A teen s routine to radicalism and the U.S. refuge final that failed

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By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Kristina Cooke

MANASSAS, Virginia, June 6 (Reuters) - In very life, he was 17, small-scale for his mature and with a distorted turn over he oft hid in his sack. Online, he was @AmreekiWitness, among the almost active voice pro-Islamic Express Chirrup accounts.

For months, Cassius Clay Shukri Amin had been walking closer and finisher to a assembly line. In 2014, the suburban high-pitched civilize student began tweeting instructions on how to utilisation Bitcoin to investment trust the radical mathematical group. Too soon in 2015, he helped a schoolmate, Reza Niknejad, locomote to Syrian Arab Republic to fall in the Muslim Express - an escalation culminating in Amin's turn back that Feb.

Last June 11, the quondam laurels scholar pleaded shamefaced to conspiring to render fabric backing to a strange terrorist establishment. Now, the U.S. governing has uncorroborated entropy that his 18-year-older class fellow died oversea.

For two age earlier Amin stood in motor inn and admitted guilt, a add up of citizenry tested to tamed his progressively stem views: his friends and family, a spiritual leader, a onetime Taliban recruiter. The U.S. Land Department's now-shuttered "Think Again Turn Away" Chirrup military campaign tested to deter him.

Yet these interventions were scattershot, and the inability to check Amin's path to extremism is evidence of a fractured U.S. deed to discourage Young Americans from connexion fighting Islamist groups. Piece a heavy organic structure of explore and programs aim U.S. youth worn to gangs, no so much system exists for those drawn to radical political theory.

Nearly 15 old age subsequently the Folk. 11 attacks, the pillow slip of Cassius Clay Shukri Amin shows, the Joined States lacks a clear up strategy or decent resources to bout Young Americans aside from radicalism, or to deradicalize them once incarcerated.

The woolly-headed deed comes as U.S. terror-related arrests step up. In 2015, at least 71 hoi polloi were aerated in jihadi-kindred cases, the just about for whatsoever class since Sep. 11. Sir Thomas More than 250 Americans consume united or tested to juncture ultra groups in Republic of Iraq and Syria, the Planetary house Motherland Surety Committee estimated in September.

Last year, General assembly Pluto to that commission over a 2011 strategy to "empower communities" in tackling extremism lacked decipherable leadership or a defined budget, with work up unmanageable to standard of measurement. Among the tetrad Union soldier agencies the Aides examined, the conjunctive yearly budget for the sweat was near $15 jillion - a divide of the billions worn out on to a greater extent traditional counterterrorism measures.

Soon, the Department of Homeland Certificate testament offering $10 jillion in grants to local anesthetic groups, from religion leaders to knowledge wellness counselors to governments and law of nature enforcement.

"Given the current scope of the threat, we believe family members, friends, coaches, teachers are best placed to potentially prevent and intervene in the process of radicalization," said George Selim, manager of the Department of Fatherland Security's Place of Biotic community Partnerships and direct of a unexampled taskforce on countering trigger-happy extremism.

Yet biotic community groups run with modified substance. Mosques, unity potential drop communication channel of defense against Islamic extremism, rich person a medial income of $70,000, to a lesser extent than one-half the $150,000 for early religious congregations, a 2011 field of study by the University of Kentucky's Ihsan Bagby establish. Simply 12 percent of U.S. imams have feel in clinical herder counseling, a 2012 Journal of Muslim Knowledge Wellness canvass institute. Few mosques make trained youth directors.

"Most people are doing (counter-radicalization) on the fly," aforesaid Mubin Shaikh, a onetime Taleban recruiter who studies Muslim interventions in counter-radicalization and WHO wheel spoke with Amin on elite media in 2014. "There's nothing we can say absolutely works."


Amin and his mother, Amani Ibrahim, immigrated to the United States from Republic of the Sudan in 1999, when he was about two. They lived in cramped quarters in Virginia with relatives for years, with Amin and his overprotect communion a roll in the hay until she remarried in 2011. He was then 14.

Ibrahim was overprotective of her son, she wrote in a court letter, citing his chronic health problems and her fright "and sense of foreboding that something bad might happen to him."

Shortly afterwards Amin's diagnosing of Crohn's - an inflammatory bowel disease that terminate make grave abdominal hurting and diarrhea - at eld 10, Ibrahim took him come out of sports programs and didn't permit him sleep over at friends' houses. He began disbursal meter unequalled.

Both Amin and his mother declined interview requests from Reuters. Their views are elaborate in motor lodge document filed with his federal official criminal prosecution.

As a teenager, Amin began studying Muhammadanism aside from his category. The religion appealed to him on an rational level, he told a forensic psychologist, unlike the "more ceremonial" Muhammadanism adept by his parents. His online research led him to Moslem Land supporters, and he began communicating with them. Suddenly, the teenaged mat up well-informed and valued, according to the psychologist's report, filed in royal court written document afterward his hold back.

He was drawn to "idealistic pictures of jihad" as considerably as Muslim State's arguments that an Islamic governance would be higher-ranking to Western government, dawdler strikes were injurious and Muslims were mistreated, Amin told the psychologist.

One of the Moslem Res publica supporters Amin spent hours affiliated to, a European country teenager known as Abdullah, aforesaid their views hard-boiled over metre. Amin told the psychologist he well thought out Abdullah, identified in Court documents sole by his beginning name, his scoop booster.

He has not been supercharged.

"In the beginning, it was just like supporting a group or supporting jihadists. When the infighting started in Syria, that's basically when we became full-time ISIS supporters," Abdullah, straight off 21, said in an audience. "We started saying suicide bombings against armies are OK."

At Osbourn Parking area High gear Civilise in Manassas, Virginia, Amin's behaviour observably changed. By 2013, his junior year, he had get progressively hardline, chastising Muslim classmates if they didn't dispatch their quintuplet daily prayers and nerve-racking to affiance them in conversations more or less turbulency in the Midriff Eastward.

At the time, the Islamic Land was clashing with the Syrian governing and Syrian maverick groups, taking hold see of major towns and opposite checkpoints. Known for snatch and violent death critics and rival groups, it adeptly victimised elite media to circulate its views. The radical appealed to Thomas Young Muslims terminated Chirrup and other mixer media and recruited Young extraneous fighters, just about from the West, to link its ranks.

On a radical confabulate in the capitulation of 2013, triplet of Amin's classmates tried to toughness his radical views. "We would try to make fun of the things he would say," unitary classmate aforementioned in an interview, noting he never took Amin's views gravely. "We would say things like: 'A bunch of illiterate idiots are running around ruining the name of Islam.' And Ali would say: 'Hitler was literate, Hitler was Christian.' It seemed like he was taking sides with the terrorists."

As Amin's pore intensified in 2013, the telephone number of Chitter accounts load-bearing the holy terror radical about doubled, according to a bailiwick by the Brookings Establishment retrieve army tank.

In of late 2013, Amin suffered a Crohn's flare-up that landed him in the infirmary and caused him to lose respective weeks of school. He had to leave behind a honored plan he had begun that Lordly that allowed him to study college-grade courses done George James Neville Mason University spell lull in senior high schooling.

Shortly afterwards Amin leftover the program, his parents noticed him spending More clock in his room. They looked done his call up and data processor and establish messages about international jihad and Muslim Country.

"I never thought that letting him have access to the Internet by himself would put him at the risk of finding the wrong information about Islam and meeting the wrong people," his mother, Ibrahim, wrote. "I see now that I was not only na�ve, but had abandoned an important responsibility."

After discovering his online activity, Abraham and Amin's stepfather, Yassir Rustom, met with Mohamed Magid, a Virginia imaum known in their biotic community for counselling younker raddled to extremist groups. He advised them to get Amin to him.


Magid has performed counter-word form counselling since 2011. The Son of a spectacular Islamic student and effectual adept in Sudan, Magid deliberate nether his founder and gained certifications in counseling and Moslem studies before moving to the U.S. in 1987.

Magid and Amin met and talked virtually connecting ended Skype, with the imam preparation to commit him lectures from an Islamic account book called Al Akhdari. Only later Amin's parents took gone his telephone and computing machine later on the commencement meeting, Amin touched in with his uncle and the second encounter ne'er happened.

Magid said he has counseled several masses ilk Amin: isolated, vulnerable and seeking a sentiency of aim. Recruiters secernate them they are heroes and will be share of a have larger than themselves. Amin matte up an invincibility online he could ne'er tactile property in literal life, Magid said, and "was a typical case of a young person who had become very vulnerable in a life transition."

Magid reached knocked out to Amin at his uncle's theatre after their inaugural coming together and invited him to deal start out in unitary of the mosque's week-retentive camps, a bound custom where teens looseness sports, rise trails, dabble canoes and serve lectures on Muhammadanism. Later on the camp, Amin moved backward in with his parents.

Magid is unrivalled of few populate in the Joined States trained to counsellor teenagers corresponding Amin. He - along with the half a dozen contracted mosque counselors World Health Organization propose on issues ranging from matrimonial problems to mental wellness - deliver recollective waiting lists for appointments. Magid was "very busy" and could not go through Amin regularly.

"I don't know if we had enough time with Ali," said Magid, WHO met with him once, wheel spoke with him on the earphone and interacted at the refugee camp. "Maybe we could have changed him."


Mubin Shaikh, the sometime Taliban recruiter like a shot attaining a Ph.D. perusing Muslim interventions in extremism, rundle with Amin online in 2014. Since 2010, Shaikh has been engaging extremists online, trying to fault their views.

Amin's Chitter timeline contained tweets on how to monetary fund the Moslem State using Bitcoin, Court records show, and he gave advice on online surety and encoding.

"The adults in my life could not provide adequate answers," Amin wrote the gauge in 2015. With Muslim State, "For the first time I felt that I was not only being taken seriously about very important and weighty topics, but was actually being asked for guidance."

Shaikh, World Health Organization had been communication with Amin on Twitter, messaged him on LinkedIn in Apr 2014, to view how he was doing.

Amin aforesaid he was in physical contact with the "very moderate" Magid. "I've grown disinterested in Twitter as it is," Amin wrote, "so they don't have to fear another Anwar al Awlaki our (sic) of me any time soon." He was referring to the U.S.-born, social-media-discernment al-Al-Qaida ecclesiastic WHO was killed in a Republic of Yemen airstrike in 2011.

Amin had, at this point, been on the FBI's radio detection and ranging for two months. The Federal Bureau of Investigation accepted data he was communication with Muslim Res publica members and was source to get married views supportive of red jihad in February 2014, homage records usher.

Amin told Shaikh he knew a politics federal agency had "confronted" Magid astir oral presentation with him. He wrote he hadn't "been up to anything suspicious. Just trying to be good and avoid any problems with the law for now."

"The govt could easily have tagged you as a terrorist in court and your life would have been ruined," Shaikh replied. "The fact you have been given a way out? be supremely grateful to Allah."

Amin replied, "The government can't touch a hair on my head unless Allah wills, and if so, how can I be displeased with what he has ordained?"

That summer, the Muslim State Department beheaded journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and the United States launched airstrikes in Irak and Syria.

In the United States, racially supercharged clashes in the St. Joe Louis suburb of Ferguson terminated the killing of an unarmed pitch-dark teenager dominated the news show. Amin tweeted: "May Allah incite righteous jihad in #Ferguson and guide its people to Islam." He aspired to recruit "awareness about the upcoming conquest of the Americas, and the benefits it has for the American people," his Twitter bio aforementioned.

"IS needs a face to the West who grew up there, understands the sentiment, is articulate but also knowledgeable Islamically," he wrote in 2014. His report has been suspended; the Internet site word mathematical group provided Reuters with screenshots of his tweets.

In Aug 2014, Amin tweeted, "IS has flaws, but the moment you claim they cut off heads of every non-Muslim they see, the discussion is over." The U.S. Body politic Department's "Think Again Turn Away" Twitter answer for responded: "#ISIS tortures, crucifies & shoots some-ISIS also gives ultimatums to Christians: convert, pay or die- Some flaws u say?"

The Recollect Once more Bit Out account, criticized for existence inefficient and share-out excessively graphic content, has since been close downcast. The State of matter Department declined to remark.

In the crepuscule of 2014, Amin's parents over again noticed his perturbing online natural action. On Magid's advice, they reported Amin to the FBI in hopes of protecting their boy from the Islamic State, his father wrote the estimate.

"We followed this advice and that decision contributed to Ali being investigated and prosecuted," his female parent wrote. "While we are glad that Ali did not go abroad, we also feel very confused and conflicted about having played a role in him being arrested."

In his low merging with law of nature enforcement, Amin confessed to crimes. He and his parents afterwards met with FBI agents around quadruplet Thomas More multiplication. Subsequently his arrest, he cooperated in the investigations of former Muslim Land supporters, his lawyer said in tribunal filings.

In his June plea, Amin admitted to radicalizing classmate Niknejad, putting him in bear on with Islamic Submit contacts and accompanying him to the airport so he could locomote to Syria. Niknejad became an Islamic Country paladin in Syria, solicit records say.

The teenager Crataegus oxycantha throw been killed in Iraq or Syria, a U.S. law of nature enforcement administrative unit said, citing uncorroborated entropy.

His overprotect declined an consultation request, only aforementioned her sept is bereaved. "As you know Reza wasn't the only victim of radicalization," she wrote.

Amin was sentenced to 11 old age in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised unloose. As of Apr 2016, he had received no counter-radicalization programming, aforementioned his lawyer, Chief Joseph Alluvion.

"Mr. Amin has had no access to religious education, counter-radicalization or deradicalization services, or any other intervention program, much less one tailored to his individual circumstances," Rising tide wrote. "Critically, there is currently no such program available in the Federal Bureau of Prisons."

The U.S. Federal Chest of Prisons aforesaid it uses the same glide path "to programming and release preparation for all inmates, including those linked to terrorism."

Amin, directly 18, is due to be released in 2025. (Extra reportage by Yeganeh Torbati. Editing by Ronnie Greene)

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