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Mississippi Man Sentenced, Thanks FBI for Stopping Him From Joining ISIS

Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, a Mississippi honors student who pleaded guilty earlier this year to plotting to join ISIS, on Wednesday thanked the FBI for stopping him.

IMAGE: Muhammad Dakhlalla
Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla in an undated photo. WTVA-TV

Dakhlalla, 23, pleaded guilty in March to providing material support to terrorism. He and his former fiancée, Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, were arrested last year before they were to have boarded a flight from Mississippi with tickets for Istanbul, Turkey.

Prosecutors said they'd planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

Dakhlalla was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Oxford, Miss. Young pleaded guilty later in March and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Related: Mississippi Man Accused of Trying to Join ISIS Pleads Guilty

At his sentencing, Dakhlalla told Chief U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock that his views of ISIS had changed since he was arrested, NBC station WTVA of Tupelo reported.

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And he thanked the FBI's undercover agents for stopping him.

"If I did go, I would be dead by now," he said.

Jaelyn Delshaun Young
Jaelyn Delshaun Young in October 2012. Melanie Thortis / AP

Dakhlalla's father, Oda H. Dakhlalla, is a well-known Muslim cleric who frequently spoke at Friday prayer services at the Islamic Center of Mississippi in Starkville.

The younger Dakhlalla — who graduated from high school with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and with honors from Mississippi State University — claimed that he'd lived a sequestered life without a television. As a result, he told the judge, he'd heard little negative about ISIS while growing up.

Related: Mississippi Couple Charged With Trying to Join ISIS Denied Bail

Now, he said, he knows the terrorist group is "sick and twisted."

Dennis Harmon, a family friend, told reporters outside the courthouse that while "we understand ISIS to be the Ku Klux Klan of somebody in Islam," Muhammad "thought that they were one step further [ahead], but he was wrong."