A multi-count indictment of an alleged homegrown jihadist was unsealed on Friday charging the suspect with conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The five-count indictment charges Marcos Alonso Zea, a/k/a “Ali Zea,” a U.S. citizen who lives in Brentwood, New York, with conspiracy to commit murder, attempting to provide material support to terrorists, attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as Ansar al-Sharia (AQAP/AAS), and obstruction and attempted obstruction of justice.
The 25-year-old Zea was arrested Friday morning at his Brentwood home on Long Island and arraigned in the afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Arlene Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, also on Long Island.
According to the indictment and other court filings, starting in the fall of 2011, Zea conspired with other suspected homegrown radical Muslims to travel overseas assist in waging violent jihad on the "enemies of Islam," which includes the secular government of Yemen.
According to the FBI, on Jan. 4, 2012, Zea flew from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, New York, to Heathrow Airport in London, England, on his way to Yemen to join and fight for AQAP/AAS, a group designated as foreign terrorist organization by both the U.S. State and Treasury Departments.
The al-Qaeda branch claims responsibility for several terrorist attacks against the United States, including the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger plane.
According to the indictment, Zea was intercepted by customs officials in the United Kingdom (UK) sent back to the United States, where he continued his active role in the terrorist conspiracy. For example, Zea encouraged and supported a co-conspirator, Justin Kaliebe, who also was planning to wage jihad in Yemen.
In August 2012, in a covertly recorded conversation between Zea and Kaliebe, Zea bragged about his lies to British authorities when he was detained, instructed Kaliebe regarding methods to evade electronic surveillance by law enforcement authorities, and discussed Kaliebe’s plans to fight jihad.
On Jan. 21, 2013, the 18-year-old Kaliebe attempted to fly from New York to Yemen to join AQAP/AAS but he was captured at JFK Airport by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and the NYPD’s Intelligence Division.
Kaliebe subsequently pled guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists and one count of attempting to provide material support to AQAP/AAS. Kaliebe is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 6, 2013, by United States District Judge Arthur D. Spatt in United States District Court in Central Islip, according to a Justice Department report.
“Despite being born and raised in the United States, Zea allegedly betrayed his country and attempted to travel to Yemen in order to join a terrorist organization and commit murder,” stated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
“When that plan was thwarted, Zea continued to support terrorism by assisting his co-conspirator’s efforts to travel to Yemen to fight violent jihad. When the defendant sensed investigators from the JTTF closing in, he engaged in a desperate effort to cover his tracks by attempting to destroy evidence -- a tactic that only confirmed his violent aims," Lynch said.
New York's Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “Aspirants with lethal intent who seek terror training abroad are of paramount concern. Fortunately, like Kaliebe before him, Zea was stopped due to the close cooperation between the NYPD and FBI.”