Crime

Former York man tried to join ISIS, feds say. Here’s how long he’ll be in prison

Police react to alleged ISIS teen parole

York Police Chief Andy Robinson said the South Carolina juvenile justice system "has failed us."
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York Police Chief Andy Robinson said the South Carolina juvenile justice system "has failed us."

A man from York who twice tried to join the terror group ISIS has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, officials said.

Zakaryia Abdin, 20, was sentenced Monday in federal court in Charleston, said Kevin Tolson, York County Sheriff. Tolson, who was part of a law enforcement and prosecution team that investigated Abdin in 2015, were in court for sentencing.

Abdin pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to the terrorist group ISIS in August 2018, according to prosecutors and federal court documents. The maximum sentence Abdin faced was 20 years in prison.

Abdin also faces a lifetime of supervised release after prison, Tolson said.

Abdin grew up in York and was arrested for his first ISIS plot in York as a juvenile in 2015. Abdin remains a threat to the public, Tolson said.

“After all the alarms we sounded on this person, this judge today realized that this person is not just a threat to the people in York, but a threat to all of the country,” Tolson said after court. “Our nation is safer with this man in prison for the next two decades.”

Abdin, of Syrian heritage, tried to join the ISIS foreign terrorist organization to serve as a fighter or soldier, federal prosecutors said. Abdin was arrested at the Charleston airport in 2017 before he could leave the country after he engaged in conversations about ISIS with an undercover FBI agent who was part of the American Joint Terrorism Task Force, prosecutors said.

Abdin had given a pledge of loyalty to ISIS in 2014, and he provided a video of a new pledge before his 2017 arrest, prosecutors said. Abdin pledged to wage jihad -- or holy war -- against the enemy of Allah, according to federal prosecutors.

Abdin moved to the Charleston area after he was paroled in 2016 after a juvenile court conviction in 2015.

In 2017 Abdin bought weapons and made threats about committing terrorist acts, federal prosecutors and FBI agents said.

Abdin practiced with an AK assault rifle at a local gun store, and with two other guns at an outdoor shooting range outside of Charleston, prosecutors said.

In 2015, at age 16, he plotted to kill American soldiers and civilians and join ISIS while a juvenile in York County, police and prosecutors said. Abdin was convicted of illegal gun possession, which prosecutors said was the only charge in state court that Abdin could face because of his age at the time.

Abdin was “wholeheartedly sincere in his beliefs, and we are very concerned for the safety of the community and the country,” 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett told a York County judge in court in 2015. “He had a plan to randomly shoot American soldiers.”

Abdin in 2015 “embraced the ideology” of the Islamic State group ISIS, Brackett said in court in 2015. Abdin’s intent was to “join this violent, guerrilla, insurgent movement,” Brackett said in court.

Brackett said he is grateful federal authorities were able to arrest Abdin in 2017 before Abdin could carry out any terror actions.

Abdin was sentenced in 2015 to juvenile detention up to age 21.

When he pleaded guilty in 2015 in York County court, Abdin claimed in court he had no intent to carry out a terrorism plot.

“I just regret it,” Abdin said in court in 2015. “If I get out, I will be a completely different person. I want to change everything I did and go back and have a nice life.”

Then in February 2016 when he was up for parole from juvenile detention, Abdin again claimed he had learned from his mistakes in getting a gun and planning to join ISIS.

“I was not thinking the right way,” Abdin said in a February 2016 S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice parole hearing. “I learned from my mistakes.”

At the parole hearing in 2016, York County deputies and York police officers asked South Carolina officials to keep Abdin in jail until age 21. That is the maximum a juvenile sentence can run.

Bob Hamilton, the York County sheriff’s deputy and former FBI agent who works with federal authorities on terrorism, told the parole board in 2016 the teen is “a threat to national security” and should not be released.

The release of Abdin in 2016 outraged York Police Department Chief Andy Robinson. Robinson said Sunday that he remains upset that Abdin was released in 2016.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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