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FBI Arrests 3 Men For Allegedly Plotting To Join Islamic State In Syria

The FBI has arrested three men from Brooklyn for allegedly plotting to join the so-called Islamic State in Syria.

In a press release, the Justice Department said that the men — two citizens of Uzbekistan and one a citizen of Kazakhstan — have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, and Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, had already bought plane tickets to Istanbul. Saidakhmetov was arrested this morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The third man, Abror Habibov, 30, is accused of providing support for Saidakhmetov.

According to a criminal complaint, the three men were first noticed by law enforcement when they pledged their support for the Islamic State on Internet forums. Juraboev, the government alleges, "offered to kill the President of the United States if ordered." Saidakhmetov, the government alleges, "expressed his intent to buy a machine gun and shoot police officers and FBI agents if thwarted in his plan to join [ISIS] in Syria."

The threat posed by Westerners, who become radicalized with trips to Syria, has been a big focus of counterterrorism officials both in Europe and in the United States.

As NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has reported, officials believe "at least 140 U.S. passport holders are thought to have gone to Syria and Iraq since the civil war began in 2011."

"The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who has also been nominated to serve as the country's next attorney general, said in a statement. "We will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad on behalf of ISIL and those who support them. Anyone who threatens our citizens and our allies, here or abroad, will face the full force of American justice."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.