COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina teenager pleaded guilty Wednesday to allegations that he tried to fight for the Islamic State group.
Zakaryia Abdin pleaded guilty during a hearing in Charleston to a charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, according to federal court documents. The charge carries a possible 20-year prison sentence.
Abdin, 19, was arrested at Charleston’s airport in March 2017 as he tried to board a plane for Jordan. According to authorities, he told an FBI agent posing as an Islamic State recruiter he wanted to torture an American, and would attack a U.S. site if he couldn’t get out of the country.
The teen has been monitored for years. At 16, authorities have said, he talked about robbing a gun store to get weapons to kill soldiers as revenge for American military action in the Middle East. He was arrested before any robbery took place and pleaded guilty. A parole board agreed to his early release after about a year in jail.
Abdin knew that authorities were still watching him, but apparently didn’t realize his “recruiter” was a federal agent.
“We are most likely to contact an undercover agent than a real brother,” Abdin told the undercover agent. “That is why I carry guns in my house, in my car and even I used to secretly take to school. It is very humiliating to be captured.”
According to an FBI statement released after Abdin’s indictment last year, he told the agent that if he did get to torture an American hostage, he wanted his face shown on video, saying, “I want to be the one to send the message because they know who I am.”
Abdin also sent a video of himself pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State in Arabic and told them he could do whatever was needed, according to the sworn statement. The FBI said he also practiced shooting several different guns during the first three months of 2017.
The FBI said Abdin knew agents would learn of his purchase and travel plans, and so tried to hide his tracks by contacting authorities to tell them he bought guns for hunting and would be traveling to the Middle East on a vacation. He also asked authorities for a meeting, where he told them he no longer held the extreme beliefs that led to his first arrest.