Ohio Islamic State Cell Slipped Under the Radar

Ohio Islamic State Cell Slipped Under the Radar

by RYAN HEALY May 19, 2016

An NBC News report listed 15 Americans with connections to the Islamic State (IS), including a cell featuring three residents of Columbus, Ohio . The names were connected to a flash drive that former IS member Abu Mohammaed stole when he defected from IS. While most of the names were known to law enforcement these three had successfully left America to join IS undetected. The three IS members were identified as Jaffrey Khan, Zakia Nasrin, and Rasel Raihan.

Nasrin was described as a promising student whose family immigrated from Bangladesh in 2000. She graduated valedictorian of her senior class at Metro Early College High School and enrolled at Ohio State University as a pre-med major. Nasrin’s family says she met Khan online and married him in 2010. Jaffrey was the son of immigrant parents who moved to Palo Alto but divorced when he was still young.

Khan had always struggled in school and in life according to his father, Salem Khan, who runs a multi-million dollar healthcare IT business. friends say that the younger Khan became a devout Muslim, and according to family members shortly after began to espouse anti-American sentiment. ” Khan’s family noticed he was very strict with his new bride making her wear a hijab and veil cover her face. Ahmed Khan the cousin to Khan noted he made all men leave the room if Nasrin was present, or Khan made her sit in the car.

They returned to Columbus and moved into an apartment on Riverview Drive just north of Ohio State University.

According to Terrorism investigator Patrick Poole, Riverview had been previously connected to a case of terrorism in 2007, when Christopher Paul was arrested and charged with helping al-Qaeda bomb makers with identifying potential targets in the United States (U.S.) and Europe. Paul was given a 20-year prison sentence; his wife though still lives in the building, and claims she did not know Nasrin or Khan.

Poole notes that according to the apartment complex’s landlord of the apartment complex, several residents worshipped at the nearby Omar Ibn al-Kattab mosque, which has a history of being tied to Islamic terrorism. The board of the mosque admitted that Jaffrey had attended the mosque for several weeks before disappearing. Other notable terrorism related cases tied to Omar Ibn al-Kattab mosqueinclude Iyman Faris who in 2003 attempted to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and Nuradin Abdiplotted to blow up a Columbus shopping mall in 2007. Abdulhakim Muhammad who shot and killed a U.S. service man in Arkansas admitted to attending the Omar Ibn al-Kattab mosque from 2006-2007.

Nasrin’s brother Rasel Raihan was also an outstanding student at Metro. Raihan reportedly greatly admired his older sister and even told a friend she “guides me right from wrong.” A friend of Raihan’s noted that after Rasel talked with his sister he stopped taking his medication and immediately became a devout Muslim. After graduation friends say that Raihan disappeared and they never saw him again.

Khan was placed on a terror watch list by the FBI when an informant notified authorities that Khan had traveled abroad and might be involved with jihadists. Khan, Nasir, and Raihan crossed the Turkey-Syrian border near Tal Abyad in July 2014. Khan took the name Abu Ibrahim al-Amriki and Raihan took the name Abu Abdullah al-Amriki. Raihan is believed to have been killed fighting for IS, and Khan and his wife are reportedly working in a hospital in Raqqa and have a daughter.

Once again jihadists have been previously identified (and placed on the terror watch list) despite still being able to successfully complete their goals. It also notes the impact of continued effort to divorce individual jihad supporters from wider networks of support and indoctrination.

Ryan Healy writes for the Center for Security Policy