An 18-year-old Long Island man who pledged his loyalty to al-Qaeda and “wanted to die so that he could go to paradise” pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, prosecutors said Wednesday.
A complaint unsealed in federal court on Tuesday revealed that Justin Kaliebe, a Babylon and Bay Shore resident, attempted to travel from the United States to Yemen to join al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist organization also known as “Ansar al-Sharia,” and got as far as John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he was arrested on January 21 during an attempt to board a plane to Muscat, Oman, prosecutors said.
But law enforcement’s investigation into Kaliebe was well underway before his planned trip overseas.
Kaliebe began meeting occasionally with an undercover officer in June 2011, but the meetings became more frequent when the officer became aware of his “self-proclaimed intent to support terrorists groups,” according to court documents. One year later, Kaliebe was recorded in a conversation with an undercover officer as saying he expected to fight the “Yemeni army” and “those who are fighting against the Sharia of Allah . . . whether it’s the U.S. drones or the, their puppets, in the Yemeni army . . . or, who knows, if American agents or whatever, U.S. Special Forces . . . who they got over there,” according to court documents.
Kaliebe began saving money for a trip to Yemen in July 2012 with the intent to “go to Yemen to fight jihad,” court documents quote him as saying in a July 30 meeting.
“Kaliebe attempted to turn his back on his country and align with radical terrorists,” Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, said in a statement. “His goal was to travel overseas to wage violent jihad against Yemeni and U.S. forces opposed to alQaeda. Firmly committed to this plan, he found both inspiration and guidance in the online teachings of al-Qaeda leaders, including Usama Bin Laden.”
Kaliebe also pleaded guilty in February to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
The investigation is continuing. The Joint Terrorism Task Force and New York City Police Department are also investigating Kaliebe’s activities.
“I pledge my loyalty, allegiance and fidelity to the Mujahedeen of Al-Qaa’idah in the Arabian Peninsula and its leaders, Shaykh Abu Baseer Nasir Al-Wuhayshi and Shaykh Ayman Al-Zawahiri, hafidhahum Allah!” he said in an email, according to court documents. “May Allah accept this from me and may he allow me to fight in his cause til the day that I leave this dunya.”
Kaliebe is the third Long Islander to be publicly connected to radical terrorist groups. One of those men, Samir Khan, an al-Qaeda propagandist from Westbury, was killed in a drone strike in 2011.