A Brooklyn man who joined the Islamic State, became a sniper and later a leader in the group and tried to recruit American friends to come to Syria was charged with aiding a terrorist group in Brooklyn federal court on Friday.
“We are the worst terrorist organization in the world that ever existed,” Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 42, of Bay Ridge, allegedly bragged to an associate in one message, according to a criminal complaint.
Asainov, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kazakhstan, went to Syria in 2013 via Turkey, was eventually detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces and turned over to the FBI, and was detained after appearing in court in Brooklyn on Friday.
During five years fighting for the group, prosecutors said, Asainov sent associates pictures of dead soldiers and of himself in fatigues carrying an assault rifle and said his “faith in Islam had been renewed since arriving in Syria.”
He worked his way up through the ranks of ISIS and eventually became an “emir,” responsible for helping to train other fighters to use weapons and establish training camps, the government said.
Beginning in August 2014, prosecutors alleged, Asainov began trying to recruit a friend who had become a confidential police informant, telling the man that ISIS was the “real deal” and that as a fluent English speaker the man could work in media relations, receiving $50 a month plus housing and food.
He also urged the man to bring his family, telling him that “even grandmothers are coming,” and tried to get the man to send him $2,800 for a rifle scope, later sending along a picture of himself in combat regalia.
“Didn’t mean to do show off cause here is just normal,” he wrote. “But for you its motivation. I mean normal look like this. Everyone is with the weapons in the masjid on Jumah, in the store on the playground with kids.”
Prosecutors said he faces 20 years in prison for aiding a terrorist organization, and they expect to indict him on additional charges. “He turned his back on the ideals we value and he’ll now be made to face our justice system head-on,” said William Sweeney, head of New York’s FBI office.
Asainov was held at the government's request as a danger and a flight risk at his bail hearing Friday afternoon. Asainov’s defense lawyer declined to comment.