A Long Island man allegedly tried to join al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to carry out violent jihad overseas, authorities said Friday.
CBS New York reports that Marcos Alonso Zea, also known as Ali Zea, of Brentwood is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to provide material support to terrorists, obstruction of justice and more.
Zea, 25, allegedly planned to travel to Yemen to wage jihad alongside AQAP, which claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day, 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound plane.
Zea tried traveling to Yemen but was intercepted in the United Kingdom and returned to the U.S., authorities said.
Despite being prevented from travelling to Yemen himself, Zea stayed in cahoots with co-conspirator Justin Kaliebe, authorities said. Zea allegedly gave Kaliebe, 18, money to make the trip to Yemen. Kaliebe was also intercepted by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, authorities said.
"Two individuals who were born in the United States, raised in the United States decided to turn against their country, allegedly, to join al Qaeda," CBS News Senior Correspondent John Miller told WCBS 880 on Friday morning.
When Zea realized he was under investigation, Zea asked a friend to erase the hard drive on his home computer and destroy two other hard drives besides, authorities said. Those drives have since been seized and found to contain issues of Inspire magazine, a propaganda tool for Al Qaeda, according to authorities.
"Despite being born and raised in the United States, Zea allegedly betrayed his country and attempted to travel to Yemen in order to join a terrorist organization and commit murder," said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. "When that plan was thwarted, Zea continued to support terrorism by assisting his co-conspirator's efforts to travel to Yemen to fight violent jihad. When the defendant sensed investigators from the JTTF closing in, he engaged in a desperate effort to cover his tracks by attempting to destroy evidence - a tactic that only confirmed his violent aims."
"As al Qaeda has diminished as an organization, it has morphed into al Qaedaism, which lives in the dark corners of the Internet," Miller said."You've got videos from people like Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, their chief recruiter. Both individuals who have been dead for some time that are still resonating with a group of young, disaffected Muslim youth and the United States government is still struggling with a counternarrative or a voice that can be the other side of that argument."
Kaliebe is scheduled to be sentenced on December 6, 2013. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
"Aspirants with lethal intent who seek terror training abroad are of paramount concern," said NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. "Fortunately, like Kaliebe before him, Zea was stopped due to the close cooperation between the NYPD and FBI."