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SC Man Determined to Join ISIS Gets 20 Years

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ISIS Halloween propaganda; inset: Zakaryia Abdin (Photo: mug shot)
ISIS Halloween propaganda; inset: Zakaryia Abdin (Photo: mug shot)

A young South Carolina man who was determined to join ISIS (Islamic State), was sentenced with 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervision.

Zakariya Abdin, 20, who is of Syrian heritage, first tried to join ISIS four years ago when he was just 16-years-old. At that time, he was arrested on a weapons charge after he was caught discussing a plan to attack military and civilian groups. Still in high schools, Abdin had an ISIS flag in his bedroom and declared he would kill anyone who interfered with his plans to join ISIS

Abdin was sentenced to juvenile detention with the possibility of remaining in detention through the age of 21. However in 2016, just one year later, Abdin declared a change of heart and asked to be paroled. Law enforcement officials warned that Abdin was still a threat to the public.

Nonetheless — much to the outrage of York County police — Abdin was granted parole.

“We tried to protect the people of this community, this state and America by arresting him and asking that he be kept in jail after he was convicted. We did the best we could,” said York Police Chief Andy Robinson in 2017.

Upon his release from juvenile detention, Abdin made a second attempt to join ISIS. In January of 2017, Abdin opened a social media account with the intent of using it to join the Islamic State.  During a visit to the FBI shortly thereafter, the FBI warned him about U.S. terrorism laws, specifying that it was illegal to give foreign terrorist organization material support. The agent also warned him of the agency’s role in counter-terrorism investigations.

Nonetheless, Abdin kept up his efforts, communicating with a man he thought was an ISIS member but was, in actuality, an undercover agent. During these communications, Abdin expressed his desire to be a martyr, adding that victims would “pay the price with their blood.”

In 2017, Abdin’s second attempt to join ISIS was promptly intercepted by the FBI at Charleston International Airport. He was arrested by the bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force prior to boarding a plane for Jordan.

“The parole board was deaf to public safety, when our officers told the board that this person was a threat to the United States of America,” said York Mayor Eddie Lee at the time of the second arrest.

In 2018, Abdin pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges. The charges were brought forward by federal prosecutors and court documents showed intent to provide material support to ISIS.

Abdin was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison time and a lifetime of supervision upon releaseuth Carolina’s York County Sheriff, Kevin Tolson along with other law enforcement officials.

“This is a person who has shown he is a threat to the public of York County, South Carolina and America,” South Carolina’s York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson added.

Abdin’s case is a strong lesson for parole boards making decisions against the recommendations of law enforcement officials. There are also other open questions in Abdin’s story, including what evidence or demonstrations Abdin gave to convince the parole board he had a change of heart.

Clearly, they were taken by a story Abdin gave them that wasn’t true.

 

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.