On Thursday, Basit Javed Sheikh, 39, of Cary, North Carolina, was sentenced to 84 months imprisonment followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Sheikh was sentenced for attempting to provide material support and resources to Jabhat al-Nusrah, which the United States Secretary of State has identified as an alias name for al-Qa’ida in Iraq, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Sheikh pleaded guilty to the charge on August 22, 2018. When pleading guilty Sheikh acknowledged that, since he is not a natural born citizen of the United States, he faces possible automatic removal from the United States.
Sheikh was initially charged by criminal complaint, and subsequently by Criminal Indictment filed November 5, 2013. At the time of indictment, Sheikh was a 34 year-old from Pakistan who had been living for years in the United States as a legal permanent resident. The affidavit to the complaint describes multiple Facebook postings by Sheikh occurring in 2013 and expressing support for Jahbat al-Nusrah. Sheikh posted articles acknowledging that Jahbat al-Nusrah had been designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
As detailed within the affidavit, Sheikh utilized Facebook to propagate the violent ideology of Islamic Extremism. In mid-2013, Sheikh sought out a relationship with an individual online whom he believed could assist him in traveling to Syria in support of violent jihad. This individual informed Sheikh of another person described as a member of Jabhat al-Nusrah able to assist Sheikh. In reality, both of these individuals were working with and for the FBI. Sheikh reached out to the individual he believed to be a Jabhat al-Nusrah member and expressed his desire to travel to Syria in order to “help the mujahideen…in any way I can.” When asked how he wanted to help, Sheikh responded “logistics, media, fight too, God willing.” Despite the FBI covert employee stating to Sheikh that fighting was not for everyone, Sheikh replied that that he was “serious” and that he was ready to be a martyr.
Believing that the FBI covert employee would be able to assist in smuggling him from Lebanon into Syria, Sheikh purchased a one-way ticket with a final destination of Lebanon and a departure from Raleigh-Durham Airport on November 2, 2013. On that date, Sheikh traveled to Raleigh-Durham Airport, obtained a boarding pass, checked in luggage, and proceeded through the security screening enroute to his gate of departure. Sheikh was arrested prior to boarding his flight.
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Robert J. Higdon, Jr. emphasized, “Our security as a nation, as a state, and as a local community requires vigilance against the hateful rhetoric and goals of groups and persons who hijack the tenets of any religion towards their own violent purposes.”