Homeland Security

Michigan Man's Arrest May Be Tied to Terrorism, But Case Shrouded in Secrecy

A 28-year-old Ypsilanti, Michigan, man is due in federal court Tuesday on gun-related charges that may be part of a larger terrorism case, yet secrecy surrounds the matter.

Yousef Mohammad Ramadan was stopped on August 15 at the Detroit airport as he and his entire family were scheduled to board a flight to Jordan. According to court documents, he told ICE officials and a FBI agent he intended to move to Bethlehem in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.

He was subsequently arrested on gun charges.

The Detroit News reports:

The FBI’s counterterrorism team blocked an Ypsilanti man from flying to the Middle East and arrested him Friday after discovering a weapons arsenal in a storage unit, the latest national security-related case in Metro Detroit.

Yousef Mohammad Ramadan, 28, has not been charged with a terror-related crime and an FBI spokesman declined to comment, leaving it unclear why the FBI’s counterterrorism team and the head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s national security unit are involved in the case, whether investigators had thwarted a terror attack or stopped a man from traveling overseas to commit terror.

The case is shrouded in secrecy. The U.S. Attorney’s Office quietly brought Ramadan into federal court Saturday for a rare weekend arraignment that happened when federal court was closed to the public. The arraignment, which was not posted on the court’s calendar, ended with a federal magistrate judge ordering Ramadan be held temporarily without bond.

Ramadan has been charged with knowingly possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, a five-year felony.

More details about the case are expected to be revealed when Ramadan appears for a detention hearing Tuesday in federal court. He’s being held in the Wayne County Jail.

The case is being handled by the counterterrorism division of the FBI Detroit field office, and the U.S. attorney there is handling the case with a high degree of secrecy. An FBI affidavit indicates that, under questioning, Ramadan repeatedly lied about which guns he had and where they were being kept.

Court documents filed in the case indicate there may be additional sealed materials yet to be made public, or possible sealed indictments.

One of the key topics at the federal court hearing later today will undoubtedly be whether Ramadan remains in custody. Federal authorities may also present additional evidence related to other charges.

According to the House Homeland Security Committee, there have been 144 homegrown jihadist cases since 2013:

In the past two years, Michigan has seen a rash of ISIS-related activity. On June 21, a Canadian man who had traveled from Quebec arrived at the Flint airport, where he stabbed a police officer in the neck while shouting “Allah akhbar” and ranting about Syria. The officer survived, and suspect Amor Ftouhi is being held on terrorism charges.

Another ISIS-related case of particular note: In May, we learned that a former FBI translator who worked in the Detroit field office went rogue, traveling to Syria in 2014 to marry a senior ISIS recruiter she had been assigned to track. Daniela Greene later returned to the U.S. and was arrested. She was given a relatively light two-year prison sentence in a case federal officials worked to keep quiet.

The House Homeland Security Committee has detailed additional ISIS cases in Michigan:

August 2016: Sebastian Gregerson was arrested for illegally purchasing high-grade explosives, and spoke of carrying out an attack and his support for ISIS.

June 2016: Mohamed Maleeh Masha of Mt. Morris Township left the U.S. and now serves as a doctor for ISIS.

February 2016: Khalil Abu-Rayyan was arrested after planning to attack a church in Detroit in support of ISIS.

One of the most popular Western Islamic clerics supporting ISIS is the Dearborn-based imam Ahmad Musa Jibril. Federal prosecutors have said Jibril “encouraged his students to spread Islam by the sword, to wage a holy war” and “to hate and kill non-Muslims.” Jibril is active on YouTube and Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ahmadmusajibril/status/466876265048596480

He has reportedly been cited as an inspiration in a number of international terrorism cases, most recently for one of the London Bridge attackers this past June.

What ties, if any, Yousef Mohammad Ramadan may have to any of these Michigan ISIS-related cases or to terrorism cases elsewhere remains to be seen.