Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, 23, of Aurora, Illinois, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and a lifetime of supervised release, for attempting to join Jabhat al-Nusrah, a Muslim terrorist organization operating in Syria. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan.
In April 2013, Tounisi was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago while seeking to board a flight to Turkey. Tounisi had spent four months conducting online research on overseas travel and violent jihad, focusing specifically on Syria and the violent Jabhat al-Nusrah terrorist organization, according to the Department of Justice.
Tounisi pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. According to his plea agreement, Tounisi in early 2013 made online contact with someone he thought was a recruiter for Jabhat al-Nusrah. He and the purported recruiter exchanged emails in which Tounisi shared his plan to go to Syria by way of Turkey, as well as his willingness to fight for Islamic war on the West and Christian. However, it was unknown to Tounisi that purported recruiter was actually an FBI employee.
Tounisi, a U.S. citizen, requested an expedited passport and purchased an airline ticket for the flight from Chicago to Istanbul. He arrived at O’Hare on the evening of April 19, 2013, and was arrested after passing through security in the international terminal.
Tounisi was a close friend of Adel Daoud, of Hillside, Illinois, who was arrested on Sept. 14, 2012, for allegedly attempting to detonate a bomb outside a bar in downtown Chicago. Tounisi recommended certain attack techniques to Daoud, but ultimately decided against participating in the attack. Daoud was charged separately and is awaiting trial in federal court in Chicago.
The investigation was led by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of Special Agents of the FBI, officers of the Chicago Police Department and representatives from an additional 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.