Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Queens Man Repeatedly Tried to Fly to Middle East, Tweeted With ISIS: Feds

A New York man is facing terrorism charges after he allegedly tried multiple times to get on a plane to the Middle East to join ISIS and posted on Twitter that he was "ready to die for the Caliphate," according to federal authorities. 

Ali Saleh, 22, of Queens, was arrested Thursday at his home on charges that he provided material support to the terrorist organization, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. He appeared in federal court Thursday and ordered held without bail. He declined to speak or answer questions from the judge. 

Authorities allege Saleh contacted ISIS facilitators about joining the organization and tried several times to board planes to the Middle East between Aug. 2014 and September of this year. 

In his first attempt, authorities allege Saleh tried to get on a plane from John F. Kennedy International Airport for a flight to Istanbul, Turkey. A few days before the flight, authorities say, he allegedly tweeted "I'm ready to die for the Caliphate, prison is nothing."

ISIS, which is also sometimes refered to as ISIL or the Islamic State, declared last year that it was attempting to restore a Caliphate, an Islamic form of governance led by a religious leader known as a caliph. 

Saleh allegedly tried on several other occasions to make it to the Middle East, once tweeting with an ISIS facilitator before a scheduled flight to Cairo, Egypt. He traveled to Newark, Philadelphia and Cleveland in attempts to get out of the country, but wasn't allowed on planes or trains out of the country. 

U.S. attorneys say that Saleh indicated in an interview with authorities that he would have kept trying to get out of the country had he not been arrested.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said that Saleh was arrested thanks to the good work of the department and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

“By his own words, Ali Saleh was willing to pledge allegiance to, and die for ISIL, an organization that has called for terrorist attacks against the United States,” said Commissioner Bratton. “Saleh’s attempts to travel to Syria and ISIL’s battlefields were halted by good intelligence and smart law enforcement.

Saleh is the latest in a string of men and women to be accused of attempting to join or support ISIS. It's not clear if his attempt is tied to any of the other suspects. 

An attorney for Saleh only said after his court appearance, "I for one was thrilled that after all these months, he figured out that he should remain silent, which he did."

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