Ill. Natl Guardsman intercepted at Midway allegedly trying to join ISIS

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two Aurora men were arrested Wednesday night for allegedly conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq.

One of the suspects would have arrived in Cairo Thursday had he not been intercepted at Midway before taking off.

Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds was allegedly traveling to Egypt to join ISIS. The 22-year-old had given his cousin Jonas Edmonds, 29, his uniform. Jonas Edmonds planned to wear the garments to infiltrate a military facility - likely Joliet Armory - where Hasan Edmonds trained. And then Jonas Edmonds planned to carry out an attack, authorities say.

The cousins are U.S. citizens who attended West Aurora High School. They were raised Christian and later converted to Islam. Hasan Edmonds' sister says she cannot believe her brother and cousin would try to do anyone harm.

"I believe this is a prejudice. Just because they choose to worship as Muslims, it does not make them terrorists to the United States," sister Manchinique Bates said.

"They're well known here, but not as bad people, we don't have no problem with them. My kids played with them all day," said neighbor Mike Olvera.

Hasan Edmonds participated in a weekend drill training with the National Guard earlier this month. His plans were uncovered when he and Jonas Edmonds revealed what they were going to do to an undercover agent.

FBI officials say they first became aware of the Edmonds cousins last year.

The men were charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois with one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

"I'm baffled by the fact they're not even four doors down from us. In our neighborhood, nothing but kids, teenagers, not even a half-block from school. So its, wow, kind of shocking," David Jenkins said.

Minutes from Hasan's house is the Aurora home of Jonas' great aunt, where Jonas lived for a time.

"When he stopped by the last time I saw him, when he stopped by, he was calm and very nice," said Gloria Edmonds, Jonas' great aunt.

Bates described Hasan and Jonas as introverts who were good-natured and quick to laugh - far different than the portrait painted by federal authorities.

FBI INVESTIGATION BEGAN IN 2014

"Throughout the course of this investigation, the defendants were closely and carefully monitored to ensure the safety of the public and our service men and women," FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Holley said in a statement.

During the investigation, the FBI says undercover agents met with both defendants to discuss their plan of an armed attack against a U.S. military facility in northern Illinois, where Hasan Edmonds had trained.

"According to the charges filed today, the defendants allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIL and planned to travel overseas to support the terrorist organization," Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in a statement. "In addition, they plotted to attack members of our military within the United States. Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack."

"We will pursue and prosecute with vigor those who support ISIL and its agenda of ruthless violence," U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. "Anyone who threatens to harm our citizens and allies, whether abroad or here at home, will face the full force of justice."

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said he learned of the plot Wednesday night after the arrest.

"I commend the Illinois National Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for working together closely to apprehend this individual and his associates. On behalf of all citizens of Illinois, I thank all the members of our National Guard as well as the FBI for protecting our state and defending our country," Rauner said in a statement.

Conspiring to provide material support to foreign terrorists carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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