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2 Va. men arrested, 1 nabbed at RIC, on terrorism charges

Posted at 3:29 PM, Jan 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-16 18:19:17-05

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Two Woodbridge men have been arrested on terrorism charges after one of the pair was apprehended at Richmond International Airport Friday afternoon before he boarded a flight ultimately bound for Syria.

Federal prosecutors said Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 28, was caught after he checked in for his flight, cleared security and was approaching the departure gate. His flight was Chicago-bound flight would have eventually taken him to Amman, Jordan and then to Syria where officials said he would have joined ISIL.

Officials said Farrokh purchased the ticket for Friday's flight on Dec. 21. He was driven to a location near the airport by Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan.

Farrokh was charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Richmond International Airport

Richmond International Airport

Elhassan, 25, was arrested in Woodbridge after he returned home from driving Farrokh to Richmond. Officials said he was voluntarily questioned by FBI agents.

Officials said Elhassan picked up Farrokh Friday morning and drove him to a location near the airport.

"Farrokh then took a cab to the airport, checked in for his flight, cleared security and was arrested as he was approaching his departure gate," Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said.

Elhassan was charged with aiding and abetting Farrokh in his attempt to assist ISIL.

Prosecutors allege Farrokh had been planning to join ISIL since late November when Elhassan introduced him to someone he thought had connections to jihadists overseas.

Both are legal U.S. citizens, with Farrokh coming to Virginia from Pennsylvania and Elhassan originally being a native of Sudan.

Court documents state Farrokh chose Richmond International Airport to fly out to avoid what he believed to be stricter law enforcement scrutiny often seen at larger airports.

Both men are scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria on Tuesday.

The two each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted.

The FBI estimated in October that approximately 250 U.S. residents have traveled or tried to travel to Syria to fight in the civil war raging there.