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Former Gainesville resident arrested for his connection to ISIS

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 3:14 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - A former Gainesville resident is back in the United States and is facing terrorism charges. He was arrested overseas on Friday and arrived in North-Central Florida early Sunday morning.

Mohamed Fathy Suliman is charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support, including personnel (himself) and services, to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Suliman made his first appearance in front of Judge Gary Jones at the Federal Court in Gainesville. He remains in custody as Prosecutors with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida expressed concerns during his first appearance that he is a flight risk and danger to the community. He was shuttled into and out of court in an unmarked van.

According to officials, the 33-year-old left Gainesville, traveled to Turkey, and attempted to enter Syria illegally in 2014 in order to join and support ISIS.

“This arrest resulted from years of work and coordination by our prosecutors and FBI agents from the Jacksonville Field Office,” said U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe. “Terrorists and would-be terrorists need to understand that no resource will be spared when it comes to protecting U.S. citizens and prosecuting those who seek to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

The criminal complaint states that Suliman had a one-way flight reservation from Orlando, Fla., to Egypt in June 2014. However, during his stop in Turkey, instead of traveling to Egypt, he paid cash for a one-way ticket to the Turkish/Syrian border town of Gaziantep, Turkey.

Turkish authorities arrested him for illegally crossing into Syria from Turkey. When questioned about his travel to Syria, he said he wanted to see what life and war were like there. On the day of his arrest in 2014, the complaint explains he received an email from a relative stating they “could not believe how his mind worked, to leave his wife and mother.”

In a 2018 interview with the FBI, he admitted to purchasing a ticket to Egypt to disguise his travel plans from families and friends.

“This case illustrates the FBI’s steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from threats posed by violent terrorist organizations and those who attempt to provide them with material support,” said Rachel L. Rojas, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “The FBI Jacksonville Joint Terrorism Task Force will never waiver in our efforts to identify and bring to justice those who threaten our national security by assisting foreign terrorist organizations and promoting violent extremism.”

Suliman’s email account revealed 36 email attachments “that contained various audio files that consisted of messages calling for jihad, justifications for jihad, rewards for those who participate in jihad and martyrdom, and that encouraged fighting against the crusaders, infidels (non-Muslims), and those that insult the Prophet, Muhammad.”

Suliman told Judge Jones that his family is attempting to hire a private attorney. In the meantime, he was appointed a Federal Public Defender.

His next appearance will be at the Federal Court in Gainesville on Monday, Feb. 8, at 2:00 PM. It will be a Preliminary Hearing as well as a Detention Hearing. Suliman will also be required to tell the court know if he hired a private attorney.

If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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