U.S. citizen Emraan Ali has been sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release by the Honorable Beth Bloom for conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. Ali entered a guilty plea on November 22, 2022.
On March 20, 2015, Ali, aka Abu Jihad Al-Trinidadi Al-Amriki, took his family from Trinidad and Tobago to Brazil, and thereafter to Turkey and Syria with the purpose of joining ISIS. Before leaving Trinidad and Tobago to join ISIS, Ali set up a financial system whereby he could receive funds in Syria, collected $15,000 in cash, falsely told his children they were going on vacation, and melted down gold to be converted to jewelry so he would have money and financial support once he was in Syria. Ali also made efforts to make Trinidadian authorities believe he was not leaving Trinidad so they would not interfere with his efforts to provide material support to ISIS.
Upon arriving in Turkey, Ali and his family stayed in Istanbul and then traveled to Gaziantep, Turkey. While in Gaziantep, Ali contacted coconspirators to arrange for travel across the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS. Shortly thereafter, Ali and his family were driven from Gaziantep to the Syrian border in a van. Once at the border Ali and his family, including small children, got out of the van and ran across the border into Syria on foot.
Once they arrived in ISIS controlled territory, ISIS registered Ali and his family, who thereafter joined a settlement in Manbij, Syria, where they lived while Ali awaited ISIS military training. From July through November 2015, Ali went to Raqqa, Syria, for ISIS religious and military training with other English speakers. The training included instruction on the operation of various automatic weapons such as the AK-47 assault rifle and PKC machine gun. Following this training, Ali was assigned an ISIS census number in the “12000” series – the series reserved for military enlistees. He was given boots, socks, and a gun barrel. Ali also registered with ISIS the M4 weapon he had personally acquired.
After he completed military training, Ali was assigned to the Anwar al-Awlaki katibah (battalion) in Raqqa and received an ISIS identification card under the kunya (alias) of “Abu-Jihad al-Trinidad al-Amriki” or “Abu Jihad TNT.” Between September and November 2015, Ali’s son, Jihad Mohammed Ali, then 15 years old, began attending ISIS religious and military training in Raqqa, after which he also was assigned to the Anwar al-Awlaki katibah. Eventually, Ali was discharged from the Anwar al-Awlaki katibah for medical reasons, and he moved his family to another location in Raqqa, which had become the de facto ISIS capital.
Ali thereafter continued to provide material support to ISIS and contribute to its economy while in Raqqa, approximately between 2015 and 2017. First, Ali worked in residential construction for ISIS. Ali’s construction work helped create homes for ISIS members, including fighters and their families who occupied territories ISIS claimed from Syria. Like others who received housing to help the occupation, Ali also received free housing upon his arrival in Syria and his entry into ISIS military training. In addition, Ali worked to create buildings for ISIS operations. Ali also became a merchant, thereby supporting ISIS and its members. Ali began buying and selling livestock, cars, weapons, weapons accessories, and telephones to and from other ISIS members.
Ali also assisted ISIS’s military goals by purchasing and selling weapons and weapons accessories to ISIS members to use in their fighting, preferring superior American-made accessories to those manufactured by China. Ali also provided money remitting services to other Trinidadian ISIS fighters in Syria, serving as a “hawalder,” or money transfer broker. He also donated his own money to ISIS members to support the ISIS cause.
Eventually, in late 2017, Ali left Raqqa with his family and moved to Mayadin, Syria, which had become the new headquarters for ISIS after the Coalition Forces retook Raqqa. While in Mayadin, Ali was assigned to an ISIS housing battalion, or katibah, and received an ISIS identification card. Consistent with ISIS’s bureaucratic structure, Ali also received a monthly stipend or payment in the amount of $35 US per adult and $28 US per child in his household. In addition, Ali was again provided free housing by ISIS.
In 2018, Ali moved his family to Hajin, Syria, where ISIS assigned him to construct a well to provide the ISIS community with potable water. When ISIS came under attack in Hajin, Ali moved his family to Al-Shafah, Syria, where he ran a store that sold various goods. While in Hajin, Ali donated some of the store’s profits to other ISIS members, thereby furthering ISIS’s goals.
Between late 2018 and early 2019, after ISIS was targeted in Al-Shafah, Ali moved his family to Baghuz, Syria, the last ISIS stronghold before its collapse in 2019. In fact, in March 2019, just before his surrender on March 19, Ali urged other Trinidadian ISIS members to refuse to surrender to the Coalition Forces. Ali did this in the hope that Coalition Forces would allow ISIS members to simply relocate.