ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A man arrested as part of an FBI terrorism investigation appeared in federal court on Wednesday for weapons charges. The FBI said he also told an undercover agent that he planned to shoot up a military recruitment center.
This is the latest in a string of arrests in Northern Virginia of men suspected of wanting to help ISIS.
Yusuf Wehelie is the third Northern Virginia man in the last two weeks to be arrested as a result of an FBI terrorism investigation. He is facing charges for transporting four machine guns across state lines in exchange for $300. However, Wehelie is felon who is not allowed to possess firearms and his "clients" turned out to be undercover FBI agents.
Wehelie’s brother spoke to FOX 5 in 2010 after both brothers were detained in Cairo when they were returning to the United States from Yemen after their names ended up on the no-fly list. The brothers were eventually able to return to their home in Virginia.
But in federal court on Wednesday, the FBI said Wehelie told undercover agents he wanted to travel to Libya to join ISIS, and if he couldn’t do that, he planned to pretend to join the military and then open fire on a military recruitment center.
Currently, Wehelie is only facing charges for transporting the machine guns and none for terrorism.
However, in other terrorism investigations, ten men have been arrested and charges with attempting to help ISIS – all from Northern Virginia. Eight of the arrests happened in about the past year. These are concerning numbers especially when taking into account that in the entire state of Maryland, there has only been one recent case linked to the terror group.
“If we can disrupt someone from committing an attack or to join ISIS and don’t have evidence to charge him with a crime of terrorism per se, but there are other crimes – we will use that as a mode to disrupt him,” said assistant U.S. attorney Harvey Eisenberg.
The FBI Washington Field Office sent FOX 5 a statement explaining in part why there may be a spike in these types of arrests in Northern Virginia. It said in part:
"Because of the national significance of Washington, D.C., and the vast number of potential geographic and human targets, Northern Virginia and the surrounding area are likely to continue to experience arrests of individuals who have provided material support to designated terrorist organizations."
They added there are more than 1,000 terrorism-related investigations currently open in all 50 states.
The FBI Washington Field Office said there does not appear to be any link between any the suspects facing charges in Northern Virginia, so they do not believe they are dealing with a terrorism cell or hub.