What to Know
- Mohamed Rafik Naji, 37, faces charges of providing material support for terrorism
- He allegedly traveled to Yemen in 2015 in an attempt to join ISIS, but returned after several months when he was unable to join
- The Yemen-born Brooklyn resident was arrested in his home borough
A Brooklyn community is in shock after one of their neighbors was arrested, accused of traveling to the Middle East in an attempt to join ISIS and talking about wanting to carry out an attack in Times Square.
Mohamed Rafik Naji, 37, a permanent U.S. citizen, faces charges of providing material support for terrorism, according to court documents and law enforcement officials.
The Yemen-born Brooklyn resident was arrested in his home borough early Monday morning.
Naji's neighbors, who live on a busy block near Clarendon Road and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, said Tuesday they were in shock.
Several said they used to see him on a regular basis, and never thought he'd be facing terrorism charges.
"It's too close to home. It's so scary, with the terrorist stuff, you can't go anywhere," said a neighbor named Mary.
Authorities said Naji wanted to drive a garbage truck into a crowd of people in Times Square. They said that the man allegedly traveled to Yemen in 2015 in an attempt to join ISIS, but returned after several months when he was unable to join the terrorist organization.
He later expressed support for ISIS after an attack in the French city of Nice killed 86 people and injured more than 400 others.
Court documents allege that he "expressed support for staging an attack in Times Square" during a conversation with an undercover FBI operative on July 19, four days after the attack in Nice. There was no indication that he ever did anything to carry out such an attack.
His attorney, Susan Kellman, said that Naji had "a legitimate purpose" for being in Yemen.
"I have no idea what my client said and what the confidential source said," she said."He had a legitimate purpose for being in Yemen. He has family there."
He's being held without bail.
Naji is the latest area resident to be arrested on charges related to supporting terror groups. At least a half-dozen other have been accused of supporting ISIS or attempting to join the group since mid-2015.