Inside the ISIS Case That Ensnared 5 Friends
They appeared to be a tight circle of friends. There was Nader Saadeh, a 20-year-old New Jersey man who federal prosecutors say began trolling the internet for jihadist websites before leaving for Jordan in an apparent effort to join ISIS. His older brother, Alaa Saadeh, 23, told a friend to lie if the FBI came knocking. Samuel Topaz, a talented musician and classmate of Nader Saadeh at Fort Lee High School, was converted by him to Islam. He posted “selfies” on Facebook wearing the dark head and face scarves favored by Islamic State fighters. According to court filings, they were captioned: “Which assassin am I, or am I all of them?” Munther Omar Saleh, 20, was studying electrical circuitry at an aeronautical engineering college in Queens and also knew Nader Saadeh. After Saleh allegedly tweeted support for the gunmen who attacked the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, authorities believe he began scouting out New York City landmarks and tourist sites. They said he was planning on assembling a deadly pressure cooker bomb. And Fareed Mumuni, 21, who was close to Saleh, had been described by neighbors as a quiet, friendly guy who “never talked about politics or anything,” before he came at federal agents with a kitchen carving knife when they showed up to arrest him. Lawyers and friends were reluctant to say much, or anything at all. But their story as seen through a series of criminal complaints, following a year-long FBI/Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation that spanned two states, offers a unique view into the lives of five young men who grew up in the United States. Living typical American lives, attending school, enjoying music, playing sports, still all felt the pull to join the cause of the militant Islamic State. From New Jersey to California, federal authorities have charged 58 people in the past year alleging support or ties to ISIS. Most have been US citizens in their early 20s. They have included married women, jobless teenagers, military veterans and converts. At least three of those charged successfully made it to Syria. And as with the case of the five friends now charged in federal court in Brooklyn and in Newark, many may not even show up on the radar screen until worried friends or relatives make a call.