A young Bergen County, New Jersey, suspect — who police said planned with his brother and a friend to travel to the killing fields of Syria to fight alongside terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — entered a guilty plea on Thursday admitting his role in a terrorism conspiracy. The prosecutors said that 20-year-old Nader Saadeh’s conviction is only a part of a larger Islamic terrorism investigation in the New York City metropolitan area that includes a number of cities and towns in New Jersey.
Saadeh is an American-born graduate of a Fort Lee, New Jersey, high school and was the last of the three defendants to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in the New Jersey city of Newark. All three suspects were conspiring to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a news release. Nader’s brother, Alaa Saadeh, and his friend from Fort Lee, Samuel Rahamin Topaz, previously entered guilty pleas.
Their cases are connected to pending criminal charges against two New York City men, Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni, who are accused of plotting to build a pressure-cooker bomb to commit an act of terrorism. Saleh, of Queens, was observed walking on the George Washington Bridge on two consecutive days in March, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in New York. Saadeh’s residence was located in the town of Fort Lee from which vehicles enter the entrance ramp to the George Washington Bridge.
According to an informant who was close to him for years, by April 2015, Nader Saadeh had become a radicalized supporter of ISIS and he was preparing to travel overseas with other radicalized jihadists. In addition, Nader Saadeh admitted that he believed ISIS’s execution of a captured Jordanian Air Force pilot by burning him alive and the murders of several staff members of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this year were justified.
According to documents filed by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the U.S. District of New Jersey:
The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) have been investigating a group of individuals from New York and New Jersey who have allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIS. Nader Saadeh lived in Rutherford (New Jersey) until leaving the country on May 5, 2015, allegedly to join ISIS. Nader Saadeh’s brother, Alaa Saadeh, was a resident of West New York, New Jersey, until he was arrested on June 29, 2015, and charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, aiding and abetting an attempt to provide material support to ISIS and witness tampering.
Samuel Rahamin Topaz was a resident of Fort Lee, New Jersey, until he was arrested on June 17, 2015, and charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIL. Conspirator 1 (CC-1) was a Queens, New York, resident until he was arrested in New York on June 13, 2015, on terrorism charges.
Between 2012 and 2013, Nader Saadeh sent CC-1 electronic messages expressing his hatred for the United States and desire to form a small army that would include their friends. On July 1, 2014, the day ISIS’s leader declared an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq, Nader Saadeh posted images of ISIS’s flag and the flag of the Islamic caliphate on his Facebook page.
During the investigation, the FBI obtained computer files showing that Nader Saadeh viewed ISIS propaganda videos and researched the availability of flights to Turkey, which borders Syria, where ISIS claims to control territory. The FBI also obtained electronic messages sent to Nader Saadeh on April 21, 2015, by family members living overseas, including his mother, who pleaded for him not to join ISIL.
On May 5, 2015, Nader Saadeh traveled overseas via John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly in order to join ISIS. On his way to the airport, while accompanied by Alaa Saadeh and CC-1, he said that he, Alaa Saadeh, CC-1 and Topaz had plans to reunite overseas within a few weeks.
On the day of his arrest, Topaz told the FBI that he agreed with Nader Saadeh, CC-1 and Alaa Saadeh to travel to join ISIS. In addition, Alaa Saadeh told the FBI in a post-arrest interview that he, Nader Saadeh and Topaz all watched ISIS propaganda videos together and discussed going overseas to join ISIS. Alaa Saadeh also stated that the night before Nader Saadeh left for Jordan, CC-1 provided Nader Saadeh with the name and number of an ISIS contact near the Turkey/Syria border who would facilitate his travel to ISIS-controlled territory.
Each count in the complaint carries a maximum of potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.