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Kazakh Officials In New York Meet Teen Suspected Of Aiding IS

A courtroom sketch shows Akhror Saidakhmetov (left) of Kazakhstan and Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev (right) of Uzbekistan, and a court interpreter in federal court in New York on February 25.

A courtroom sketch shows Akhror Saidakhmetov (left) of Kazakhstan and Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev (right) of Uzbekistan, and a court interpreter in federal court in New York on February 25.

Officials from Kazakhstan's consulate in New York have met with a Kazakh teenager who has been remanded in custody on suspicion of assisting the Islamic State (IS) group, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry has said.

Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn on March 13 to charges of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. He had been arrested in February at New York's Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul in Turkey, allegedly planning to go on from there to Syria.

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry said on March 19 that Saidakhmetov had not expressed any complaints about the state of his health or the conditions of his detention during his meeting with consular officials. The ministry also noted that Saidakhmetov had appointed a defense attorney, Adam Perlmutter.

Astana had previously expressed its willingness to assist the U.S. authorities with Saidakhmetov's case, if required, though the Foreign Ministry pointed out that the teenager had left Kazakhstan in 2011, when he was 16.

Saidakhmetov is being tried alongside two other co-defendants, Abdulrasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, and Abror Habibov, who was arrested in Florida last month.

According to the U.S. authorities, Saidakhmetov and Juraboev bought tickets to travel to Turkey, intending to go from there to Syria to fight alongside the IS group. The two men had allegedly expressing support for the establishment of a "caliphate" (the term used by IS militants for the lands under their control) in Syria and Iraq. Habibov is suspected of funding the flights to Turkey.

U.S. federal agents had an informer befriend Saidakhmetov and Juraboev.

The Kazakh teenager is alleged to have described a plot to purchase an AK-47 rifle and use it to shoot police officers, if he was not able to carry out his plans to fight alongside IS militants in Syria.

"I will just go and buy a machine gun, AK-47, go out and shoot all police. We will go and purchase one handgun, then go shoot one police officer. Boom. Then we will take his gun, bullets and a bulletproof vest...then we will do the same with a couple of others. Then we will go to the FBI headquarters, kill the FBI people," Saidakhmetov said, according to the complaint.

Saidakhmetov's defense counsel, Perlmutter, has criticized the complaint against his client, saying that informants are "enormously manipulative." The context of the "snippets of conversations" recorded in the complaint is not known, he said.

Perlmutter told RFE/RL in an e-mail on March 19 that Saidakhmetov's counsel was currently awaiting the production of "discovery" from the government.

"There is both unclassified and classified discovery. There will be some delay in accessing the classified discovery because of security background checks that need to be conducted for some members of the defense team. We will hopefully be able to review that information in the next few months," Perlmutter said.

A status conference for the case is currently scheduled for the third week in June, though this date may shift, he added.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena