A West Haven man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges stemming from an attempt to travel to Syria and fight on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Ahmad Khalil Elshazly, 25, faces up to 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Elshazly, a U.S. citizen, began expressing his desire to travel to the Middle East to fight on behalf of ISIS in September 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Connecticut. Elshazly pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in several conversations online and in person. 

After Baghdadi’s death in October 2019, Elshazly sent a message pledging allegiance to the new leader of ISIS, saying “I pledge my allegiance…to the Khilafah (the successor of the leadership) of the Muslims Abu Ibrahim Al Husseini Al Hashami Al Qurashi…”

In an attempt to connect with ISIS members overseas, Elshazly paid a person he believed was an ISIS facilitator $500 to smuggle him out of the U.S. and into Turkey. Once in Turkey, Elshazly believed he would then be able to meet other ISIS members who would then assist him in traveling to Syria where the group operated primarily.

On December 15, 2019, Elshazly was arrested after he arrived in Stonington, Connecticut, where he expected to board a boat to begin his trip. He has been detained since his arrest and is currently awaiting sentencing.

“There is no higher priority than the security of our nation,” U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery said. “My office works closely with our law enforcement partners to prevent and apprehend those who wish to cause violence and other harm, both in the U.S. and abroad, before they are successful.  Much of this vitally important work is done behind the scenes and without public recognition. I thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and all the agencies involved in this investigation.”

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Tom Hopkins wrote for CII from April 2022 to February 2023. Prior to joining CII, he worked in print, television, and as a freelance journalist.

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