An 18-year-old Houston man who told a federal informant he wanted to die in “martyrdom” has been charged with supporting ISIS in a plot authorities said also included planning for a firearms attack in the United States.
Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya, a native-born U.S. citizen, is accused in a criminal complaint of unlawfully distributing instructions for making explosives and trying to provide material support to the terrorist organization, according to court documents unsealed Monday in federal court in Houston.
He is the third Houston-area resident arrested for supporting ISIS in recent years. Last week, Asher Abid Khan, 23, of Spring, pleaded guilty to supporting the group. Another man, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 25, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 18 after pleading guilty last year to an ISIS bomb plot in the Houston area.
Damlarkaya had already tried twice to reach ISIS in Syria, in 2014 and 2015, and had purchased parts to make a homemade AK-47, FBI Special Agent Keith Fogg of the Houston division said in a sworn statement used to obtain an arrest warrant.
Damlarkaya discussed making bombs online and slept with a machete under his pillow, Fogg said.
Damlarkaya had also discussed attacks with Samurai swords or machetes, authorities said, because “not all of us can get a gun or make explosives, but we can afford to buy a $15 knife.”
The Houston teen was arrested Friday, and is being held pending a detention hearing in federal court later this week.
Authorities say Damlarkaya spoke online to undercover FBI agents beginning in August, during which he said he planned to travel overseas to fight for ISIS or commit an attack in the United States. He also asked an FBI source to publish a farewell video for him, should he follow through with an attack in which he died, according to the criminal complaint.
Damlarkaya provided a formula to make a pressure-cooked explosive that contained shrapnel, authorities said, as well as how to build an AK-47 or AR-15 assault rifle so as to avoid detection from law enforcement.
“I want to support the khalifa with my blood,” he said, referring to the leader of the caliphate, according to the complaint.
Authorities say Damlarkaya said he first tried to travel to Syria a few months after the Islamic State announced the creation of a caliphate there in 2014. Damlarkaya then tried again in 2015, authorities said.
After recounting his failures to get to Syria, authorities said Damlarkaya told an FBI source that he hated “living in this world” and wanted to die during an attack so as to “inspire other bros.”
Damlarkaya then asked the FBI source to publish a farewell video for him, should he die during that attack, according to the complaint.
On Nov. 4, Damlarkaya told an undercover FBI agent that he was planning to travel to Turkey, where his father is from, and then into Syria to join ISIS. He also reiterated that he had tried to join ISIS twice before, one of which was thwarted by a friend whose parents he believed informed the FBI, the complaint says.
On Nov. 15, Damlarkaya told a second FBI agent that he had tried to travel to Syria, the complaint says, and that he was in love with the sister of the friend who he believed had thwarted his previous plans to join ISIS. The girl’s parents had prohibited him from contacting her because “of course they won’t let their daughter marry a terrorist,” he said, according to the complaint.
On Oct. 25, authorities say Damlarkaya sent an email to himself that detailed his love for the girl, and which FBI agents said was likely meant to be sent to her once he made it to Syria safely.
In the email, authorities say Damlarkaya explained that he “escaped” from an “oppressive place” to Syria, “the best place on earth.”
He then, authorities said, wrote at length about martyrdom and jihad.
“There is no action better than jihad, and no person better than the mujahid,” he wrote, according to the criminal complaint. “If I die, then gardens and rivers await me, and the smiling face of Allah my Creator is what I will see.”