Marcos Alonso Zea, 25, known in some circles as "Ali Zea," was named by authorities in New York as an accomplice of terrorist suspect, Justin Kaliebe, and a potential al-Qaeda recruit living in Long Island reports ABC New York.
Authorities believe that Zea sought to aide al-Qaeda and dreamed of going to Yemen to fight against the enemies of Islam. Zea was arrested on the morning of October 18. A grand jury has charged him with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit murder.
1. Zea is a US Citizen
Zea is a Long Island resident, living in Brentwood, he attended Babylon High School in the area. He's an American citizen. The Daily News reports that his parents are of Colombian and Guatemalan origin. The town of Brentwood is 68.5% Hispanic. It's not known when he converted to Islam and became radicalized.
Sandra Zea, Marcos Zea's mother, told NBC New York:
He’s a good, good guy -- a good son, a good brother, a good person with anybody, I know my son ... I don’t understand what is going on here. I want this thing cleared.
2. Zea Was Stopped From Travelling to Yemen to Join Al-Qaeda
In 2012, Zea attempted to travel to Yemen to join Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda off-shoot. He flew from JFK airport in New York to London, there he was stopped by customs officials from travelling on to Yemen. Despite this setback, he "continued his participation in the terrorist conspiracy."
FBI New York Director George Venizelos told NBC New York that his failure in that mission deter him from his destructive path but rather he "turned to financing and inspiring another Long Island man's commitment to global terror."
Prosecutors say that Zea also attempted to give a rifle to a friend who was travelling to Yemen. The Daily News reports that it was Zea's plan to go to Yemen and kill supporters of the government.
3. Zea Was an Accomplice of Justin Kaliebe
The exact relationship between Kaliebe and Zea has not been made public. While it's not known how close the pair were, it's reported today that Zea supported Kaliebe's attempts to travel to Yemen to fight against the secular government there. A recorded conversation between Kaliebe and Zea detailed Zea telling his accomplice the lies he told customs officials in the UK. NBC New York goes on to say that Zea encouraged Kaliebe's desire to go to Yemen wage "violent jihad." In addition to this, he advised Kaliebe on how to avoid electronic surveillance according to an FBI press release. Zea told Kaliebe:
I just hope, my story, my, the event that happened to me will help you guys move forward, inspire you.
The pair attended the same high school together. In January 2013, Kaliebe was arrested at JFK airport on suspicion of terrorist activity. He had intended to fly to Yemen to provide support to al-Qaeda. Kaliebe had inadvertenly confessed to an undercover agent about his plans to join a terror group and the influence that radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki had on his thinking.
4. Zea Knew the FBI Were After Him
Zea knew he was under investigation since April 2013. Though the details are not known, after he learned that the Feds were tracking his movements, Zea had a friend destroy the hardrives of computers the would-be terrorist had been using. ABC New York reports that the hard drives were still salvageable and on them they found issues of Inspire magazine as well as Islamic-extreme terrorist videos. US Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said:
Despite being born and raised in the United States, Zea allegedly betrayed his country and attempted to travel to Yemen in order to join a terrorist organization and commit murder. When that plan was thwarted, Zea continued to support terrorism by assisting his co-conspirator's efforts to travel to Yemen to fight violent jihad.
When the defendant sensed investigators from the JTTF closing in, he engaged in a desperate effort to cover his tracks by attempting to destroy evidence - a tactic that only confirmed his violent aims.
5. Zea Will Be Arraigned Today
Zea will be arraigned before Judge Arlene Lindsay at a federal court in Central Islip, New York on October 18. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said:
Aspirants with lethal intent who seek terror training abroad are of paramount concern. Fortunately, like Kaliebe before him, Zea was stopped due to the close cooperation between the NYPD and FBI.
Zea could face life-imprisonment.