US citizen charged with training Islamic State group members

July 19, 2019 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. citizen from Kazakhstan facing terrorism charges after he became a sniper and weapons trainer for the Islamic State group once boasted that he supports “the worst terrorist organization in the world,” authorities said as they announced his arrest Friday.

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 42, was transferred to FBI custody Wednesday and brought to the United States after his detention overseas by the Syrian Democratic Forces, federal authorities said in a release.

“Asainov traveled overseas, joined ISIS, and became a fighter and a sniper for the terrorist organization,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers. “He was ultimately detained overseas, turned over to the FBI, and will now face justice in an American courtroom.”

Asainov was detained without bail following an appearance Friday in Brooklyn federal court.

Outside court, defense attorney Susan Kellman said her client was “very pleasant, very forthcoming” but was reluctant to speak up when a judge asked him if he understood his rights.

“He answers to a higher authority,” the lawyer said. “He says his ruler is Allah.”

The naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kazakhstan spent from 1998 to 2013 living in Brooklyn before flying to Istanbul in December 2013 and making his way into Syria, where he became a sniper for the organization, a criminal complaint said.

It said he rose through the group’s ranks, becoming an “emir” in charge of training other members in the use of weapons and even helped to establish training camps.

The complaint said he tried to recruit a person in the U.S. to go to Syria to fight and asked a confidential informant to send him $2,800, so he could buy a scope for his rifle.

Authorities said he messaged one associate, saying of the Islamic State group, “we are the worst terrorist organization in the world that has ever existed,” adding that he wished to die on the battlefield.

A confidential informant working with the New York Police Department intelligence division had known Asainov since 2008 and began communicating with him in August 2014 after spotting him online, the complaint said.

Asainov tried to recruit the informant to go to Syria and join the Islamic State, saying he’d help get him a job, housing, food and $50 a month, according to the complaint. Asainov suggested he bring his family, too, saying “even grandmothers are coming.”