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Man arrested while preparing to flee US and join ISIS, authorities say

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Posted at 7:17 AM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 07:17:39-05

A Connecticut man was arrested over the weekend as he prepared to flee the U.S. to join ISIS, federal authorities said.

Ahmad Khalil Elshazly, 22, of West Haven, was arrested Sunday near the Stonington shoreline, where he expected to board a container ship and embark on a trip to Turkey to fight for ISIS, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Elshazly arranged to travel by ship to Turkey because he was concerned about being stopped by law enforcement at an airport, prosecutors said. He allegedly paid someone $500 with the expectation that it would be used to pay for a portion of his trip.

"Worried that his efforts here would be too small and that he would be stopped at the airport, he planned to travel overseas aboard a container ship to join and fight for ISIS," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement Monday. "The National Security Division is committed to identifying and holding accountable those who continue to seek to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations."

Federal prosecutors said Elshazly was "bent on supporting ISIS."

Last year, Elshazly allegedly began telling people -- both in person and through online messages -- that he planned to travel to Syria and surrounding areas to fight on behalf of ISIS, prosecutors said.

In February, Elshazly stated that he had saved approximately $1,000 with the intention of using the money to travel to Jordan and then Syria to join ISIS, according to federal prosecutors. He also expressed a desire to kill 100 "kaffirs," or infidels, during a meeting in October, prosecutors said.

"God willing! May this country [United States] burn the same way they burned Muslims! May they burn in fire at the end," Elshazly said during the meeting, according to prosecutors. When he was asked to lower his voice when talking loudly, Elshazly proclaimed, "I am not scared."

During the same meeting, Elshazly allegedly said, "I want to go to the caliphate and fight there. I can kill maybe … like a hundred kaffir. I can kill them. A hundred kaffirs. If I do something here how many kaffirs could I kill? One, two, three and then I get shot and I die. It is more benefitting if I go there, I could kill more and will get more faithful rewards."

Elshazly allegedly sent another individual a series of YouTube videos earlier this month, explaining how various high-powered firearms and other weaponry work.

"It is crucial the citizens of Connecticut, and across the country, know we at the FBI and our task force partners are unwavering in our work to successfully identify and disrupt potential terrorist activities, as this case demonstrates," Brian Turner, FBI special agent in charge of the New Haven Division, said in a statement. "Through nonstop intelligence gathering and great investigative techniques, we will continue to pursue those who seek to bring harm to U.S. citizens and dismantle potential terrorist actions wherever they may be."

Elshazly has been charged with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and could face as many as 20 years in prison if convicted as charged.

ABC News' Alex Mallin contributed to this report.