A naturalized American who was allegedly an Islamic State sniper has been charged in New York with material support for a terror group after being captured in Syria and repatriated to the United States, the Department of Justice announced on Friday, July 19.
Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Maratovich Asainov fought for Islamic State in Syria for five years before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to U.S. custody, the department said in a release.
Asainov, 43, was brought back to the United States on Thursday and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.
According to the published complaint, Asainov had resided in Brooklyn, New York since 1998. On December 24, 2013, he traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, a common transit point for Syria.
After entering Syria, Asainov joined ISIS, and became a sniper, the Justice Department said. “Over time, the defendant rose through the ranks to become an ISIS ’emir’ in charge of training other ISIS members in the use of weapons.”
He stayed in contact with some people in the United States, sending messages and photographs of himself from the battlefield.
He claimed that it was “normal” for him to be carrying a rifle, and by early 2015, he was “touting his allegiance to ISIS and threatening another individual that ISIS “will fucking kill you” and that the individual should be “fucking scared for the rest of your life,” the detention memo said.
“We are the worst terrorist organization in the world that has ever existed,” one of his messages from 2015 said, according to the court documents.
The indictment alleges that in March 2015, Asainov asked a confidential informant to send him approximately $2,800 so he could purchase a scope for his rifle. Asainov then sent the confidential informant two photographs of himself holding an assault rifle fitted with a scope.
Asainov also tried to recruit another individual in the United States to join the group, who, he did not know, was an informant for the New York Police Department.
It is unclear when and where Asainov was detained by the SDF in Syria.
“The United States is committed to holding accountable those who have left this country in order to fight for ISIS,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.
“We hope countries around the world, including our European allies and partners, will likewise repatriate and prosecute their own citizens for traveling to support ISIS,” he said.
With reporting from AFP