Two Aurora cousins — one an Illinois National Guardsman — plotted to have one carry out a terrorist attack at a northern Illinois military facility while the other traveled overseas to fight with Islamic State, federal authorities alleged Thursday.
Hasan Edmonds, 22, an Army National Guard specialist, was arrested Wednesday night at Midway Airport as he attempted to fly to Cairo to wage violence on behalf of Islamic State, according to authorities.
Edmonds’ cousin, Jonas Edmonds, 29, planned to carry out the attack against a military installation after his cousin departed the country, authorities said.
The cousins made an initial appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon while shackled at the ankles and handcuffed. Both face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Jonas Edmonds appeared to be acting strangely in the courtroom, yawning loudly, swiveling in a chair and tugging at his beard.
His cousin, bald and wearing glasses, was subdued. Asked a question by the judge, he first nodded his head. Told he had to answer aloud, his voice was barely audible.
The federal complaint says the two met with an undercover FBI employee and presented a plan to carry out an armed attack against an undisclosed U.S. military facility in northern Illinois where Hasan Edmonds had been training, the criminal complaint alleges.
Jonas Edmonds asked the undercover FBI employee to assist in the attack and said they would use Hasan Edmonds’ uniforms and inside knowledge of how to access the installation and target officers for attack, authorities charged.
lRelated Terror suspect: ‘If we can break their spirits we will win’
Hasan Edmonds was assigned to Golf Company of the Joliet-based 634th Brigade Support Battalion, according to the National Guard. The complaint does not name the facility the cousins allegedly plotted to attack.
In an online exchange Jan. 30, Hasan Edmonds told the undercover agent that the best way to beat the U.S. and its Army was to “break their will,” according to the complaint.
“With the U.S., no matter how many you kill they will keep coming unless the soldiers and the American public no longer have the will to fight,” Edmonds wrote, according to the complaint. “If we can break their spirits, we will win.”
A woman who identified herself as Hasan’s sister and Jonas’ cousin said by phone Thursday that the FBI showed up Wednesday night at the family home in Aurora armed with a search warrant and removed computers from the address.
Manchinique Bates, 23, repeatedly denied the charges against them were true, saying her brother and cousin never spoke of any extreme beliefs.
“To be honest, we didn’t know anything about my brother trying to travel across seas nor did we know about the supposed attacks my cousin was supposedly doing,” she said. “… They don’t go out seeking trouble. … Neither one of them come off as terrorists. They aren’t terrorists.”
Bates, who said she also had been in the National Guard, said she and her brother and other family members joined the military together as a way to travel and help the country.
“I do not feel as if my cousin or brother would ever do anything of such nature,” she said. “My brother is very, very much so … what is the word I am looking for .. he is always .. into the military .. and wanting to join the Army.”
Bates said she last saw her brother leave the house around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday without any bags.
The FBI said it began investigating Hasan Edmonds late last year, when the agency discovered that he and Jonas Edmonds allegedly had devised a plan for Hasan Edmonds to travel overseas and use his military training to fight for Islamic State.
Hasan Edmonds booked a flight to leave Chicago on Wednesday and arrive in Cairo on Thursday, with layovers in Detroit and Amsterdam.
Jonas Edmonds was to stay behind “to carry out an act of terrorism in the United States,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the cousins met with a second undercover agent on Monday to discuss the planned attack on the military installation where Hasan Edmonds had been training.
Jonas told the undercover worker that after his cousin left for the Middle East, he planned to purchase weapons, including AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, from a third party and then attack the facility, anticipating a “body count” of 100 to 150 people.
Hasan Edmonds said he would provide a list of officer rankings, advising they should “kill the head,” the complaint alleged.
The next day, all three drove to the installation to scout the attack, according to the complaint. Hasan Edmonds described the inside of the installation and which rooms to avoid during the assault. He also went into the facility and “retrieved a military training schedule,” which he gave to his cousin, the complaint alleged.
Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, a spokesman for the Illinois National Guard, said federal authorities informed the Guard that Edmonds was under investigation, so the Guard took “discrete but concrete steps” to ensure he didn’t have access to equipment or computers and even gave him different duties.
Leighton said Edmonds was a supply specialist who joined the Guard in August 2011. He last drilled with the Guard for a weekend this month, he said.
Both cousins were charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan set a detention hearing for Hasan Edmonds on Monday, while attorneys for Jonas Edmonds decided not to fight his detention.
The cousins attended West Aurora High School, according to district spokesman Tony Martinez. Hasan Edmonds graduated in 2011. Jonas Edmonds left the district’s system in 2004 when he was a senior.
According to the complaint, Jonas Edmonds spent time in a Georgia prison for a felony conviction.
Online court records from Cobb County in suburban Atlanta show that Jonas Edmonds was charged along with two others in the 2004 armed robbery of a McDonald’s restaurant. He pleaded guilty in 2005 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Records show he was released in June 2010.
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