NEW YORK (MDAO) – Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., and New York City Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell last week announced the sentencing of Shaikh Abdullah Faisal, 59, for recruiting, soliciting, and inspiring students and followers to pledge allegiance to, travel to, join and commit acts of terrorism on behalf of the Islamic State, a/k/a “ISIS” or “ISIL.” Faisal is sentenced to 18 years in state prison.
Following a two-month long trial in New York State Supreme Court, Faisal was convicted on all counts on January 26, 2023, after two hours of deliberation.
As proven in the first-ever New York State terrorism trial, Faisal used his public profile and personal network as the top English-speaking recruiter for ISIS to solicit and provide material support for the Islamic State’s acts of violence and terrorism against others through:
- violent jihadist advocacy and ISIS recruitment through different writings, speeches and recordings
- tradecraft instructions to others on how best to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and how best to avoid suspicion or arrest
- providing contact information of foreign fighters to facilitate entry into and support in ISIS regions and acceptance by ISIS partners
- strategizing with Islamic State fighters on battlefield tactics
- creating opportunities for women jihadi aspirants to meet and marry ISIS adherents
- inspiring others to commit their own violent acts in allegiance to ISIS
The case was the result of a joint investigation by the NYPD Intelligence Bureau and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Counter Terrorism Program, which was created in June 2015 to identify and pursue investigative leads related to terror plots, extremist activities, and terror-financing.
Faisal began communicating with an undercover NYPD officer based in New York in November 2016 while he was living in St. James, Jamaica. Ultimately, Faisal provided the undercover officer with contact information for an individual based in Raqqa, Syria. In early 2017, that individual contacted the undercover officer and began collecting information about this person’s location and whereabouts in order to facilitate entry into the Islamic State.
Over emails, text messages, and video chats, Faisal encouraged the undercover officer to view his lectures online and sent propagandist reports from an official Islamic State news outlet. After their initial exchanges, the defendant offered to help the undercover officer leave the U.S. and travel to the Middle East to support foreign fighters abroad. Faisal also offered to connect this individual with his contacts in ISIS, cautioning and coaching the undercover officer to be careful about what she said to whom, including using coded language and an encrypted chat tool while communicating with Faisal and his associates.
When the undercover officer informed Faisal that she was certified to perform first aid and CPR and wanted to go overseas to provide aid to ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, Faisal then suggested that the undercover officer marry someone in the Islamic State to enable travel abroad. He offered to broker the arrangement.
Members of the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, along with the undercover officer, traveled to the Middle East in 2017 and were given information from Faisal on how to contact that person in the Islamic State.
Since 2014, Faisal has publicly supported the Islamic State and called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and encouraged violent acts through numerous online lectures and militant propaganda in support of the terror organization. Faisal, one of the world’s most influential English-speaking terrorists, was previously convicted in the U.K. of crimes related to inciting murder and using racially charged, hateful rhetoric in furtherance of terrorist ideologies.
“Shaikh Faisal’s advocacy, recruitment and provision of material support to ISIS helped the terrorist organization perform horrific acts, including the murder and kidnapping of innocent people,” said District Attorney Bragg. “Our Counter Terrorism Program worked alongside our NYPD partners to convict Faisal and secure today’s prison sentence. Tragically, Manhattan will continue to be a target for those who want to harm this country. Working with our federal and state law enforcement partners, our office stands at the ready to continue combatting terrorism.”
“Today’s sentencing makes our city, and our nation, safer,” said NYPD Commissioner Sewell. “As long as supporters of international terrorism continue to threaten the people we serve, the NYPD and our law enforcement partners will work tirelessly to bring them to justice. I want to thank the NYPD’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism investigators, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and everyone else involved in this critical case.”