It took only three years from Justin Kaliebe’s conversion to Islam at the tender age of 15 to boarding a plane in New York in an attempt to join AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula) in Yemen for the purpose of committing terrorist plots against the United States.
Ground Zero Mosque Kaliebe, 18, was caught boarding a plane to Yemen by counter-terrorism officials and the NYPD. He pleaded guilty in federal court to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. He will be sentenced in September and faces 30 years in prison. According to court papers, Kaliebe told an undercover operative pretending to be a confidant, “There is no way out for me. …The only way out is martyrdom.”
The NYPD has long had an interest in converts to Islam as part of its efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, saying in a 2007 report that they are “particularly vulnerable” to radicalization and “have played a prominent role in the majority of terrorist case studies and tend to be the most zealous members of groups.”
Court records don’t mention why Kaliebe first came to the attention of the NYPD. But Shamiur Rahman, a former NYPD informant, told the AP in an interview last year he infiltrated a Brooklyn mosque where Kaliebe sometimes prayed and was told to watch Kaliebe and another man because they were converts to Islam.
Prosecutors allege Kaliebe began plotting to join al-Qa’ida on the Arabian Peninsula in 2011 (at age 16) while he was in contact with an undercover operative, who recorded their conversation.