3 Brooklyn residents charged with plotting to help ISIS plead not guilty in New York court

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Stacey Sager has the latest on the terror arrests, including the reaction of Mayor de Blasio. (WABC)

Three men accused of plotting to travel from Brooklyn to join ISIS pleaded not guilty in court Friday.

Abror Habibov, 30, is in New York after being extradited from Florida, where he was arrested and charged with paying for the other two men to travel to Syria.

The three were charged at the end of February with attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, with plans to head to Syria, authorities said. Another man, 24-year-old Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, had a ticket to travel to Istanbul in March and was arrested in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said. The two were held without bail after a brief court appearance.

According to officials, the three were vocal both online and in personal conversations about their commitment and desire to join the ISIS extremists. One of them speaking of shooting President Barack Obama to "strike fear in the hearts of infidels," federal authorities said.

If convicted, each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Michael Steinbach, the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, told a House committee last week that the case was an example of "what the threat looks like."

In some cases, individuals pursue an "intellectual curiosity" online that leads them to become radicalized or are already radicalized once they turn to the Internet.

Officials are also encountering those who, like the three charged Wednesday in New York, feel thwarted in their efforts to travel overseas and discuss attacks against the U.S. instead.

We're seeing that play more and more often," Steinbach said.

Authorities said Juraboev first came to the attention of law enforcement in August, when he posted on an Uzbek-language website that propagates the Islamic State ideology.

"Greetings! We too want to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while not present there," he wrote, according to federal authorities. "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? That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels."

Juraboev was visited by federal law enforcement officials at some point over his use of the website, and told officials he wanted to express support for the Islamic State group, and he mentioned Saidakhmetov as a friend and sympathizer, officials said.

According to the federal complaint, Saidakhmetov said he intended to shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join the IS group in Syria was thwarted.

But Saidakhmetov's mother took away his passport to try to prevent him from traveling, according to the complaint. When he called her and asked for it back, asked him where he wanted to go and he said that a person who had the chance to join the Islamic State group and didn't would face divine judgment. She hung up on him.

Saidakhmetov's attorney, Adam Perlmutter, said his client was a "young, innocent kid" who would plead not guilty.

"This is the type of case that highlights everything that is wrong with how the Justice Department approaches these cases," Perlmutter said. Juraboev's attorney had no immediate comment.

"I happen to know one of these gentlemen. I lost contact with him, last couple of years," said Farhod Sulton, of the Vatandosh Uzbek-American Federation.

It's the common thread among most that had contact with the Brooklyn ISIS suspects in their neighborhood of Midwood.

Where 30-year-old Juraboev, known as Abdullah, chopped salad in the basement of the Gyro King.

"It's person to person; no one knows what's going on in someone's heart. So it's was unbelievable and surprising," said Syed Dawood, the suspect's coworker.

About half a mile south in Gravesend where some were familiar with the suspects, but no one really knew how radical they'd become, Farhod Sulton knew 30-year-old Abror Habibov who owned cell phone repair kiosks in shopping malls in four states.

He allegedly wanted to fund his two friends, Juraboev and Saidakhmetov.

"We had an argument with the gentlemen about the way he understands Islam and principals," Sulton said.

Theirs was radical Islam, versus the beliefs of the vast majority of the 50,000 other Uzbek-Americans in Brooklyn along with the borough president, urging people not to paint them with a broad brush.

"We don't want this community to be defined that way," said Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President. "We don't want this community to be defined that way."

What they want is stop other young people from becoming lone wolves.

"We need people in the community to tell us if they suspect anyone has taken the wrong path, I think we are doing a good job of deepening these relationships, but there is more to be done," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

But just how much can we do? At a Turkish Travel Agency, that sold two of the suspects' their tickets overseas, the travel agent is now terrified of the backlash.

"Phone calls, people are threatening me, 'Why didn't you ask more questions?'" the travel agent said.

Saidakhmetov is a Brooklyn resident and citizen of Kazakhstan. Juraboev is a Brooklyn resident from Uzbekistan. Habibov had been in the U.S. legally, but his visa had expired. He was appointed a public defender on Wednesday.

The Kazakhstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of Saidakhmetov's arrest. It said he was born July 26, 1995, in the city of Turkestan in southern Kazakhstan, left for Uzbekistan in October 2011 and has not returned. He was not registered at the Kazakhstan Consulate in New York and neither he nor his relatives have reached out for any help, the ministry said.

The Islamic State group largely consists of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria but has also drawn fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe.
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