FBI: Three men attempted to join ISIS, planned to hijack commercial flight

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Ray Sanchez, Shimon Prokupecz and Evan Perez

(CNN – Feb. 25, 2015)– One of three men arrested in the United States on Wednesday in a failed attempt to join ISIS in Syria allegedly discussed assassinating President Barack Obama, according to a complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

The trio planned to embark on the journey Wednesday, hijack a commercial flight to Turkey and divert it “to the Islamic State, so that the Islamic State would gain a plane,” the complaint said. They also talked about joining the U.S. military in order to attack soldiers.

The suspects — identified as Abdurasul Jaraboev, 24; Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19; and Abror Habibov, 30 — were arrested in New York and Florida, according to the complaint. They face charges that include attempting and conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, the complaint said.

In addition to threats against Obama, the suspects allegedly offered to kill U.S. law enforcement officers.

The FBI issued an intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement about the alleged plot and urged officers to be vigilant for not only recruits, but people who may want to carry out attacks.

“These individuals highlight the continued interest among U.S.-based violent extremist to support designated terrorist organizations,” the bulletin said.

The arrests come at the same time that a federal jury in Brooklyn hears testimony in the trial against a Pakistani man allegedly involved in a separate al Qaeda conspiracy to carry out attacks in New York and Europe.

The men arrested Wednesday posted parts of their plans online, believing that the communications would be harder to trace, the court documents said.

In a conversation recorded by authorities, Saidakhmetov said that if he was unable to get travel documents to Syria, “I will just go out and buy a machine gun, AK-47, go out and shoot all police,” according to the complaint.

Saidakhmetov told an informant that carrying a gun in the United States was legal.

“We will go and purchase one handgun … then go and shoot one police officer,” he is quoted as saying, according to the complaint. “Boom …Then, we will take his gun, bullets and a bulletproof vest … then, we will do the same with a couple of others.”

He said, “Then we will go to the FBI headquarters, kill the FBI people.”

An online threat allegedly posted by Jaraboev spoke of shooting Obama. He also talked of planting a bomb at Coney Island if ordered to do so by ISIS, authorities contend.

Jaraboev allegedly wrote a message intended for ISIS: “Greetings! We too wanted to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves.

While not present there, I am in USA now but we don’t have any arms. But is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here? What I’m saying is, to shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves, will it do?”

He added, “That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels.”

The men were to fly on Wednesday and Saidakhmetov allegedly “proposed finding an excuse to gain access to the pilot’s cabin and diverting the plane to the Islamic State, so that the Islamic State would gain a plane,” the complaint said.

In November, Jaraboev and Saidakhmetov, also expressed interest in joining the U.S. military in order to pass information to ISIS about American airstrikes against the terror group, the complaint said.

When Jaraboev said he was skeptical that Saidakhmetov “could stay calm and avoid trouble in the military, (Saidakhmetov) responded that he could always open fire on American soldiers and kill as many of them as possible.”

In another conversation, Juraraboev criticized Saidakhmetov’s plan to join the military, saying that “leaving for Syria would be the most feasible choice.”

Saidakhmetov allegedly told a confidential informant that he intended to wage jihad in Syria but that his mother — fearful that he would do so — took his passport. The suspect then said he would try to get his passport back by telling his mother that he was traveling to Uzbekistan to visit relatives.

On February 2, Saidakhmetov brazenly appeared at the Department of Homeland Security offices in Manhattan and filled out an application for a travel document and had his photograph and fingerprints taken, the complaint said.

It was not clear Wednesday afternoon whether the three men had attorneys.

In the Brooklyn terror trial of Abid Naseer, 28, prosecutors intend to present for the first time evidence seized at the 2011 raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed.

Abid Naseer, 28, who was arrested in 2009 in Manchester, England, where he had been living on a student visa, was described by Brooklyn federal prosecutor Celia Cohen as a “key member” of a broad scheme to “take innocent lives” during a series of failed attacks at a Manchester shopping center, a newsroom in Copenhagen and the subways of New York.

CNN’s Connor Ryan contributed to this story.