Tamara Leitner, NBC Chicago, October 29, 2015
A suburban Chicago man charged with trying to travel with his siblings to Syria to join ISIS pleaded guilty Thursday to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan of Bolingbrook was arrested last October at O’Hare International Airport along with two of his siblings as they tried to board a plane for Austria and then Turkey. The teens had airline tickets, passports and, according to the prosecutors, a plan to join ISIS.
Khan, who was 19 at the time, was indicted on terrorism charges in January and pleaded not guilty shortly after. On Thursday, Khan changed his plea from not guilty to guilty and the move was approved by a judge.
Khan admitted in the plea agreement that he knew ISIL had been designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization and intended to work under the direction and control of the group once he arrived in Syria, the U.S. attorneys office said Thursday.
With Khan’s cooperation, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of five years in prison.
Khan’s younger brother and sister have not been arrested. Both teens are in counseling.
“These were kids that were born and raised here and they have been used by ISIS recruiters,” Durkin said.
The teen’s parents said in earlier interview they believe their son was brainwashed.
“He was not able to differentiate who he was talking to,” said his father Shafi Khan. “How can you trust somebody who is somewhere? All kinds of people over the internet. He was gullible. He was very naive and innocent. If he was smart he wouldn’t talk to somebody he didn’t know.”