A Toledo, Ohio-area woman, Alaa Mohd Abusaad, was arrested Tuesday on charges that she directed an undercover FBI employee to send money to al-Qaeda in Syria.
Abusaad, 22 years old, had recently lived in Birmingham, Alabama, where the charges were filed. She was introduced to the undercover operative earlier this year through an associate while still in Birmingham.
A Justice Department press release summarized the charges:
As set forth in the complaint, Abusaad instructed an FBI undercover employee (UCE) about how to send money to the mujahedeen — fighters engaged in jihad. Abusaad told the UCE that money “is always needed. You can’t have a war without weapons. You can’t prepare a soldier without equipment.”
Abusaad also advised the UCE on how to send money in a manner that would avoid detection by law enforcement, including by using fake names and addresses when conducting electronic money transfers. Subsequently, Abusaad introduced the UCE to a financial facilitator who could route the UCE’s money to “brothers that work with aq” (meaning al-Qaeda).
Abusaad faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
The FBI affidavit filed with the criminal complaint records the discussions and direction that Abusaad provided to the undercover operative. They used a mobile messaging application, where she provided direction on sending money to al-Qaeda by using a fake name and keeping the amounts between $300-400 to avoid detection.
After Abusaad introduced the undercover operative to an overseas financial intermediary, Abusaad offered assurances that the money could be directed towards al-Qaeda, and that the preferred type of support could be specified:
Okay. He can say where he wants it to go specifically. Like for instance if he wants it to be zakat money [a charitable contribution under Islamic law] it can go to the Widows’s of mj [mujahedeen]. Or if he wants it could be for weapons. Bullets. Clothing … Or you can give it to the widow and orphans. Supporting a mujahids family is like taking part in jihad.
In speaking with the financial intermediary — identified in the affidavit as Individual A, who directed her to send the money to a Mustafa Yelatan in Istanbul, Turkey — the undercover operative asked for assurances that the money would go to fighters killing infidels:
UCE: ” … it’s not going to the groups killing innocent women and children … it’s going to the groups that are killing the kufar [infidels] right?”
Individual A: “Yes in sha Allah. Infact should try to give it specific to bros who go for the cause of fighting the clear enemies only.”
After the undercover operative transferred $50 to the recipient in Turkey on April 5, Abusaad assured the operative that there was no problem:
And remember they can’t do anything to you. You were completely covered. May Allah protect you. And plus it’s a fake name … Just be confident and don’t stress.
Individual A also gave assurances that the money would be given to al-Qaeda:
… the 50 reached as 35. So in sha Allah should give it to an aq bro in sha Allah.
At some point after the April 8 money transfer, Abusaad relocated from Birmingham to the Toledo area. Earlier this year, two Toledo men, Sultane Roome Salim and Asif Ahmed Salim, pleaded guilty to transferring money to al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2009.
Birmingham has seen terror recruiting as well, namely the case of Hoda Muthana, who traveled to Syria in November 2014 to join ISIS. There she married an Australian jihadist and was living in Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria that fell to coalition forces a year ago.