CHICAGO – A Chicago man accused of creating propaganda to promote Islamic State was charged Friday with conspiring to use social media to support a terrorist organization.
A 58-page criminal complaint describes Ashraf Al Safoo as a key figure in a group that distributes violent videos, photos and provocative messages on behalf of IS.
"Homegrown terrorists and lone-actor operators continue to represent a threat to the homeland," said Jeffrey Sallet, head of the FBI in Chicago.
Al Safoo appeared in federal court on a conspiracy charge. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Weisman read the charge and returned him to jail to await a detention hearing next Thursday. It wasn't immediately known if Al Safoo has a lawyer who could comment on the case.
The government said Al Safoo is a 34-year-old naturalized citizen who was born in Mosul, Iraq, and moved to the U.S. in 2008. He told the judge that he has a master's degree in computer science.
In a court filing, the FBI described IS propaganda as a cat-and-mouse game, with Al Safoo and allies at Khattab Media Foundation hijacking social media accounts to spread messages while trying to avoid getting blocked.
"Participate in the war. Spread fear," Al Safoo told allies, according to the FBI. "(IS) does not want you to watch it only. It incites you, and if it fails to do so, use it to incite others. Betrayal is a grave sin that cannot be forgiven even by fasting the whole month of Ramadan."
In October 2017, Khattab created a video "glorifying death in battle on behalf of ISIS and encouraging individuals to fight for ISIS," the FBI said.
The video showed a gift under a Christmas tree that contained a bomb with a timer ticking down before cutting to a news clip of a mass shooting, the FBI said.