GREENBELT, Md. (Oct. 03, 2016)—Nelash Mohamed Das, age 24, a citizen of Bangladesh residing in Hyattsville, Maryland, has been charged by federal criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a foreign terrorist organization, in connection with a plan to attack a U.S. military member. Das had an initial appearance at 2:00 p.m. today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan. Das was ordered to be detained pending a detention hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday, October 6, 2016, at 3:15 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Sullivan in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. The complaint was filed on October 1, 2016.
The charges were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; and Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
"Our goal is to catch dangerous suspects before they strike, while respecting constitutional rights," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "That is what the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what we aim to deliver."
"The danger posed by Mr. Das during this investigation was very real. He was committed to carrying out an attack against a military member," said Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI's Baltimore Division. "Through our proactive investigative stance, we were able to ensure the citizens of Maryland were protected. The covert nature of the defendant's alleged actions is a stark reminder of the challenges we face in preventing attacks, and underscores the critical need for those with knowledge about terror plots to come forward."
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Das was admitted to the United States in 1995 and is a legal permanent resident.
The affidavit alleges that from September 28, 2015 to early 2016, Das used social media to express his support for ISIL, including support for terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California.
On October 26, 2015, Das tweeted the name of an individual and the city where they lived, stating that the individual "aspires to kill Muslims." Das knew that the individual hoped to become a member of the U.S. military. ISIL members and supporters have posted identifying information about United States military personnel in hopes that those inspired by ISIL would carry out attacks against them. The affidavit alleges that Das was advertising the individual's identity and whereabouts in order to inspire violence against that individual.
On January 30, 2016, Das tweeted a picture of an AK-47 assault rifle along with the text, "This is more than just a gun. This is a ticket to Jannah." "Jannah" is a reference to the Islamic concept of paradise.
According to the affidavit, on April 30, 2016, Das attended the Handgun Qualification License class at a firing range in Prince George's County, Maryland. After the class, Das told another individual that he wanted to buy a Glock 9mm handgun and an AK-47. Over the next five months, Das returned to the firing range to practice firing weapons, and submitted his fingerprints to obtain a handgun permit.
During May 2016, DAS met a confidential source working for the FBI. Das believed the source to be a like-minded supporter of ISIL. On May 24, 2016, Das told the source that he knew people overseas in Al Dawla (a common name for ISIL), and communicated with the Al Dawla members through online communications.
On July 23, 2016, Das told the source that he wanted to kill a particular military member who lived in Prince George's County, Maryland, and whose identifying information Das had obtained the prior year from a list posted online by ISIL. Das stated that he could acquire a firearm from an individual he knows and stated his desire to travel overseas for ISIL if he had the opportunity. On July 30, 2016, Das advised the source that he could no longer find the ISIL list from the year before and asked the source if he had any ISIL contacts who could re-send the list.
According to the affidavit, on August 19, 2016, even though Das had stated that he could acquire a firearm, the confidential source told Das that he could acquire weapons for both of them. In subsequent meetings with the confidential source, Das continued to state that he was looking for names of targets for them to kill. In a meeting on September 11, 2016, Das confirmed that he was committed "100%" to conducting an attack and, "That's like my goal in life." In a meeting the following day Das stated that he wanted to get paid by ISIL for future killings, but would do it for free as well. Das further confirmed that he specifically wanted to target United States military personnel.
On September 28, 2016, Das and the source drove from Maryland to a firearms store in Virginia, where Das purchased one box (50 rounds) of 9mm ammunition and one box (50 rounds) of .40 caliber ammunition. At Das' request, that same day, the confidential source provided Das with the identifying information of a target, who the source claimed was a member of the U.S. military. The confidential source told Das he received the information from an ISIL contact in Iraq. In reality, the source provided false information on behalf of the FBI. Based on discussions with the source, Das also believed that the ISIL contact in Iraq would facilitate the payment of approximately $80,000 in exchange for Das and the source conducting the attack. After purchasing the ammunition, Das and the source traveled from the Virginia firearms store to the Maryland address of the target in order to conduct surveillance.
The affidavit alleges that on September 30, 2016, while the confidential source was en route to pick up Das so they could conduct the attack, Das sent a text to the source that stated, "I'm ready." When the confidential source arrived at the residence, Das loaded ammunition into the magazine of one of the two firearms previously acquired by the confidential source, with DAS's knowledge and support. Das inserted the magazine into the firearm and loaded a bullet in the chamber. The firearms were then placed into the trunk of the vehicle. Although Das believed that the firearms could fire ammunition; in reality, they had been rendered inert by the FBI. Das and the source then traveled to the address of the target, where Das exited the vehicle and approached the trunk, where the firearms were located. When Das was standing next to the trunk, FBI agents approached and Das ran away. Das was taken into custody by FBI agents a short distance away from the vehicle.
Das faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force for its work in the investigation Mr. Rosenstein thanked his office's national security prosecutors that are handling the matter, and recognized the Justice Department's National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section, for its support.