HOUSTON – The FBI arrested an 18-year-old Houston man on terrorism charges after he was caught “unlawfully distributing instructions for making explosives and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” or ISIS, federal authorities said.
Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya was arrested on Friday, Dec. 8. The criminal complaint was unsealed on Monday.
A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment against Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya Wednesday.
The complaint details a months-long FBI investigation into Damlarkaya’s attempts to join ISIS and convince others to do the same, as well as his willingness to carry out an attack in the United States.
According to the complaint, Damlarkaya was “active in online discussions with prospective terrorists, including likely ISIS supporters, about ways to kill the ‘kuffar’ (a derogatory term to describe non-Muslims)” since at least early August.
In online terrorist chatrooms, Damlarkaya said he tried and failed to travel to Syria twice, first in 2014 when he was 15, and again a year later. He also “bought parts” to make his own AK-47, which the FBI determined was part of a “planned operation in the United States,” the complaint said.
Damlarkaya shared recipes for pressure cooker bombs, which the FBI determined were credible, with other potential terrorists, the complaint said.
“He 'hated living in this world' and instead wanted 'shahada [martyrdom],' and said if he could not make it” to the Middle East “he would 'attack the kuffar here [in the United States]'” the complaint said. “It was his 'dream' to be a martyr and 'have the biggest explosion' and 'send the kuffar flying.'”
The FBI used sources and undercover agents to gather intelligence on Damlarkaya, who the complaint said was in the process of attempting to travel to Syria a third time when FBI agents arrested him.
Damlarkaya told his mom they should travel to Turkey together, where the family has relatives, and said she could return after a few days while he stayed for a couple of months, the complaint said. Damlarkaya planned to meet an ISIS “smuggler” and travel to Syria from Turkey, according to the FBI.
“That don’t fit the kid,” next-door neighbor, Ed Hood, said. “He’s been a good kid all these years that we’ve been here.”
Hood said Damlarkaya had an older brother and both were home-schooled. Their mother was an engineer. Their father owned a car business.
“They don’t bother nobody they don’t do anything,” Hood said. “They walk the dog up and down the street all the time, and they’re together all the time. Going to school together.”
The criminal complaint also said Damlarkaya wanted to make a farewell video to “inspire other bros who cannot make” the trip to Syria. He suggested to other potential terrorists in online chatrooms that they use a sword to carry out an attack if bombs or firearms were too complicated, the complaint said.
He also discussed the use of a machete or samurai sword as an alternative to a gun or explosive. The criminal complaint further indicates he claimed to carry a knife in the event he was stopped by law enforcement and that he slept with a machete under his pillow in case his house was raided.
In early November, according to court documents, Damlarkaya explained, “If I buy a gun or supplies for a bomb, they [presumably law enforcement] will heat up pressure [j]ust like a few months ago when I was trying an operation but they found out.” The criminal complaint further alleges that Damlarkaya claims to have failed to get to Syria on two other occasions.
He is charged with one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists which carries a possible sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison. He is also charged with two counts of attempting to provide material support to ISIS and two counts of unlawfully distributing explosives information, all of which carry a possible 20-year maximum term of imprisonment. Each of the charges also carries a potential $250,000 maximum fine.
He remains set for a detention hearing at 10 a.m Thursday.