Man indicted on terrorism support

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Suffolk man arrested in December and charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists has been indicted again in federal court.

Lionel Nelson Williams, 26 as of his arrest in December, was indicted Thursday for a second time. This indictment supersedes a previous indictment that was handed down in January.

According to a court affidavit, Williams, who also went by “Harun Ash-Shababi,” may have been getting close to carrying out a terrorist attack in the Hampton Roads area.

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The affidavit states that Williams sent money in October and November to a person he believed was collecting money for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the militant Islamic group that has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks around the world, including in the United States.

Williams lived with family members, including his grandmother and an uncle, on Mineral Spring Road.

In late March 2016, a member of the public advised the Federal Bureau of Investigations that a former associate, later identified as Williams, had been posting videos and status updates supporting the ISIL terrorist organization on his Facebook page. The person also said Williams had recently acquired an AK-47 assault rifle.

The FBI reviewed Williams’ Facebook page and found the posts and the videos.

In one post on March 14, 2016, Williams wrote, “The Jihad (the struggle) doesn’t end just because it stops feeling good.” Williams also included in his post a video of a lecture by Anwar al-Awlaki, the now-deceased leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Two days later, Williams posted “It’s time for me to take a stand. I stand with #Dawlah. If that means you want nothing to do with me, then fine.”

Dawlah is an Arabic term that means “state,” according to the affidavit.

On March 20, Williams shared a video posted by someone else, which featured a speaker who condemned Muslims who sided with Western states and Muslims who did not provide support for jihad.

“I love this video,” Williams commented. “I love the Mujahideen the world over.”

Mujahedeen is a term for Islamic fighters engaged in jihad.

On March 21, Williams liked a post by another Facebook user that expressed support for so-called “lone wolf attacks.” The post included the hashtag #KillThemWhereverYouFindThem.

Williams also posted a comment in response to this post that expressed support for targeting police officers, military and armed civilians, according to the affidavit.

Investigation revealed Williams ordered an AK-47 assault rifle from an online firearms dealer on Dec. 3, 2015 — the day after a terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif., when 14 people were killed and 22 seriously wounded.

FBI aerial surveillance on April 25, 2016, observed two individuals leaving Williams’ residence and walking to a nearby series of outbuildings on the property. Infrared video captured what appeared to be muzzle flashes, according to the affidavit.

In late April 2016, an FBI-controlled persona friended Williams on Facebook and struck up a conversation. Williams told the person, “I can’t wait for the day that the black flag of Islam exists all over Maryland, D.C., Virginia and Chicago.”

On June 13, Williams met with an FBI undercover employee. He stated he supports attacks on “hard targets,” such as police officers, military personnel and others who have the ability to defend themselves.

He said he would want to target someone who could fight back, according to the affidavit.

In additional conversations with the FBI persona, Williams said he wanted to be a doctor or surgeon for the cause. Williams also agreed to donate money and provided $200 on a prepaid cash card.

The FBI persona later asked Williams if he wanted to see what his money helped purchase and sent a picture of what appeared to be a rocket-propelled grenade.

Williams later sent $50 using an electronic transfer service, thinking he was helping to purchase 10,000 rounds of AK-47 ammunition and 50 magazines.

Williams also discussed with the FBI persona the possibility of conducting “martyrdom operations.” He stated his desire to marry and said he believed the marriage would ensure his “purity” so that any martyrdom operation he carried out would “lead to his true martyrdom, rather than simply his suicide,” according to the affidavit.

On Dec. 19, Williams wrote to the FBI persona that he was planning to empty his finances to “die without a single dollar in his pocket.”

Williams also responded that the plan was to do a “local” operation.

“It appears that Williams was moving closer to committing an attack that would result in his death,” the affidavit stated.

Williams was arrested on Dec. 21. If convicted of the charge, Williams could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

A forfeiture allegation included in the new indictment indicates Williams, if found guilty of the charge, will forfeit $230 in cash, a sword, two knives and four firearms, including the AK-47, seized by law enforcement when he was arrested.