Terror suspects allegedly planned a US ‘martyrdom cell’

A yellow circle shows Usaamah Rahim during his confrontation with police last June.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A yellow circle shows Usaamah Rahim during his confrontation with police last June.

Two men accused in June of plotting to support the terror group ISIS by killing people in the United States were indicted in federal court Thursday on new charges that they sought to recruit other members of a “martyrdom operations cell” and communicated with a known terrorist overseas.

David Daoud Wright, 26, of Everett, and Nicholas Alexander Rovinski, 25, of Warwick, R.I., face new charges of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries and obstruction of justice. They are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

Both were arrested in June following the fatal shooting by police of Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, 26, who was Wright’s uncle. Authorities said Rahim attacked police in a Roslindale parking lot with a military knife when they sought to question him about a plot to kill police officers.


Wright and Rovinski have been held without bail since their arrest.

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At the time, defense attorneys said they were being prosecuted for their thoughts, rather than any action they took. But the authorities said the three men had vowed to carry out attacks on behalf of ISIS, which has committed beheadings and other atrocities in Iraq and Syria and has repeatedly called for similar attacks in the West.

The three men allegedly met in Rhode Island and discussed a plan to behead a anti-Islam activist, Pamela Geller.

The new indictment, unsealed Thursday, alleges the three men tried to recruit members for their “martyrdom” operation.

In March 2015, for instance, Wright allegedly drafted organizational documents for a “martyrdom operations cell” and conducted Internet search queries about firearms, the effectiveness of tranquilizers on humans, and the establishment of secret militias in the United States.


Prosecutors allege Wright also obtained a jihadist manual titled “How to Survive in the West,” which details “how to become a sleeper-cell” until ready to carry out an attack, according to the indictment.

During that time, Rahim was communicating with ISIS members overseas, including Junaid Hussain. He was killed in an airstrike in Raqqah, Syria, on Aug. 24.

Hussain, an English-speaking ISIS member, had used Twitter and other social media to encourage supporters to carry out attacks in the United States and Europe against those who do not follow Islam. According to the authorities, Hussain had instructed Rahim to kill Geller in New York, and Rahim passed those instructions to Wright.

“Wright, Rovinski and Rahim each allegedly conspired to commit attacks and kill persons inside the United States on behalf of [ISIS],” the authorities said.

They also said that Rovinski has continued since his arrest to plot an attack and has written letters to Wright from prison, discussing ways to take down the US government and decapitate those who do not follow Islam.


Wright and Rovinski face up to life in prison if convicted on the new charges.

Milton J. Valencia
can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.