A Texas man has been charged with making terror threats after allegedly ‘Zoom-bombing’ a University of Houston lecture to threaten the school on behalf of the Islamic State terror group. He insists it was just a joke.
Ibraheem Ahmed Al Bayati faces up to 15 years in prison after federal authorities charged him with making bomb threats against the University of Houston, the Justice Department revealed on Tuesday. He allegedly boasted of his Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) ties before ‘Zoom-bombing’ the class with threats of a real bombing.
Al Bayati drew gasps from his newfound classmates by interjecting in the discussion, “What does any of this have to do with the fact that UH is about to get bombed in a few days?” He then uttered an Arabic IS slogan that translates to “Islamic State will remain,” complete with a pointing-skyward gesture popular with Islamic fundamentalists dubbed the “tawheed finger,” according to an FBI agent’s affidavit supporting the charges.
While Al Bayati had used the false name Abu Qital al Jihadi al Mansur on the Zoom call, the FBI quickly apprehended the 19-year-old at a relative’s home on Friday, tracking him by his IP address. While he admitted delivering the “threats,” he insisted it was just a joke, showing the agents text messages with a friend who’d texted him the link to the class – then supposedly goaded him to “say some Arabic s**t and leave lmaooooo.”
However, further probing of Al Bayati’s phone revealed he had discussed recruiting IS supporters over social media with another friend and mentioned getting someone to “pledge allegiance to Islamic State,” the indictment claims. He later reminded his friend “he was ‘literally known’ as an ISIS recruiter.”
Al Bayati is due in Houston federal court on Tuesday to answer to charges of conveying false information to destroy by means of fire or explosives and making a threat over interstate commerce. In addition to a potential 15-year prison sentence, he may also be fined.
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