A 34-year-old Chicago man was charged Friday with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State and encouraging terror attacks on social media, the Department of Justice announced.
Ashraf Al Safoo was arrested Wednesday in Chicago after his North Side home was raided by federal agents.
Al Safoo is a naturalized United States citizen of Iraqi descent, authorities said. Federal prosecutors say he used social media to spread ISIS propaganda “supporting violent jihad,” and to recruit and encourage others to carry out terrorist attacks.
“This charge demonstrates that in order to keep our communities safe, law enforcement will vigorously pursue those who provide material support – in whatever form – to designated foreign terrorist organizations,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John R. Lausch.
“At a time when the threat from internet-inspired terrorism remains high, we must be vigilant against those who disseminate on-line propaganda promoting violence in support of ISIS, like Ashraf Al Safoo is alleged to have conspired to have done,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.
According to the complaint, Al Safoo is a member of Khattab Media Foundation, an internet-based organization that has sworn an oath of allegiance to ISIS and created and disseminated ISIS propaganda online. Al Safoo and other members of Khattab have created and posted pro-ISIS videos, articles, essays and infographics across multiple social media platforms, at the direction and in coordination with ISIS, the complaint states. Much of the propaganda created and distributed by Khattab promotes violent jihad on behalf of ISIS and ISIS’s media office, the complaint states.
“Thus, it was incumbent on us to support them verbally and with money and soul and by inciting others to target the tyrants and expose the evil scholars and the Saudi rulers,” Al Safoo posted on social media last year, according to the complaint. “Brothers, roll up your sleeves! Cut video publications into small clips, take still shots, and post the hard work of your brothers in the apostate’s pages and sites. Participate in the war, and spread fear.”
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Federal prosecutors also said Al Safoo posted images of violence, celebrations of terrorist attacks and mass shootings in the U.S. and encouraged “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in western countries.
His social media accounts were frequently suspended and deleted due to the violent nature of their content, authorities said. The account were then distributed to other Khattab members to promote ISIS propaganda, authorities said.
Al Safoo has a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday.