US citizen joined ISIS as sniper, trained terrorists to use weapons, prosecutors say

A United States citizen traveled to Syria to join ISIS, became a sniper and trained other fighters to use weapons, federal prosecutors in New York said on Friday as they announced charges that the man supported the terrorist organization.

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a 41-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kazakhstan, was transferred to FBI custody from Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a news release. A criminal complaint charging Asainov with providing material support to the terrorist group was unsealed Friday.

Asainov was a resident of Brooklyn until he went to Istanbul, Turkey, in December 2013 before continuing on to Syria and becoming an ISIS sniper, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said that “over time, the defendant rose through the ranks to become an ISIS ‘emir’ in charge of training other ISIS members in the use of weapons. He also attempted to recruit another individual to travel from the United States to Syria to fight for ISIS.”

He’s set to appear in a New York City courtroom on Friday afternoon, prosecutors said.

A detention memo released by prosecutors Friday said Asainov arrived in the U.S. on Thursday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

Hoping to buy a rifle scope back in 2015, Asainov asked a confidential informant to transfer him roughly $2,800, and later sent an informant two pictures showing him holding an assault rifle with a scope, prosecutors said. Asainov once messaged an associate and said he wanted to die fighting for ISIS, according to prosecutors, calling the group “the worst terrorist organization in the world that has ever existed.”

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said Asainov “turned his back on the country that took him in and joined ISIS, serving its violent ends in Syria and attempting to recruit others to its cause.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.