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Hawaii man arrested on terrorism-related charge

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Authorities allege Abdel Shehadeh lied about a planned trip to Pakistan
  • The FBI says he intended to join the Taliban there, but originally claimed otherwise
  • He is a U.S. citizen who was born and raised in New York
  • Terrorism
  • Anwar al-Awlaki
  • Hawaii

(CNN) -- Authorities have charged a 21-year-old Hawaii man with "making false statements in a matter involving international terrorism," the U.S. Justice Department said.

The charge centers around a one-way ticket that authorities allege Abdel Hameed Shehadeh purchased from New York City to Islamabad, Pakistan.

Shehadeh originally told investigators that the purpose of his trip was to visit an Islamic university and attend a friend's engagement party. But he later admitted to FBI agents in Hawaii that he bought the ticket in order to join a fighting group such as the Taliban, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday in New York.

Pakistani officials denied his entry into the country in June 2008, the complaint said, and several weeks later Shehadeh attempted to join the U.S. Army at a recruiting station in New York's Times Square.

The complaint alleges that Shehadeh wanted to deploy to Iraq, desert and fight against the U.S. military alongside Iraqi insurgents.

Shehadeh -- who was born and raised in New York -- told authorities that he wanted to enlist for career opportunities and benefits, the Justice Department said in a news release.

"The real purpose, it is alleged, was not to join U.S. forces, but to wage war against them. Stopping one prospective terrorist can prevent untold numbers of casualties," said Janice Fedarcyk, who heads the FBI's New York office.

The complaint also alleges that Shehadeh "was the creator and administrator of multiple websites which advocated violent jihad against the west."

One of the sites contained photos of jihadist fighters, a speech by an al Qaeda leader, an audio recording of Yemeni-American cleric and militant Anwar al-Awlaki reciting a book on jihad, the complaint says.

To promote one of the sites, according to the complaint, Shehadeh posted on another site: "It is time for the Muslims to start practicing our freedom of speech. ... My brothers of revolution Islam, I am with you as long as you keep struggling. Trust me there are many brothers and sisters in America that are ready to speak up. They just need a push."

The complaint also says Shehadeh purchased an airline ticket to travel to Amman, Jordan, in October 2008, but was not allowed to enter the country by Jordanian authorities.

The complaint does not say why authorities did not allow him to enter Pakistan and Jordan. In 2009, Shehadeh moved to Hawaii, and later attempted to travel to Somalia. But U.S. authorities informed him he had been placed on the "no fly" list and could not travel there, according to the complaint.

In an April conversation with the FBI, Shehadeh said that if he had been allowed to enter Pakistan, "without a doubt, he would have joined the Taliban," the complaint said.

Shehadeh will be prosecuted in the Eastern District of New York, the Justice Department said.

A cousin, Bader Suleiman, called Shehadeh "a nice kid" and said he was surprised by news of his arrest.

Shehadeh spent almost a year in a hospital recovering from a serious car accident three years ago, Suleiman said.

He moved to Hawaii to study after graduating from Tottenville High School on New York City's Staten Island, Suleiman said.