A North Carolina teenager is in federal custody after telling an undercover FBI employee that he wanted to support the Islamic State group by carrying out attacks in the United States, officials said today.
Justin Nojan Sullivan, 19, of Morganton, planned to buy a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle at a gun show on June 20 so he could kill as many as 1,000 people and demonstrate his support of the Islamic State, according to the criminal complaint.
Mr. Sullivan “was planning assassinations and violent attacks in the United States,” said John P. Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security, according to the Associated Press.
Federal authorities began investigating Sullivan when his father called 911 in late April, telling emergency dispatchers that his son was destroying religious items in their house.
“I don’t know if it’s [the Islamic State] or what,” the complaint quotes Sullivan’s father telling dispatchers, “but he is destroying Buddhas and figurines and stuff.”
An undercover FBI employee made contact with Sullivan on June 6, when the teen described himself as a Muslim convert. Days later, he told the undercover agent that he wanted to kill 1,000 people using biological weapons, bullets coated with cyanide, and a gas bomb.
According to the complaint, Sullivan told the undercover agent he planned on doing “minor assassinations before the big attack for training,” and that “we are going to send a video to” the Islamic State.
On June 9, the complaint said Sullivan asked the undercover agent to build a firearms noise suppressor for him. The suppressor was delivered to Sullivan’s home on June 19, according to the complaint. He was arrested later that day without incident.
The Islamic State has been defined by its broad and sophisticated efforts to recruit new members, particularly using social media. The Christian Science Monitor reported last September that “up to a hundred Americans” have tried to travel abroad to fight for the Islamic State, but authorities are also concerned about the group motivating Americans to carry out “lone wolf” attacks inside the country – which is what Sullivan appeared to be planning, and what a man in Boston was allegedly planning before he was shot and killed by authorities attempting to apprehend him.
John Mulligan, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified to Congress earlier this month that authorities “remain highly concerned by numerous people in the [US] homeland who are buying into [the Islamic State’s] distorted messaging.”
“During the past few months numerous statements from senior [Islamic State] leaders have called for lone-offender attacks against the West,” said Mr. Mulligan.
Sullivan made his first appearance in federal court today in Charlotte, N.C., the AP reported. His next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. He faces several charges, including one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State and two counts involving possession of a silencer.
Earlier this month, a teen in from the northern Virginia suburbs pleaded guilty in federal court to helping recruit for the Islamic State. The teen, 17 year-old Ali Shukri Amin, admitted in court that he recruited one teen, 18 year-old Reza Niknejad, to travel to the Middle East and fight for the group.
His family last saw Mr. Niknejad on Jan. 14, when he told them he was going on a camping trip, according to Monitor reporter Warren Richey.
Mr. Carlin said in a statement at the time that the case “serves as a wake-up call.”
“[Islamic State] messages are reaching America in an attempt to radicalize, recruit and incite our youth and others to support [their] violent causes,” he added. “This challenge requires parental and community awareness and action to confront and deter this threat wherever it surfaces.”