An Egyptian-born man now living in the United States received at least $8,700 from “Islamic State” (IS) operatives overseas and planned to use the money to launch a terrorist attack in the US, according to the US Department of Justice.
In a statement on Monday, the justice department said Mohamed El-Shinawy, who lives outside Baltimore in the state of Maryland, planned the attack as evidence of his loyalty to the terrorist group.
El-Shinawy, 30, who was born in Egypt, was arrested on 11 December on a federal criminal complaint charging him with “attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization; obstruction of agency proceedings; and making false statements and falsifying or concealing material facts”.
The case comes at a time of heightened concerns about domestic terrorist plots inside the US after the deadly attack this month in San Bernardino, California.
“According to the allegations in the complaint, El-Shinawy received money he believed was provided by ISIL in order to conduct an attack on US soil,” said US Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin.
After he was confronted by the FBI, El-Shinawy lied in order to conceal the steps he took to provide material support to the deadly foreign terrorist organisation, according to Carlin.
Initially, he claimed his mother had sent him the money to purchase an iPhone for a friend.
Later, he admitted that a childhood friend had contacted him a few months earlier to connect him, through social media, with an unidentified member of IS, according to the justice department’s statement.
He confirmed receiving a total of $4,000 in two payments from IS via Western Union and PayPal. El-Shinawy claimed, however, that he never intended to carry out an attack and was only trying to get money from IS.
“The affidavit alleges that Mr El-Shinawy initially told the FBI that he was defrauding the terrorists, but further investigation showed that Mr El-Shinawy was supporting the terrorists and misleading the FBI,” the justice department statement read.
The investigation began in June 2015, when US investigators identified a person they believed was wiring money to the US for “nefarious purposes”. Investigators claim that El-Shinawy received $1,000 from that foreign source in June, and they arrested El-Shinawy in July.
He appeared in court Monday, and did not contest his temporary jailing without bail. A lawyer representing him declined to comment on the charges.