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Aurora man charged with attempting to join al Qaida-linked group

CHICAGO – An 18-year-old Aurora man accused of attempting to travel overseas to join a jihadist terrorist is scheduled to appear in court today as federal prosecutors prepare to press their case.

Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, 18, a U.S. citizen of Aurora, has been charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

He is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel G. Martin at 10 a.m. 

Tounisi is being held pending that detention hearing. 

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said the court appearance is expected to be largely procedural.

Tounisi was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Friday night by federal, state and local anti-terrorism agents.

Prosecutors said they believe Tounisi was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul.

From Istanbul, Tounisi planned to travel to the Turkey-Syria border to join with a group known as Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. State Department considers an alias for al-Qaida in Iraq.

Prosecutors said in a federal complaint against Tounisi that he purchased his airline ticket April 10, and eight days later, purchased a bus ticket from Istanbul to a city near the Syrian border.

The complaint further states that Tounisi, beginning in March, had made online contact with an undercover FBI agent posing as a recruiter for the terrorist group.

Prosecutors allege that, within those email exchanges, Tounisi “shared his plan to get to Syria by way of Turkey, as well as his willingness to die for the cause.”

In other published reports, Tounisi’s father, Ahmad Tounisi of Aurora, has said he does not believe his son had done what the federal complaint alleges.

He admitted his son had talked about going to Tunisia, Egypt and Syria to help people, but not to fight.

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