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Press Release

Houstonian sent to prison for supporting terrorism

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – A 23-year-old U.S. citizen from Houston has been ordered to federal prison for attempting to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani and Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen.

Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya attempted to join and support ISIS from August 2017 until his arrest in December 2017. He pleaded guilty July 8, 2019.

U.S. District Judge U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered him to serve 165 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by a lifetime of supervised release.

“Damlarkaya wanted to kill in the name of ISIS,” said Hamdani. “He slept with a machete by his bed, ready to use on law enforcement, provided instructions on how to make a bomb to ISIS supporters, and prepared to travel overseas and become a martyr for our enemies. Today’s sentence insures that Damlarkaya will spend many many years away from machetes and explosives, making everyone in the Southern District of Texas a lot safer.”

In addition to wanting to join ISIS, Damlarkaya also provided information to ISIS supporters about the use of machetes, homemade construction of an automatic weapon and how to build and use explosive materials.

“Preventing a terrorist attack remains the FBI’s number one priority, but the threat of terrorism has morphed significantly from the sophisticated, externally directed plot to the individual, inspired attack,” said Special Agent in Charge James Smith of the FBI Houston Field Office. “Fortunately, for us and the public, Damlarkaya was stopped before he was able to carry out his terrorism plan. He dreamed of being a martyr. The reality is that he’s now a federal prisoner and will be one for years to come. Our Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to gather and share information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to protect our communities.”

As part of his plans to join ISIS overseas, starting in approximately early August 2017, Damlarkaya had numerous conversations online with many individuals he believed to be fellow ISIS supporters. During these discussions, he described his intentions to travel overseas to fight for ISIS in Syria or Afghanistan. Damlarkaya added that if he was unsuccessful in joining ISIS overseas, he would conduct an on attack on non-Muslims in the United States and that it was his “dream” to be a martyr.    

Damalarkaya also provided information to other ISIS supporters, on at least two separate occasions, about ways to manufacture a bomb. Specifically, he described how to make explosives formula using triacetone triperoxide and cautioned  the others to “take safety seriously while you make this” to be “useful until you can strike.”

Damlarkaya further illustrated to ISIS supporters ways to construct an automatic weapon. He claimed he could buy a “GIANT machete for $15” and stated “a lot of us are poor… or we don't have experience. So not all of us can get a gun or make explosives, but we can afford to buy a $15 knife.” He claimed he slept with a machete under his pillow ready to use if law enforcement raided his house.

When agents arrested Damlarkaya, they executed a search warrant at his residence and found a machete by his bed.

He has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Jones is prosecuting the case along with DOJ Trial Attorneys Kevin Nunnally and Gregory Gonzalez of National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Updated June 29, 2023

National Security