A New Jersey man inspired by the Oct. 7 attack on Israel attempted to join the al-Shabab terror group to harm the United States, a federal court in New York announced on Friday.
Karrem Nasr, a U.S. citizen from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, traveled from Egypt to Kenya in an attempt to join and train with al-Shabab, the U.S. Southern District of New York said in a statement. Al-Shabab is a Somali jihadist group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.
Nasr, 23, was taken into custody in Nairobi on Dec. 14 and transported to the United States on Thursday. He will appear in federal court later Friday, the statement said.
He was charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The defendant “devoted himself to waging violent jihad against America and its allies” in order to “execute his jihadist mission of death and destruction,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
“Nasr was prepared to kill and be killed to support the jihadist cause, and in his own words, he described America as ‘evil,’” Williams said.
Al-Shabab has used assassinations, improvised explosives, suicide bombings, rockets and more to target the Somali government, civilians and foreigners, including those from the United States and United Nations organizations. The group has targeted U.S. citizens at home and abroad since the State Department designated the organization as a terror group in 2008.
Nasr said he had been inspired by the Hamas attacks on southern Israel, which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
“After the October 7th events, I felt that something has changed. To the better I mean. I felt that pride and dignity came back to the Muslims,” he told a confidential FBI source, according to a criminal complaint.
He said he had been thinking about joining a jihadist group “for a long time” but was not able to until Oct. 7, referring to the attack as “Flood the Aqsa,” a reference to Hamas’ term for the invasion: “Operation al-Aqsa Flood.” The Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, sits atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the holiest site for Jews. The Old City holy site is a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a touchstone for religious Muslims.
“When the operation, Flood the Aqsa started, I felt something has changed in the world,” Nasr told the F.B.I source, who was posing as a facilitator for terror groups. “I saw the video of the Zionist bombing the hospital al-Ahli in Gaza. I know that they brought this bomb from America.”
Initial reports on Oct. 17 said Israel had bombed the Gaza hospital, but later investigations and evidence from the Israel Defense Forces indicated that the medical center had been hit by a misfired Palestinian rocket.
Nasr was born in the United States to an Egyptian family and moved to Egypt to study Arabic in July. He contacted the FBI source using an encrypted messaging app on Nov. 14, expressing his desire to join al-Shabab for military training.
Using an alias, Nasr also posted on social media after Oct. 7 that jihad was “coming soon to a US location,” with emojis depicting a plane, a bomb and a flame.
Kenyan authorities took him into custody shortly after he arrived in the country.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task force, which includes FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives.