NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 10/26/2010 7:34:49 AM ET 2010-10-26T11:34:49

A New York-born man tried to join U.S. forces so he could desert and "wage war" against them for the Taliban or other radical groups abroad, according to the FBI.

Abdel Hamdeed Shehadeh, 21, who now lives in Hawaii, has been charged with lying to federal agents by denying that he wanted to do fighting against the U.S. military, NBC News reported.

The Justice Department disclosed late Monday that Shehadeh was arrested last Friday.

Court documents revealed that investigators were following him from the beginning and actually met with him several times to ask about his activities, NBC News said.

Because of that close scrutiny, Shehadeh was twice denied entry in 2008 to countries where, prosecutors say, he hoped to hook up with violent jihadi groups — once in Pakistan and a second time in Jordan, the news station reported.

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When he tried a third time, hoping to fly to Dubai and ultimately to Somalia in 2009, he was by then on the government's no-fly list and wasn't even allowed to board the first flight, NBC News said.

Investigators say Shehadeh set up several websites on which he linked to videos by Taliban leaders who advocated violent jihad, including former American cleric Anwar al-Alawki.

A criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn said that, in October 2006, Shehadeh went to Times Square to try to join the Army.

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It said when a recruiter asked him if he'd traveled overseas, he lied and said he'd only been to Israel.

'Untold numbers of casualties'
A judge ordered him on Monday to return from Honolulu to Brooklyn to face charges. It was unclear when he would appear in a New York court.

"As charged in the complaint, Shehadeh lied about the purpose of his travel to Pakistan, then he lied in his attempt to join the U.S. military, and lied about why he sought to enlist," Janice Fedarcyk, head of New York's FBI office, said in a statement.

"The real purpose, it is alleged, was not to join U.S. forces, but to wage war against them. Stopping one prospective terrorist can prevent untold numbers of casualties," Fedarcyk said.

A criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn said the FBI and the New York Police Department had been investigating Shehadeh "and several other individuals in connection with a plot to travel overseas and wage violent jihad against the United States and other coalition military forces."

The complaint alleged that Shehadeh caught the attention of U.S. authorities because he had bought a one-way ticket when traveling to Pakistan in June 2008.

Once he arrived there, Pakistani officials wouldn't allow him into the country and he returned to New York.

A follow-up investigation discovered his Internet postings and video promoting jihad, the complaint said.

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Shortly after asking about enlisting in October 2006, Shehadeh tried to fly from Newark, N.J., to Jordan, where he again was not allowed entry. Once he returned to the United States on a flight to Detroit, counterterrorism investigators confronted him about the his radical Internet writings.

Duty to fight jihad
The complaint said under questioning, he admitted that one of his websites was "designed to mirror and reformat the teachings of radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki" and "that in the past, he agreed with and sympathized with al-Qaida's violent jihad against the West."

The complaint also alleged Shehadeh attempted to recruit another person to join him to train in Pakistan immediately after the two discussed a sermon by al-Awlaki.

The complaint said Shedaheh insisted he tried to go to Pakistan for religious, not military, training.

But witnesses who knew him told investigators that he instructed them that it was the duty of Muslims to fight jihad — and that signing up in Times Square was the best way to achieve his goal.

Shehadeh "informed (one witness) that he hoped to be deployed to Iraq," the complaint said.

"At the time he was applying to join the military, Shehadeh told (the witness), when he arrived in Iraq, he intended to commit 'treason' and fight United States soldiers," it added. "(He) explained that joining the military was an easier way to join jihad because the military would provide him with training, transportation and a weapon."

The complaint said Shehadeh traveled to Hawaii in April 2009. There, he bought an airline ticket to Dubai in June, but was intercepted by FBI agents who told him he was on a "no fly" list.

In subsequent interviews, he allegedly admitted he had hoped to join the Taliban and receive "guerrilla warfare" and "bomb-making" training, the complaint said.

Shehadeh's attorney, Matthew Winter, didn't immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail requesting comment Monday.

NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Timeline: Domestic terror


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