ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man has been charged with attempting to assist the Islamic State by photographing targets in the Washington, D.C., area for what he thought would be a video encouraging lone-wolf terrorist attacks in the nation's capital.
Haris Qamar, 25, of Burke is the second person this week from the northern Virginia suburbs to be charged at the federal courthouse in Alexandria with attempting to support the Islamic State.
At an initial appearance Friday, a magistrate ordered that Qamar be held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday, and that he receive a court-appointed lawyer.
Qamar came to authorities' attention through Twitter posts about supporting terrorist attacks that appeared under variations of the handle "newerajihadi," court documents show.
According to an affidavit, the FBI set up a sting operation in which Qamar worked with an informant last month to film landmarks, including the Pentagon, that could be targeted for attacks. The informant recorded Qamar saying "bye-bye DC" as he filmed the Pentagon. He went on to say that he hates the United States and gets a "burning sensation in my body because this place is so disgusting."
Qamar told the informant that filming and photographing targets that the Islamic State could use in a video to urge lone-wolf attacks made him a true supporter of the group and more than just a "fanboy," according to the affidavit.
Qamar is a U.S. citizen born in Brooklyn, according to the affidavit, which also said Qamar tried to join the Islamic State in 2014 but was thwarted because his father had possession of Qamar's passport and threatened to turn his son in to authorities if he persisted. Travel records show that Qamar had gone as far as buying a ticket to Istanbul in that time frame, according to the affidavit.
In an interview Friday afternoon, Qamar's father, Qamar Abbas, said he fought with his son over the passport because his son gave what Abbas considered a nonsensical explanation for wanting to travel abroad. The son told his father that he wanted to go to medical school overseas; the father questioned why that would be the case when people come from all over the world to study medicine in the United States.
Over the years, Abbas said, he fought with his son to encourage him to get an education and that the family moved to Fairfax County because of the quality of its public schools. Abbas said he grew concerned a few years ago when his son grew a long beard, and started spending excessive amounts of time online.
"He doesn't know what Islam is," Abbas said of his son. "The computer is corrupting their brains. ... He wasn't telling us the truth."
Abbas said his son was arrested Friday morning at the family home. Abbas said the FBI agents handcuffed him during a search of the home, and he quickly realized from the agents' demeanor why his son had been arrested.
Qamar's arrest comes three days after prosecutors announced charges against another northern Virginia man — Mohamed Jalloh, 26, of Sterling — alleging that he attempted to support the Islamic State. Authorities say Jalloh, a former Army National Guard soldier, contemplated a Fort Hood-style attack against U.S. service members after meeting an Islamic State member in Africa.
Earlier this year, an Alexandria man, Mohamad Khweis, was charged with supporting the Islamic State after traveling to Iraq and Syria to join the group, then surrendering himself to Kurdish forces after a couple of months , saying he became disenchanted with the IS.
Qamar, according to the affidavit, told the informant that Khweis was an idiot for leaving the Islamic State, and he wished he could have traded places with him.