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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Suburban Chicago Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison for Attempting to Join Jabhat Al-Nusrah in Syria

CHICAGO — A federal judge today sentenced a suburban Chicago man to 15 years in prison for attempting to travel overseas to join a jihadist militant group in Syria.

ABDELLA AHMAD TOUNISI, 23, of Aurora, Ill., was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in April 2013 as he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey.  Tounisi had spent four months conducting online research related to overseas travel and violent jihad, focusing specifically on Syria and the violent Jabhat al-Nusrah terrorist organization.

Tounisi pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.  U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan imposed the sentence in federal court in Chicago.

The sentence was announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Dana J. Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and John P. Selleck, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The investigation was led by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of Special Agents of the FBI, officers of the Chicago Police Department, and representatives from an additional 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

According to his plea agreement, Tounisi in early 2013 made online contact with an individual he believed to be a recruiter for Jabhat al-Nusrah.  He and the purported recruiter exchanged a series of emails, during which Tounisi shared his plan to go to Syria by way of Turkey, as well as his willingness to fight for the jihadist cause, the plea agreement states.  Unbeknownst to Tounisi, the purported recruiter was actually an FBI employee.

Tounisi, a U.S. citizen, requested an expedited passport and purchased an airline ticket for the flight from Chicago to Istanbul.  He arrived at O’Hare on the evening of April 19, 2013, and was arrested after passing through security in the international terminal.

Tounisi was a close friend of Adel Daoud, of Hillside, Ill., who was arrested on Sept. 14, 2012, for allegedly attempting to detonate a bomb outside a bar in downtown Chicago.  Tounisi recommended certain attack techniques to Daoud but ultimately decided against participating in the attack.  Daoud was charged separately and is awaiting trial in federal court in Chicago.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas of the Northern District of Illinois, and Trial Attorney Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

National Security
Updated October 19, 2017