FBI: Heights man planned ISIS attack

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — A Dearborn Heights man threatened attacks on police and a Detroit church, in support of ISIS, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed on Feb 4.

Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, was in federal court in Detroit on Feb. 8 facing charges of possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

He has not been charged with any terrorism crime.

The detention hearing was rescheduled from Feb. 8 to 1 p.m. Feb. 10 because his attorney, Thomas Eoannou of Buffalo, required time to travel. The hearing again was rescheduled to 1 p.m. Feb. 16 because he requested a public defender.

According to an FBI affidavit in the complaint, Abu-Rayyan had been under FBI surveillance since May, after photos and posts were found on his social media accounts declaring his support of ISIS.

In one photo Abu-Rayyan was shown holding a semi-automatic pistol, while making a common ISIS gesture in two others.

The affidavit revealed he began having conversations with an undercover investigator where he stated he had an AK-47 and threatened to attack a Detroit church.

“I tried to shoot up a church one day,” Abu-Rayyan stated in the complaint. “I don’t know the name of it, but it’s close to my job. It’s one of the biggest ones in Detroit.

“Ya, I had it planned out. I bought a bunch of bullets. I practiced a lot with it. I practiced reloading and unloading. But my dad searched my car one day, and he found everything. He found the gun and the bullets and a mask I was going to wear.

“It’s easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news. Everybody would’ve heard. Honestly I regret not doing it. (If I) can’t go do jihad at the Middle East, I would do my jihad over here.”

The FBI recalled its discussions with Abu-Rayyan in its affidavit.

“During these conversations, Abu-Rayyan consistently expressed support for ISIL and repeatedly expressed his desire to commit a martyrdom operation,” it read.

“Threats of this nature, regardless of where they originate, or who they target, are always taken seriously,” said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, FBI – Detroit Division. “The FBI acted quickly and comprehensively to investigate and arrest Mr. Rayyan upon the receipt of information that he posed a potential public safety threat. The investigative actions prior to his arrest included 24/7 surveillance to ensure there was a prompt response to any attempted violent act.”

The FBI said Abu-Rayyan on two occasions lied while filling out federal ATF Form 4473 to purchase firearms, when he checked “no” to the question asking whether he is an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

The first occurrence happened when Abu-Rayyan purchased a .22-caliber revolver from a sporting goods store in Dearborn Heights Oct. 5, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Abu-Rayyan was pulled over Oct. 7 in Detroit for speeding and was arrested when police found marijuana and the unlicensed weapon in the vehicle, the statement said.

The second occurrence came when Abu-Rayyan attempted to purchase a second firearm Nov. 15 at a different sporting goods store, but was unsuccessful due to the pending state weapons charges.

After his arrest, Abu-Rayyan admitted to law enforcement that he was a habitual marijuana user during the time in which he purchased the .22-caliber revolver.

Abu-Rayyan pleaded guilty to state drug and concealed weapon charges, according to the statement. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 22.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)