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New York man arrested for allegedly trying to join Islamic extremist groups

The Department of Justice seal.

Patrick Semansky, AP

Last Updated Mar 4, 2017 4:07 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Prosecutors say a New York man repeatedly traveled to the Middle East to try to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al-Nusra Front extremist groups and told authorities he’d been prepared to sacrifice himself for jihad.

Elvis Redzepagic of Commack, New York, appeared in Brooklyn federal court Saturday and was ordered held without bail. The 26-year-old U.S. citizen is charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

The Department of Justice said in a statement Redzepagic traveled to the Middle East twice in the past two years to attempt to join a foreign terrorist organization. Specifically, in 2015 Redzepagic allegedly communicated with an individual he believed to be the commander of a battalion in Syria and made attempts to join him to engage in jihad, according to CBS New York

After police on suburban Long Island arrested Redzepagic on Feb. 2 on a minor, unrelated charge, he allegedly told them: “I’m going to leave this country, and I’m going to come back with an Army - Islam is coming,” according to the federal court complaint unsealed Saturday.

Mildred Whalen, Redzepagic’s attorney, noted that the case is in its early stages, but she says he’s been fully cooperative with law enforcement.

“We will be working with his family in the hope that the court and the government will see that what he needs is counseling and support, not imprisonment,” she said in an email.

Redzepagic traveled to Turkey in July 2015 and made several attempts to cross the border into Syria to join his contact’s organization, according to the Department of Justice.

Unable to enter Syria from Turkey, federal authorities say he traveled to Jordan in August 2016 but was stopped and deported by Jordanian authorities.

In October 2015, Redzepagic allegedly made several inflammatory posts to social media, explaining that “jihad” is when you “fight for the sake of God” and “die for the sake of Allah,” adding that he traveled to Turkey to “perform Jihad and join Jabhat Al-Nusra.” In subsequent interviews with law enforcement officials, he allegedly admitted that he was prepared to strap a bomb to himself when he attempted to enter Syria from Turkey.

“This defendant made numerous attempts to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad,” Robert Capers, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York said. “We will continue to track down and prosecute individuals like the defendant before they are able to become foreign fighters or harm the United States and its allies.”