National Guardsman, Cousin Arrested For Trying To Join Islamic State

Mar 26, 2015
Originally published on March 30, 2015 1:01 pm

An Illinois National Guardsman and his cousin were arrested for allegedly conspiring to provide support to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. One of the men wanted to go to Syria to martyr himself, and the other planned to carry out an attack on a nearby military base in northern Illinois.

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There's been another arrest in the U.S. linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. The case involves a member of the Illinois National Guard and his cousin. According to a criminal complaint, one of the men wanted to go to Syria to become a martyr for ISIS. The other allegedly planned to carry out attacks here in the U.S. NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston joins me now. And Dina, what can you tell us about these two men?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, the FBI arrested National Guard Army specialist Hasan Edmonds at Midway Airport in Chicago yesterday. Officials say he was trying to fly to Egypt to join ISIS in Syria or Iraq and his cousin, Jonas Edmonds, was arrested at his home in Aurora, Ill., which is just outside of Chicago. What makes this case troubling is that this was a member of the National Guard caught trying to fly overseas to join ISIS. And his cousin allegedly was going to stay behind and conduct attacks against military installations near Chicago.

SIEGEL: And how did these two men come to the attention of U.S. law enforcement?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, Hasan Edmonds, the 22-year-old National Guardsman, first came onto the FBI's radar screen late last year. Allegedly, he'd been watching ISIS videos online and according to the criminal complaint, the FBI had an undercover agent send Edmonds a friend request over Facebook. He responded to it and they struck up a correspondence. In one message, Edmonds allegedly wrote that now that the state - meaning the ISIS caliphate - had been established, that it was the duty of Muslims to heed that call. He said he had spent three years in the Army. He called it a non-believer's army and he said he had no intention of finishing the three more years he was supposed to serve.

SIEGEL: This is Hasan Edmonds, the one who's a member of the Illinois National Guard. How did his cousin get involved and what does the government say he did?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, Hasan Edmonds allegedly said in these emails to the undercover agent that his cousin had first brought ISIS to his attention and that they both wanted to go to Syria, and in fact, his cousin wanted to bring his wife and five children with them but he said he couldn't really afford it. And that cousin, Jonas Edmonds, also had a felony conviction in Georgia, which made it a little bit more difficult for him to get a passport. So he allegedly wrote to the FBI informant that if he could not go to Syria he wanted to attack here.

SIEGEL: Is there a sense that he actually could've done that?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes, exactly because of the National Guard connection that he had. I mean, they allegedly decided that the cousin would use Hasan Edmonds's military uniform to get on a local military base and attack. And they said they'd use AK-47s and grenades, and according to the charging documents, they talked about a body count as high as 150. So if that's true, that raises the level of this case from someone who just wanted to go to Syria to someone who, with a gun, could realistically attack here. I mean, the worst terrorist case we've had in the U.S. since 9/11 was the Fort Hood, Texas shootings in 2009 and that was when a U.S. Army major named Nidal Hasan opened fire in a readiness center at Fort Hood and killed 13 people and wounded 29 others. So, that's why this was of concern.

SIEGEL: Dina, this of course is what the government alleges. Has there been any comment from any lawyer for either of these men, either acknowledging or denying these charges?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Not yet. They were scheduled to be in court but there has not been any sort of plea entered.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you very much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.