United States Obtains Warrant for Seizure of Airplane Owned by Russian Oil Company Valued at Over $25 Million
Today, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a U.S. citizen and former resident of Bay Ridge, New York, of all five counts of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS; providing material support to ISIS in the form of personnel, training, expert advice and assistance; receipt of military-type training from ISIS; and obstruction of justice. The jury also found that the defendant’s provision of material support to ISIS resulted in the death of one or more persons. The verdict followed a two-week trial before United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis. When sentenced, Asainov faces up to life in prison.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the verdict.
“As proven at trial, Asainov was a member of ISIS, a violent foreign terrorist organization, which has committed numerous acts resulting in the deaths of many U.S. citizens and others,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “The defendant committed to the terrorist organization’s evil cause and made an extraordinary journey to the battlefield in Syria, where he became a lethal sniper for ISIS and trained many other ISIS members to kill. Even after being captured, he still pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Today’s verdict in an American courtroom is a victory for our system of justice, and against ISIS and those like the defendant who are committed to murdering innocent people here in the United States and abroad.”
“With today’s guilty verdict, Asainov now faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison for providing material support to ISIS which resulted in death. Combatting terrorism worldwide remains the FBI’s top priority, and the dedicated personnel assigned to our New York Joint Terrorism Task force will continue to work tirelessly to bring to justice all those who seek to commit acts of terror against the United States and our citizens,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.
“Asainov is a naturalized U.S. citizen who forsook the country that took him in – as well as his family in New York City – to instead pledge allegiance to ISIS and actively promote that terrorist group’s violent objectives,” stated NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “Today’s verdict serves as a warning to anyone who intends to support or conduct attacks on behalf of such a despicable organization: You will be brought to justice. The threat of ISIS-inspired murder and chaos remains very real, however, and the members of our FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force – in close partnership with our law enforcement colleagues across the globe – will never cease working to identify those who so clearly consider our country their sworn enemy.”
As proven at trial, between December 2013 and March 2019, Asainov provided and conspired to provide material support and resources in the form of personnel, including himself, training, and expert advice and assistance, to a foreign terrorist organization, namely ISIS, knowing that ISIS was a designated foreign terrorist organization that had engaged in terrorist activity and terrorism. Asainov also received military-type training from ISIS, in violation of federal law.
Asainov converted to Islam in 2009 and subsequently became increasingly interested in Islamic extremism. By the fall of 2013, he was consuming radical Islamic content online. He abruptly dropped out of classes at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in September 2013, and began preparing to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad.
On December 24, 2013, Asainov abandoned his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, and traveled on a one-way ticket from New York to Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain entry into Syria.
Over the course of approximately five years fighting on behalf of ISIS, Asainov fought in numerous battles against ISIS enemies, including engagements at Kobani; Tabqa; Raqqa; Dayr Az Zawr; and ISIS’s last stand in Syria at Baghouz, in March 2019. Asainov received training in how to use automatic rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. In Tabqa, in mid-2014, he volunteered to train as a sniper. Over time, Asainov became a sniper trainer or “emir” on behalf of ISIS, estimating that he taught nearly 100 students. A former U.S. Navy SEAL scout sniper testified that the defendant’s sniper training course was consistent with what the former SEAL would expect to be taught in a sniper training program.
From Syria, the defendant attempted to recruit another individual to travel from the United States to Syria to fight for ISIS, and sought to obtain funds to purchase a scope for his rifle from the same person. The defendant also told his estranged wife that he was fighting on behalf of ISIS, described by him in a recorded January 2015 voicemail as “the most atrocious terrorist organization in the world that ever existed.” Asainov’s wife testified that he sent her a photograph of three dead fighters, one of whom was wearing a patch that stated, “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” i.e., ISIS, in Arabic script.
Asainov was captured in Syria after ISIS’s last stand at Baghouz, near the Syria-Iraq border. Just before his capture, Asainov discarded his rifle and destroyed his cell phone.
Asainov admitted to agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that he had fought in numerous battles on behalf of ISIS as a warrior and sniper, serving in several different katibas or ISIS fighting brigades. In recorded phone calls to his mother from facilities operated by the Bureau of Prisons, the defendant told her that he was carrying out Allah’s orders when he waged jihad and killed for ISIS, that he intended to return to waging jihad if released, and that he would fight until he “meet[s] Allah,” i.e., until his death. In September 2020, staff at a BOP facility confiscated a makeshift ISIS flag affixed to Asainov’s cell wall. The defendant had filled in an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper with black ink and Arabic writing in the design of the ISIS flag.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas M. Pravda, J. Matthew Haggans, Nicholas J. Moscow, and Nina C. Gupta are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Assistant United States Attorney Saritha Komatireddy, Trial Attorney Jenny Levy of the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice and Paralegal Specialists Wayne Colon and Mary Clare McMahon.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the FBI’s Legal Attachés abroad, and foreign authorities in multiple countries on multiple continents provided critical assistance in this case. The Bosnian and Herzegovinian authorities, and the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Sarajevo provided extraordinary assistance in the investigation and prosecution. The Ministry of Justice for the Republic of Finland, the Stuttgart Police Department and Federal Office of Justice in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development in the Republic of South Africa, and the Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine, and the FBI’s Legal Attaché Offices in or responsible for those countries provided valuable assistance in the investigation.
RUSLAN MARATOVICH ASAINOV (also known as “Suleiman Al-Amriki” and “Suleiman Al-Kazakhi)
Syria and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-402 (NGG)
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office