WASHINGTON: A Virginia 17-year-old pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to charges of conspiring to help Islamic State (IS) militants, the Justice Department said on Thursday.
Ali Amin, of Manassas, Virginia, used social media to provide instructions on how to use the virtual currency Bitcoin to send funds to militants, and he helped another Virginia resident travel to Syria to join the group, the department said. Amin faces up to 15 years in prison, the department said.
“Around the nation, we are seeing ISIL use social media to reach out from the other side of the world,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.
“This case serves as a wake-up call that ISIL’s propaganda and recruitment materials are in your communities and being viewed by your youth,” he said.
As part of the plea agreement, Amin admitted to using Twitter, with the handle @Amreekiwitness, to provide advice, encouragement and resources to Islamic State and its supporters.
He also admitted he helped Reza Niknejad, an 18-year-old Prince William County resident, travel to Syria to join Islamic State in January. Niknejad was charged on Thursday on terrorism charges involving the militant group.
Northern Virginia has a large Muslim community. Anwar al Awlaki, an American linked to Yemen’s al Qaeda branch, preached at a local mosque there before leaving the United States shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He was the first U.S. citizen the White House authorized U.S. agencies to kill overseas.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was meeting on Thursday with a Muslim group in nearby Sterling as part of the department’s outreach to Islamic communities around the country. The meeting was unrelated to the arrests, a spokeswoman said.