Mississippi community left wondering why honor student would join ISIS

Mississippi teen, Jaelyn Young, and her boyfriend Muhammad Dakhlalla have been charged with attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.

Melanie Thortis/The Vicksburg Post/AP
Jaelyn Young, an honor student at Warren Central High School, poses for a photo in Vicksburg, Miss., Oct. 5, 2012. Young and another Mississippi resident were arrested on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, on charges that they were trying to travel abroad to join the Islamic State militant group.

Authorities have charged two Mississippi residents with conspiring to travel or attempting to travel to join the Islamic State terrorist group fighting in Syria.

During a court hearing on Monday, authorities said Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 19, and Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, were arrested on Saturday at Golden Triangle Regional Airport near Columbus, Miss., where they were attempting to board a flight to Amsterdam and ultimately Istanbul.

The two had planned to travel to Turkey get married then cross to Syria, officials said.

Mr. Dakhlalla graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Mississippi State University, while Ms. Young, who wanted to become a doctor, was enrolled until May as a sophomore chemistry major. During the hearing, authorities say Young apparently offered to serve ISIS as a medic treating the injured. Young, was a 2013 honors graduate from Warren Central High School, The Vicksburg Post reported

According to court papers, undercover FBI agents interacted online with Young beginning in May about her desire to travel to Syria to join the group. "I just want to be there," Young said on her Twitter account.

In June, the first FBI agent passed Young off to a second FBI agent posing as an Islamic State facilitator. Court documents say Young asked the second agent for help crossing from Turkey to Syria, saying "We don't know Turkey at all very well (I haven't even traveled outside U.S. before.)"

The court papers also indicated that Young told the FBI agent Dakhlalla could help with the Islamic State's Internet media, saying he "really wants to correct the falsehoods heard here" and the "U.S. media is all lies when regarding" the group, which she called by its preferred internal name, Dawlah.

According to reports, Dakhlalla told an FBI agent in an online conversation in June that he was "good with computers, education and media" and that his father had approved him and Young to get married. In July, the charges say, he expressed a desire to become a fighter for the group. "I am willing to fight," he is quoted as saying.

In June, senior intelligence officials told Congress that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups were increasingly using social media to attract new recruits in the United States.

“Unlike the centralized and secretive operations of Al Qaeda, Islamic State is successfully recruiting new members through aggressive use of social media, particularly Twitter,” the officials said. 

The Christian Science Monitor reported that, “estimates are that the terror group can generate up to 200,000 tweets per day based on the initial work of a couple thousand “core propagandists.”

The court hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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