Chicago teen suspected of al-Qaida ties released to house arrest

Chicago teen terror suspect
Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

In what is said to be a “highly unusual decision,” a Chicago teen charged as a terrorism suspect was released to home confinement by a federal judge Thursday. Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, a U.S. citizen, is awaiting trial on charges he signed up with a terror group that had ties to al-Qaida.

Federal prosecutors moved quickly to block the release and appeal the decision, citing Tounisi as a flight risk and danger to the community, according to the Chicago Tribune. Bail will be considered by another judge on Friday.

Tounisi, 18, was arrested at Chicago O’Hare airport on April 19. According to the Chicago Tribune:

Prosecutors allege that Tounisi posted messages on a phony website set up by the FBI agreeing to travel to Syria to fight with the Al-Nusra Front militant group. According to authorities, Tounisi has links to a second Chicago-area terrorism suspect, Adel Daoud, who was arrested in September after he tried to set off what he thought was a bomb outside a downtown bar. The two were close friends and plotted the bomb attack together, prosecutors allege, but Tounisi backed out when he suspected law enforcement was on to them.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Martin called the decision a “close, close” call, but was convinced by Tounisi’s lack of criminal background and the nearly 30 family members and leaders from Tounisi’s religious community that filled the courtroom.

Molly Armour, Tounisi’s attorney, said that he did not pose a danger or flight risk, he surrendered his passport and his family didn’t have the resources to help him flee.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ridgway noted that despite a lack of financial resources, he had purchased an $850 plane ticket to Turkey to carry out his mission.

Generally judges take a tough stance with suspects and only a handful of cases nationally have been released pending trial, Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University, said of the issue.

Chicago Tribune report here.


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