Illinois teen arrested for attempting to join ISIS


Illinois teenager arrested at O’Hare for attempting to join ISIS. Photo Courtesy: Christina Miller

Arim Lee, Contributing Writer

A 19-year-old man from Bolingbrook was arrested Saturday Oct. 4 at O’Hare Airport for attempting to travel overseas to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Mohammed Hamzah Khan was charged on Monday for attempting to assist a foreign terrorist organization operating inside Iraq and Syria. His plan was to take by connecting flights from Vienna to Turkey, and a contact would meet him to bring him across the Syrian border.

As he was detained at the airport, FBI agents searched his house and found handwritten documents that revealed his support for ISIS. One of the drawings was an armed soldier with the Islamic State flag with Arabic words written on it that says, “Come to Jihad.” Jihad means a great struggle or strive for self-improvement for Muslims.

The agents also found a letter that Khan wrote to his family that explains his obligation to support ISIS.

“We are all witness that the western societies are getting more immoral day by day,” Khan wrote. “I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this…”

Khan continued recording explanations for his choice to join ISIS. He stated his taxes were being used to kill his “Muslim brothers and sisters” and extended an invitation to his family to join him when he arrived at the Islamic State.

At a brief federal hearing on Monday, Khan said he understood the charges and possible penalties. Information has not been given about why Khan was stopped at customs and his parents did not comment at the hearing. Khan could face a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Sophomore Priyal Gosar is concerned about terrorist activity around the Illinois area.

“I’m alarmed that there are potential terrorists around me,” Gosar said. “It makes me question my safety here.”

U.S. National security and counterterrorism officials have announced concern over radicalized Americans supporting and traveling overseas to ISIS. There have been 12 American citizens that have joined the terrorist organization and more than 100 have tried to go to Syria and were either arrested or went overseas and came back to the US.

Social Studies teacher Martin Zacharia is worried that the rapid development of ISIS could be difficult to stop.

“The number of Americans in Syria is quite small compared with the population in America but it is frightening to know even a small amount is over there,” Zacharia said. “I know that America is sending air forces to attack, but it is alarming to know this organization escalated so fast.”