GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ) — The Maryland U.S. State’s Attorney’s Office has charged a man from Hyattsville with federal crime complaint in attempting to provide material support and resources to foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The U.S. State’s Attorney’s Office says 24-year-old Nelash Mohamed Das, a legal permanent resident originally from Bangladesh, was charged attempting to provide material support to ISIL in a plan to kill a U.S. military member. The FBI became aware of Das through his postings on social media, and had him connect with an undercover source, who Das believed was a fellow ISIL supporter.
“Mr. Das is suspected of having actually tried to identify US military members who he could attack here in Maryland, also that he traveled to Virginia to purchase ammunition to be used in the attack,” U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein tells WJZ.
In January 2016, Das is reported to have tweeted a picture of an AK-47 assault rifle along with the words “This is more than just a gun. This is a ticket to Jannah.” “Jannah” is a reference to the Islamic concept of paradise.
Das attended a Handgun Qualification License class and is reported to have practiced with firearms and submitted fingerprints to obtain a handgun permit.
In May 2016, the FBI connected with Das through an agent working undercover as a confidant. Das told the source about his plot to kill a member of the military who lived in Maryland. He also said he had interest in traveling overseas for ISIL and carrying out multiple killings, specifically on military officials.
In a meeting on September 11, 2016, Das confirmed that he was committed “100%” to conducting an attack and said “that’s like my goal in life.”
Finally, on September 30, Das, along with the undercover FBI source, went in a car loaded with weapons and ammunition to the false address of a supposed target, but was ambushed by authorities and taken into custody by FBI agents.
It can be hard for authorities to pin-point which alleged ISIL-supporters to target online, with an endless range of online threats from real to fake, and mediums, from Twitter, to Facebook and Youtube.
“This makes for a more complicated and challenging Homeland Security public safety environment,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
With others like Das lurking online, cybersecurity experts like Steve Taormino says “No longer are you looking for actions. But you’re looking for perceived actions.”
The FBI and cyber security experts have special software that can help them detect who to target for closer watch. “The software is actually created to do nothing but search for specific phrases that may lead to some type of terrorist act,” said Taormino.
Das faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Das had an appearance in federal court Monday afternoon, and was ordered to be detained pending a detention hearing, scheduled for this Thursday.