American IS supporter imprisoned for 22 years

  • 18/03/2016
Mufid Elfgeeh (Reuters)
Mufid Elfgeeh (Reuters)

A New York state resident has been sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison for trying to recruit fighters to join Islamic State in Syria -- the longest prison term handed out yet to an American convicted of supporting the militant group.

Mufid Elfgeeh, 32, of Rochester, was sentenced by US District Judge Elizabeth Wolford of the Western District of New York.

The district's US attorney, William Hochul, called Elfgeeh "one of the first ISIL recruiters ever captured", using another acronym for the militant group.

A North Carolina federal judge last May issued the second-longest sentence for IS-related activity -- 20 years and three months in prison -- to Donald Ray Morgan, 44, for trying to provide material support to IS and for unlawfully possessing a firearm.

A Reuters analysis, confirmed by the US Department of Justice, found they were the two stiffest such sentences yet issued.

Convictions for IS-related activity by Americans have become more frequent in recent months as more than 80 such cases brought by US prosecutors since 2013 work their way through federal courts.

An Arizona man was found guilty of plotting with others to attack a "Draw Mohammed" cartoon contest in Texas last year and providing material support to IS, prosecutors said.

Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, 44, was convicted on all five charges against him by a federal jury in US District Court in Phoenix stemming from the May 3 attack in the Dallas suburb of Garland, that left his two alleged associates dead in a shoot-out with police.

The case against Kareem, also known as Decarus Thomas, was the first IS-related prosecution to reach trial of the dozens brought by the federal government across the US.

It is the second jury verdict in such a case, as US Air Force veteran Tairod Pugh was convicted earlier this month in New York.

Meanwhile two men in unrelated cases in Mississippi and Ohio pleaded guilty to trying to join or convince others to join IS. They have not yet been sentenced.

Although Elfgeeh pleaded guilty in December only to trying to recruit two individuals to join IS, he was also originally charged with trying to kill US service members and unlawfully possessing firearms and silencers.

Elfgeeh tried to send the two individuals to Syria to fight on behalf of IS, buying them a laptop computer, a high-definition camera, an expedited passport and other travel documents, according to his plea agreement.

He used Facebook and WhatsApp to activate a network of IS sympathisers in Turkey, Syria and Yemen who could facilitate their trip, the plea agreement said.

During the same months, Elfgeeh also helped the alleged commander of a Syrian rebel battalion contact IS leadership so that the battalion could join the larger group, prosecutors said.