Cleric extradited from Jamaica to NYC on terrorism charges

NEW YORK (AP) — A radical Islamic cleric already behind bars in Jamaica has been brought to New York City to face allegations he plotted to recruit followers and fighters for the Islamic State group, prosecutors said Friday.

Abdullah al-Faisal was to appear in state court in Manhattan to face multiple charges of supporting terrorism. The charges filed in 2017 were unusual because they did not involve the participation of federal authorities, who normally are the ones to bring cases against international terrorists.

The 56-year-old al-Faisal, also known as Shaikh Faisal, has been compared to the fiery American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of al-Qaida in Yemen who was killed in 2011. Federal officials say al-Faisal's sermons influenced Faisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber in New York City in 2010, and Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Underwear Bomber” from 2008.

After traveling the globe supporting various terrorist causes, al-Faisal headquartered in Jamaica and continued to preach, using the internet to spread his message as the Islamic State group emerged in Syria in 2014, authorities said. He's accused of raising funds for recruits to travel to the Middle East and providing other support like performing marriage ceremonies for them.

It was not immediately clear on Friday if he had a U.S. lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

The international sting that led to the arrest of al-Faisal in Jamaica in 2017 was pulled off by the New York Police Department without the FBI, and without the target ever setting foot in New York.

The state court indictment said an undercover NYPD officer posing as a budding jihadist connected on social media with al-Faisal. Al-Faisal is accused of trying to recruit the officer to become a medic for the militant group.

Al-Faisal began a corresponding with the undercover police officer in November 2016, court papers said. He offered to help him join the Islamic State group, telling him, “I can link u with someone there.”

The indictment said the cleric introduced the officer to a facilitator based in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, who exchanged phone messages with the officer earlier this year.

The NYPD’s Intelligence Division dispatched a team of investigators to the region in the late stages of the yearlong probe. The police department said it got U.S. Department of Justice clearance to extend its investigation overseas.