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Muslim preacher faces trial in New York for trying to recruit woman as bride for Islamic State

Abdullah al-Faisal is facing five charges, including conspiracy and supporting IS terrorism, which carry potential prison sentences of seven to 25 years
A man carries an upsidedown Islamic State group flag in the city of al-Qaim, in Iraq's western Anbar province near the Syrian border, on 3 November 2017 (AFP)

Muslim preacher Abdullah al-Faisal is standing trial in New York for allegedly trying to recruit for the Islamic State (IS) militant group. 

Faisal, who was born Trevor William Forrest, often goes by Shaikh Faisal. He is ranked by terrorism experts as one of “the most influential among English-language extremist Muslim preachers”, The Washington Post reported.

Faisal began messaging a woman in 2016 on WhatsApp, who claimed to be an aspiring militant with medical training, The New York Times reported.

He allegedly offered to help her join IS and introduced her to a member of the group. He told her the man would help her travel to join the group, and would also be a suitable husband for her.

The woman turned out to be an undercover officer with the New York Police Department who was posing as someone who wanted his help in becoming an IS bride.

“This defendant, with his extremist roots, formed an integral relationship with ISIS. He worked and aided ISIS and his mission to inflict terror,” prosecutor Gary Galperin said in the courtroom on Monday.

“You will conclude that the defendant not only talked the talk but also walked the walk that he paved with concrete crimes of terrorism.”

Faisal was arrested in 2017 in Jamaica and was soon extradited to the US. He is facing five charges, including conspiracy and supporting IS terrorism, which carries potential sentences ranging from seven to 25 years in prison. In 2020, he pleaded not guilty. 

Faisal is also accused of recruiting people to pledge allegiance to the group and its leader at the time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to travel to join the group and to carry out acts of terrorism, such as murder, against “nonbelievers”, the Times reported

'Far-reaching crimes of terrorism'

According to the district attorney, Faisal was allegedly close to one of the suicide bombers who detonated explosives in London in 2005, killing 52 people. The man currently serving a life sentence for the attempted Times Square bombing in 2010 allegedly listened to Faisal’s sermons on an iPod.

In 2003, Faisal served four years in prison in Britain after being convicted of “inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder after encouraging the killing of Hindus, Jews and Americans”.

After his prison sentence, he lived in Kenya. In 2010, the government deported Faisal to Jamaica. While living in Jamaica, he reached a global audience through social media and his personal website, preaching and recruiting Americans when IS appeared in Syria in 2014. 

“This trial unfolding in a New York State courtroom is about the far-reaching crimes of terrorism committed by the defendant," Galperin said.

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