New York man admits planning to join Yemen terror group

Story highlights

  • The 18-year-old was arrested in January at JFK airport trying to board a flight
  • Court documents show evidence was gathered during an undercover operation
A New York man admitted trying to travel to Yemen to join the terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to newly unsealed court documents.
Justin Kaliebe, 18, was arrested on January 21 at John F. Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a plan for Oman with plans to travel from there to Yemen. Less than a month later Kaliebe pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Court documents show evidence on Kaliebe was gathered during a law enforcement undercover operation in which he admitted he had wanted to go to Yemen to join AQAP and take part in jihad, or holy war.
In a June 4, 2012, conversation which was recorded by law enforcement officers, Kaliebe said he expected to fight the Yemeni army primarily. But a criminal complaint in the case quotes Kaliebe, a U.S. citizen, saying he was also willing to take on U.S. drones and "American agents or whatever, U.S. Special Forces...who they got over there."
In that same conversation Kaliebe also said he was prepared to die. "It's what anyone would want, any believer would want," he said, according to court documents.
A federal law enforcement official said there's no information to suggest Kaliebe planned any attacks in the United States.
But AQAP has claimed credits for plots against the United States including the failed 2009 attempt to detonate an underwear bomb on an airliner bound for Detroit.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York would not comment on why information in Kaliebe's case was not made public until late Tuesday. The spokesman would not say whether Kaliebe had been cooperating with prosecutors.
Kaliebe was scheduled to attend a status hearing in his case Wednesday afternoon in Central Islip, New York. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted.