A 24-year-old Maryland man has been charged in a plot to attack a member of the U.S. military on behalf of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Prosecutors said Nelash Mohamed Das, a citizen of Bangladesh who came to the United States as a child two decades ago and lived in Hyattsville, spent months in late 2015 and early this year expressing his support for ISIS on social media.
Eventually, prosecutors said, Das met with a confidential FBI source whom he believed was a fellow ISIS sympathizer.
The two plotted an attack on a service member in Prince George's County, for which Das believed an ISIS contact in Iraq would pay them $80,000, prosecutors said.
In recent days, prosecutors said, Das and the FBI source purchased ammunition, and on Friday they packed up guns and drove together to the home of the military member, where Das believed they would conduct the attack.
Instead, Das was arrested by FBI agents, prosecutors said.
"Our goal is to catch dangerous suspects before they strike, while respecting constitutional rights," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "That is what the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what we aim to deliver."
Das was charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
"Nelash Mohamed Das is alleged to have plotted to kill a U.S. service member on behalf of ISIL," said John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State. "Individuals intent on carrying out violence in the name of foreign terrorist organizations pose one of the most concerning threats that law enforcement faces today, and stopping these offenders before they are able to act is our highest priority."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan ordered Das detained pending a detention hearing Thursday. Das did not have an attorney listed in online court records available Monday.
Das came to the United States in 1995 and is a legal permanent resident, prosecutors said.
Das used social media last year to express his support for ISIS, prosecutors said, "including support for terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California."
Das tweeted the name and hometown of the service member, prosecutors said, and said the service member "aspires to kill Muslims."
Prosecutors did not release the name of the service member.
Das tweeted a picture of an AK-47 assault rifle, prosecutors said, and wrote, "This is more than just a gun. This is a ticket to Jannah" — a reference, prosecutors said, to "the Islamic concept of paradise."
On Twitter, Das also expressed envy of people "slaying kuffar" — killing nonbelievers — and dying as religious martyrs, prosecutors said.
In April 2015, prosecutors said, Das began practicing firing weapons at a range in Prince George's County and submitted his fingerprints to obtain a handgun permit.
The FBI's confidential source first met with Das in May, prosecutors said. Over the next several months, they said, Das told the source that he knew and communicated with members of ISIS overseas, that he wanted to kill a service member in Prince George's County, that he could acquire weapons, that he wanted to travel overseas for ISIS, and that he was looking for additional targets to kill for the terrorist group.
During a meeting between the pair on Sept. 11, prosecutors said, "Das confirmed that he was committed '100 percent' to conducting an attack."
"'That's like my goal in life,'" he told the source, prosecutors said. And on Friday, prosecutors said, he sent the source a text: "I'm ready"
Before driving to the home of the intended target, prosecutors said, Das loaded ammunition into the magazine of one of two firearms that the FBI source had provided. The guns were not functional, prosecutors said, but Das believed they were.
Outside the target's home, prosecutors said, Das approached the trunk where the weapons were located, and FBI agents approached to arrest him. He ran, they said, but was quickly taken into custody.
Das is the second man in Maryland charged by federal prosecutors with providing material support to ISIS.
Mohamed Elshinawy, 30, of Edgewood is accused of receiving thousands of dollars from overseas that he believed was to fund a terror attack on American soil. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Elshinawy also faces decades in prison.