A 17-year-old in Virginia has been unmasked as the person behind a notorious Twitter account used to prop up Islamic extremists and bicker with the State Department.
Ali Shukri Amin on Thursday pleaded guilty to federal charges of aiding the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by encouraging their support on the Internet and by helping an 18-year-old travel to Syria to join the extremist group.
Officials said that the guilty plea highlights the growing threat posed by foreigners supporting and being influenced by extremists thousands of miles away over the Internet.
“This case serves as a wake-up call that ISIL's propaganda and recruitment materials are in your communities and being viewed by your youth,” John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement. ISIL is an alternate acronym for ISIS.
“Around the nation, we are seeing ISIL use social media to reach out from the other side of the world,” he added. “Their messages are reaching America in an attempt to radicalize, recruit and incite our youth and others to support ISIL's violent causes.”
Amin was a resident of Manassas, Va., a suburban community outside Washington, D.C.
According to federal charges, he was behind the notorious Twitter handle @Amreekiwitness, which delivered a constant stream of pro-ISIS material. The account found itself in an occasional war of words with the State Department, which has launched a coordinated campaign to drown out pro-ISIS rhetoric flourishing on the Internet.
The @Amreekiwitness account once amassed more than 4,000 followers, but has since been suspended by Twitter. Its former biographical information reportedly declared that the account was: “Dedicated to raising awareness about the upcoming conquest of the Americas, and the benefits it has upon the American people.”
Amin also used the account to instruct people on how to use the virtual currency bitcoin to secretly provide funding to ISIS.
Additionally, he put a fellow Virginia teenager in touch with an overseas ISIS supporter and arranged for him to travel to the region to join the radical group.
According to The Washington Post, people familiar with Amin have said he seemed like a regular high school student, and had been lining up college applications before he was arrested in February.
Now, he faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.