Lionel Nelson Williams, 26, of Suffolk, Virginia was arrested in Suffolk Thursday and charged with attempting toprovide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or the Islamic State (IS), after appearing to have become self-radicalized after viewing online jihadist materials and videos, including videos made by former Los Cruces, New Mexico born Anwar Al Awlaki, who became a principal recruiter for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to the redacted affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Williams, in October and November 2016 he sent money to a person he believed was collecting money for IS to purchase weapons and ammunition for IS fighters. Williams also posted content on social media indicating his support for IS and attacks targeting police officers, military and armed civilians, the kind of attack IS – and Al Qaeda – have repeatedly called for, as Homeland Security Today has reported.
The law reads that "material support or resources" means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself) and transportation, except medicine or religious materials.
The investigation of Williams revealed he’d ordered an AK-47 assault rifle the day after the terror attack in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. Two firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle consistent with the appearance of an AK-47, were recovered in a post-arrest search of Williams’ residence.
The FBI investigation began after “in or around late March, 2016, a member of the public advised the FBI that a former associate, later identified as Williams, had recently been posting [IS] videos and content about the support of [IS] on Williams’s Facebook page. The complainant also stated that Williams had recently acquired an AK-47 assault rifle. The complainant provided partial identifying information for Williams and provided FBI with information about the Facebook account showing the [IS] postings.”
According to the criminal complaint, the FBI’s review of the publicly viewable Facebook page and subsequent investigation revealed Williams was the user of the Facebook account, “which at that time had the usemame of Harun Ash-Shababi …”
The FBI’s “review of the account revealed that on or about March 14, 2016, Williams posted; ‘The Jihad (the struggle) doesn’t end just because it stops feeling good.’ Williams included a video of a lecture by Anwar Al Awlaki in this post.”
Williams also posted on his Facebook page: "It’s time for me to take a stand. I stand with ‘#Dawlah’. If that means you want nothing to do with me, then fine."
The FBI said it assessed Williams pledged his allegiance to [IS] with this posting. During the same time period, according to the criminal complaint, “Williams shared a video posted by someone else and commented, ‘T love this video. I love the Mujahideen the worldover. Youtube/Facebook had the gall to delete it sometime ago, but somehow it’s been remade/reuploaded. Allahu Akhbar!"
The video contained the watermark of Al Hayat, the Islamic State’s Western-focused official media arm. The FBI review of the video “revealed a speaker who condemned Muslims who sided with Western states and Muslims who did not provide support for the Mujahideen.”
Around the time, Williams "liked" a post by another Facebook user who stated: "The lone wolf attacks are more beloved to us than the martyrdom operations. For the impact of the lone wolf attacks in the lands of the enemy cause more terror in their hearts and give them a taste of the havoc they rain upon our families in different Muslim lands! #KillThemWhereverYouFindThem.”
On or about March 21,2016, Williams posted a comment in response to this post that expressed his support for the targeting of police officers, military and armed civilians, attacks upon whom IS, Al Qaeda and other jihadi groups have long called for.
On May 16,2016, in a Facebook private message conversation with an FBI undercover operative, Williams said, "1 can’t wait for the day that the black flag of Islam exists all over Maryland, DC, Virginia and Chicago."
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, US Attorney Dana J. Boente for the Eastern District of Virginia and Special Agent in Charge Martin W. Culbreth of the FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia Field Office made the announcement.
This case was investigated by the Norfolk Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Suffolk Police Department.
Assistant US Attorneys Joseph E. DePadilla and Andrew C. Bosse for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Alicia Cook of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.