Families of alleged ISIS honeymooners stunned

Last Updated Aug 11, 2015 2:24 PM EDT

JACKSON, Mississippi - The would-be blushing bride and groom sat in a Mississippi courtroom Tuesday, side-by-side, facing charges that they tried to join the world's most notorious terrorist organization.

Criminal charges filed Saturday say Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, and Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, were arrested that morning at a regional airport near Columbus, Mississippi, allegedly on their way to join jihad.

Officials say the couple were trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS.) And they claim it was the 19-year-old Young who was the mastermind behind the plot to do so, which involved getting married and pretending to be on a honeymoon to get there, reports CBS affiliate WJTV in Jackson.

Both are officially charged with attempting and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group. An affidavit by an FBI agent says both confessed their plans after their arrest.

mississippi isis honeymooners Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla Jaelyn Delshaun

Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla at left, and Jaelyn Delshaun Young, in undated photos

WJTV

At a second hearing Tuesday in the case in Federal Court in Oxford before U.S. Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander, it was unveiled that on social media sites, Young expressed her happiness about the recent shooting in Chattanooga where five service members were killed, reports WJTV.

Judge Alexander denied them bail, saying that even though the pair have never been in trouble with the law and have relatives willing to oversee their home confinement, their desire commit terrorism is "probably still there."

Urging the court to keep the suspects in custody, Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner likened them to Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, saying that like him, they could commit violence with knives, vehicles or homemade weapons.

"They don't need a gun to do harm," Joyner said. "They don't need military training to do harm. What they need is a violent, extremist ideology, and that's exactly what they have espoused."

FBI agents arrested them at a Mississippi airport, filing criminal charges that both were attempting and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group, a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The court papers say both Young and Dakhlalla are U.S. citizens. Mississippi State University spokesman Sid Salter said records show Dakhlalla graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Salter said Young was enrolled until May as a sophomore chemistry major but had not enrolled for classes since.

Dakhlalla's relatives are "absolutely stunned" by the arrest and have been cooperating with the FBI, said Dennis Harmon, an attorney representing the family.

Dakhlalla is the youngest of three sons and was preparing to start grad school at Mississippi State University, Harmon said. The attorney also said the man's father, Oda H. Dakhlalla, is imam of the Islamic Center of Mississippi in Starkville.

WJTV reports Young is the daughter of a Vicksburg police officer.

The FBI searched the family's home, including Dakhlalla's room over the weekend, Harmon said.

The charges indicate that undercover FBI agents interacted online with Young beginning in May about her desire to travel to Syria to join the group. The charge states that her Twitter page said the only thing keeping her from traveling to Syria was her need to earn money. "I just want to be there," she is quoted as saying. In later conversations peppered with Arabic phrases, she said she planned a "nikkah," or Islamic marriage to Dakhlalla so they could travel without a chaperone under Islamic law.

In June, the first FBI agent passed Young off to a second FBI agent posing as an ISIS facilitator. The charge says Young asked the second agent for help crossing from Turkey to Syria.

Young specified her skills with math and chemistry and said she and Dakhlalla would like to be medics treating the injured. Later, the charge says, she told the second FBI agent Dakhlalla could help with ISIS' Internet media, saying he "really wants to correct the falsehoods heard here" and the "U.S. media is all lies when regarding" the group, which she called by its preferred internal name, Dawlah.

Dakhlalla told the first FBI agent in an online conversation in June that he was "good with computers, education and media" and that his father had approved him and Young to get married. In July, the charges say, he expressed a desire to become a fighter for the group. "I am willing to fight," he is quoted as saying.

Young later told the FBI that she and Dakhlalla had gotten married June 6 and they planned to claim they were traveling on their honeymoon as a cover story. She also expressed a desire to "raise little Dawlah cubs."

Though the charges say earlier messages indicate the couple planned to fly to Greece and then take a bus to Turkey, the couple later bought tickets on Delta Air Lines leaving Golden Triangle bound for Atlanta, Amsterdam and ultimately Istanbul. Young expressed confidence that security at the small airport would not detect them.