in his taxi, pulling over at a rest stop – where Farrokh shave off his beard – and then heading to the local Potomac Mills mall to pass the time. Several hours later, Elhassan called another taxi to shuttle Farrokh to the Richmond airport.
From the Washington Post:
“The shave and the second taxi were intended to help the pair avoid detection as Farrokh set out on his way to Syria to join the Islamic State. It was no use; the FBI had been watching the whole time, and an undercover informant was in on the plan. Farrokh was arrested as he walked toward his gate, Elhassan in the food court of Potomac Mills mall.”
Elhassan, 26, pleaded guilty just this week to trying to help a terrorist group, and to providing false statements to the FBI.
The Washington Post, once again:
“He admitted that he introduced Farrokh to the informant at Farrokh’s wedding last fall and spoke numerous times about ways to get to Syria. He also lied to investigators, claiming that his friend had flown out of Dulles International Airport to attend a funeral in California.
“He may yet go to trial on a charge of conspiracy to provide material support. He says that he himself never tried to go abroad.
“‘There’s an issue of whether this is more than an attempt’ to help the Islamic State, said Thomas Durkin, Elhassan’s attorney. …
“Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Fitzpatrick said in court that Elhassan and Farrokh, both of Woodbridge, engaged in conversations that were ‘violent in nature,’ discussing ‘chopping off heads’ and ‘fighting against the U.S. military.’”
Durkin, in court, tried to paint Elhassan in a sympathetic light.
The Washington Post reports:
“Durkin said there are personal details that put Elhassan’s actions in context.
“‘Preceding all this, he was under tremendous emotional and family problems,” Durkin said. “His mother had died at a young age, which was traumatic for him and his family.’”