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South Carolina Terror Case Highlights U.S.’s Schizophrenic Response to Jihad

An eighteen-year-old Muslim named Zakaryia Abdin was arrested last Thursday at Charleston International Airport as he was about to board a plane to begin his journey to the Islamic State (ISIS). Instead, he is back in custody -- where he has been before, for an earlier jihad plot.

The case of Zakaryia Abdin highlights a massive and largely unnoticed weakness in America’s efforts to combat jihad terror.

Abdin was arrested in 2015, when he was sixteen years old, and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. But he was no gang member or petty criminal. According to WBTV:

[Abdin] had been talking with a person in North Carolina and was planning to use one or two firearms to rob a gun shot to get larger weapons.

Those larger weapons would then be used to attack a North Carolina military installation, investigators said, adding the pair planned to leave the United States and go to the Middle East and join ISIS.

Since he was only sixteen, Abdin was ordered to be held in juvenile detention until he was 21. This was the maximum sentence he could be given as a juvenile, which Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett had argued for:

In court, we explained to judge the gravity of the offense. We were deeply concerned about the safety of the public if he got out.

Abdin, however, knew just the right tune to sing:

Brackett said Abdin told the court he was troubled, that his father had died, and swore this was an isolated incident, adding he had just been confused. He promised they wouldn't hear from him again, Brackett said.

That was apparently good enough for the parole board, for Abdin was recently paroled, three years early and over the objections of York, South Carolina Police Chief Andy Robinson, who remarked:

I am disgruntled that the juvenile parole board would not heed our warning and that the federal government did not pursue terrorism-related charges when he was a juvenile, which forced us to charge him with a misdemeanor gun charge rather than with a more serious terrorism-related charge.

When Abdin was arrested again last week, Robinson said:

Given nature of allegations and the incident here, and evidence I saw in 2015, I’m not terribly surprised. I always thought these beliefs were much more deeply rooted. I’m grateful that the federal authorities were keeping close tabs on him and able to intervene before anyone got hurt.

But Robinson added that it was:

… just frustrating that we knew he was not reformed and that he would continue to pursue these sorts of activities.

Not only did Robinson and his colleagues know not to buy Abdin’s story that he was reformed, but they could also know that nothing whatsoever would be done in Abdin’s juvenile facility to change his views.