The spotlight that has been cast on the Islamic State terror group in Syria has also put a new focus on a Massachusetts man wanted for terrorism, who is believed to be living in that country and possibly supporting ISIS.
Ahmad Abousamra, who grew up in Stoughton and attended schools in the Boston area, faces terrorism charges in federal court in Boston, and the FBI in December put him on its Most Wanted Terrorists list. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his capture, and officials believe he has been living in Aleppo, Syria.
ABC News reported this week that officials believe Abousamra may be using his computer and social media skills to support ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the terror group that is trying to establish an Islamic state and has claimed responsibility for the beheadings in recent weeks of two American journalists.
“This guy is somebody that continues to concern us, and we’re not going to stop looking for him,” said Vincent Lisi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office.
Lisi would not comment on the ABC News report or on the search for Abousamra, saying certain facts remain part of an ongoing investigation. But he said that the decision to elevate Abousamra to the Most Wanted Terrorists list in December was based on increasing concerns about “his threat to our national security.”
Abousamra, 33, was indicted in 2009 along with Sudbury resident Tarek Mehanna on charges that he conspired to support Al Qaeda. Friends since childhood, the two men allegedly used their knowledge of Arabic and their computer skills to promote the terror group’s message. They also allegedly went to Yemen in 2004 in search of terror training. Mehanna returned without success, but authorities alleged that Abousamra also went to Pakistan and Iraq in search of training.
Abousamra fled the area in 2006, after he was first questioned by authorities. Mehanna was later arrested and convicted, and was sentenced in 2012 to 17½ years in prison. The US Supreme Court is slated to consider later this month whether to hear his case.
In December, when the reward for Abousamra was announced, Lowell Police Sergeant Thomas Daly – a member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, said that Abousamra “has shown that he wants to kill United States soldiers’’ and that he has made at least three trips overseas, seeking terrorist training so he could fight American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Daly said Abousamra has a “high-pitched voice that would distinguish him from others.’’
Abousamra attended Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood for three years before graduating from Stoughton High School in 1999. He also attended Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Boston.
He is of Syrian descent and has dual citizenship in the United States and Syria. He is 5 feet 11 inches tall and has brown eyes. At the time he fled, he weighed approximately 170 pounds and had a slim build and dark brown hair. He speaks, reads, and writes fluently in English and Arabic.
He has a number of known aliases, including: Ahmad Abou-Samra, Ahmad Abou, Ahmad Abou Samira, Ahmad Samra, Ahmad Abu Samra, and Ahmad Abou Samra.
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.