The U.S. Department of Justice announced this afternoon that 42-year-old Arizona resident Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal has been charged with four counts of “planning and perpetrating a federal crime of terrorism against the United States.”
From 2014 through August 2015, El Gammal, who went by Jammie Gammal, “did knowingly and intentionally provide, and did attempt to provide, ‘material support or resources’ . . . to a foreign terrorist organization,” states the official grand jury indictment.
Most details of El Gammal’s case remain unknown or classified in court documents, but a DOJ statement shows that Gammal was arrested on August 24 in Avondale and is charged for his alleged role in helping a 24-year-old college student — called only Co-Conspirator-1 in court documents — travel to Syria and obtain military training from the Islamic State.
“Individuals like Gammal who allegedly serve as facilitators for ISIL fuel the hatred and radicalization that keep terrorist organizations like ISIL alive,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said as he announced the indictment. The Islamic State, also referred to as ISIS, has been a designated terrorist organization since 2004.
As far as the intelligence community knows, CC-1 first contacted El Gammal in August 2014 after seeing a pro-ISIS post on social media, and the two corresponded regularly via the Internet. About two months after connecting, El Gammal flew to New York City to help CC-1 get in touch with another Islamic State sympathizer — called CC-2 in court documents — living in Turkey.
CC-2 called himself "a friend of Gammal’s” and offered to help the young student get to the Middle East for military training. The two began corresponding regularly on their own, and in January 2015, CC-1 flew to Istanbul from New York. Shortly thereafter, and still in touch with El Gammal, he flew to Syria.
It’s unclear from the documents released Thursday how frequently the young man communicated with El Gammal while in Syria, but national security agencies apparently intercepted a message CC-1 sent on May 7 letting El Gammal know that “everything [was] going according to plan.”
Exact details about when El Gammal or either of the co-conspirators first showed up on the intelligence community’s radar are unknown at this time, but the investigation that culminated in El Gammal’s arrest included “detectives and agents” from the Manhattan-based Joint Terrorism Task force, the FBI, local police forces, and other law enforcement or security agencies around the globe.
“This investigation demonstrates how easily people can support a terrorist organization without ever meeting [members] from the anonymity of their own computer [by hiding] behind obscure social media accounts and the veil of the Internet,” said New York City Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton in statement.
“This is another example of how social media is utilized for nefarious and criminal purposes around the world,” added Diego G. Rodriguez of the FBI. “The identification of the conspiracy…demonstrate how federal and local law enforcement continue to work together to mitigate such threats globally and protect the United States.”
El Gammal was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brendan F. Quigley, Negar Tekeei, and Andrea L. Surratt with assistance from trial attorney Ranganath Manthripragada of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.