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Three Central Asians Arrested In U.S. For Allegedly Supporting IS

U.S. intelligence officials believe that as many as 150 U.S. citizens have tried to fight with IS militants in Syria. (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials say three Central Asian men residing in the New York borough of Brooklyn were arrested on charges they planned to provide material support for Islamic State (IS) militants.

Two of the men, Abdurasul Juraboev, 24, of Uzbekistan, and Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, of Kazakhstan, allegedly planned to travel to Syria through Turkey to fight alongside IS militants.

The Justice Department alleges in a criminal complaint unsealed on February 25 that Juraboev was also prepared to engage in an act of terrorism in the United States if ordered by IS, and Saidakhmetov intended to commit a terrorist act if unable to travel abroad.

Officials said Juraboev claimed he would kill U.S. President Barack Obama if IS told him to do so.

Saidakhmetov offered to buy guns and shoot police officers and FBI agents if he could not go to Syria, according to the complaint.

A third man, Abror Habibov, 30, also of Uzbekistan, allegedly helped fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts to join IS.

The two were held without bail after a brief court appearance in New York.

Habibov was also ordered held without bail in Florida.

If convicted, each man faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

"This is real," New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said. "This is the concern about the lone wolf, inspired to act without ever going to the Mideast."

U.S. intelligence officials believe that as many as 150 U.S. citizens have tried to fight with IS militants in Syria, as part of an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters joining the group or other extremist groups.

A civil war has been raging in Syria since 2011 and more than 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict and millions have fled their homes.

"We will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad on behalf of ISIL and those who support them," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said in a statement, referring to the alternate name of the Islamic State group.

She added: "Anyone who threatens our citizens and our allies, here or abroad, will face the full force of American justice."

Saidakhmetov was arrested early on February 25 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York attempting to board a flight to Istanbul.

He had allegedly gone to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security earlier in February to get a travel document.

Saidakhmetov reportedly called his mother on February 19 to ask for his passport and told her that "if a person has a chance to join Islamic State and does not go there, on judgment day he will be asked why, and that it is a sin to live in the land of infidels."

She is said to have hung up on him.

Juraboev was scheduled to leave for Turkey in March and had purchased a plane ticket.

The plans of the three charged were revealed in part by a paid confidential informant who met Juraboev and Saidkhametov at a mosque in September and appeared to be sympathetic to their cause.

The Uzbek Embassy and Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington did not immediately return requests for comment from RFE/RL.