Men, suspected of being affiliated with the Islamic State group, gather in a prison cell in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh on Oct. 26, 2019. On Nov. 30, 2022, a Connecticut man, Ahmad Khalil Elshazly, 25, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to Islamic State terrorists in late 2019. Photo by Fadel Senna/ AFP via Getty Images.
A Connecticut man has confessed to trying to sail to the Middle East in late 2019 to join the Islamic State terrorist group.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, in Bridgeport, Ahmad Khalil Elshazly, 25, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to terrorists. No sentencing date has been listed in the federal docket, but the West Haven man faces up to 20 years behind bars.
“There is no higher priority than the security of our nation,” said US Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery in a prepared statement released in the wake of his courtroom plea. “My office works closely with our law enforcement partners to prevent and apprehend those who wish to cause violence and other harm, both in the US and abroad, before they are successful. Much of this vitally important work is done behind the scenes and without public recognition.”
Elshazly’s defense team did not return Coffee or Die Magazine requests for comment.
A rebel fighter aims his heavy machine gun mounted on the back of a pickup truck outside the Aleppo headquarters of Syria's Islamic State group on Jan. 8, 2014. Photo by Mohammed Wesam/AFP via Getty Images.
In a series of recorded interactions between Elshazly and confidential informants in 2019, he stated that “war has started and we are marching to it,” and vowed to burn the United States “the same way they burned Muslims! May they burn in fire at the end!”
“I want to go to the caliphate and kill there. I can kill maybe . . . like a hundred kaffir,” Elshazly said during one recorded session that touched on people who don’t believe in Islam. “I can kill them. A hundred kaffirs. If I do something here how many kaffirs could I kill? One, two, three and then I get shot and die. It is more benefitting if I go there, I could kill more and will get more faithful rewards.”
Elshazly often slept with a knife under his pillow, and told an informant “something might happen to me soon,” but he was “ready to die Insha’Allah.”
On Halloween in 2019, Elshazly repledged his life to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi , the terrorist leader of the Islamic State group. On the same day Elshazly pleaded guilty in federal court, Islamic State’s media wing confirmed the death of the terrorist mastermind in mid-October in Daraa, Syria.
A Syrian woman and children gather amid rubble in the northern Syrian city of Raqa, the former Syrian capital of the Islamic State group, on Aug. 11, 2021. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces overran Raqa in 2017, after years of what residents described as Islamic State's brutal rule, which included public beheading and crucifixions. Photo by Delil Souleiman/ AFP via Getty Images.
Elshazly entered FBI’s radar in late 2018, during a social media conversation with a confidential informant. In court documents, prosecutors revealed that agents convinced a second informant to make contact with Elshazly and hire him part-time for his delivery business.
He did, and later introduced Elshazly to a man he said was his cousin, a person known in court records only as ““Abu Ahmed.” In 2019, Elshazly began telling Abu Ahmed that he wanted to travel to Syria to help ISIS. Abu Ahmed dangled the possibility of Elshazly paying $500 to take a fishing boat to rendezvous with a Turkish container ship, and introduced him to “Abu Othman,” a man Elshazly believed belonged to an Islamic State cell.
On Dec. 15, 2019, Elshazly parked his 2002 Gray Honda Accord near the Stonington marina. Abu Othman drove him to the fishing piers, then pointed to a man on board a boat, saying he’d take him to the Turkish vessel.
It was a trap. The captain of the fishing boat was an FBI agent.
As Elshazly walked toward to the pier, authorities swarmed him, and he’s been incarcerated in Rhode Island’s Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility ever since.
An armed jihadist stands next to the wreckage of a Syrian government forces aircraft that was shot down by militants of the Islamic State group over the Syrian town of Raqa on September 16, 2014. STR/AFP via Getty Images.
On Elshazly’s cell phone, agents discovered hundreds of videos depicting violent terrorist propaganda, including footage of grotesque beheadings, the cold-blooded executions of ISIS prisoners, IED attacks on US and partner forces in Iraq, and even a demonstration on how to filet a human being.
In his bedroom, agents uncovered the knife Elshazly placed under his pillow at night.
Court records paint Elshazly as a slacker with a propensity for bloodshed, a young man who couldn’t keep a stable job, who never finished high school or completed his online equivalency courses —with one key exception.
He remained steadfastly committed to the Islamic State group, an unwavering devotion he held for nearly three years.
“Today, the diligent efforts of law enforcement has culminated in a guilty plea of a conspirator of potential terrorist crimes against the people of the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge David Sundberg of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in his prepared remarks. “Our top priority of the FBI remains the disruption of would-be terrorists and the havoc they attempt to cause here and abroad. Justice has been served.”
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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