Russian national in California pleads guilty to funneling money to ‘jihad’ fundraiser supporting terror group

A Russian national living in California has pleaded guilty to funneling tens of thousands of dollars to a “jihad” fundraiser supporting a known terror group.  The Justice Department announced that Murat Kurashev, 36, a Russian national who resided in Sacramento, pleaded guilty on Monday to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The FBI arrested Kurashev after a federal grand jury handed down the single-count indictment on Feb. 18, 2021.  According to court documents, Kurashev attempted to provide financial support to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is designated by the Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization that engages in terrorism in Syria.  Between July 2020 and February 2021, Kurashev was accused of using money transfer services to send approximately $13,000 to two known couriers for an HTS fundraiser. Federal prosecutors say records obtained from the money transfer services documented multiple transactions from Kurashev to the couriers in Turkey, usually in increments of $1000.  MCCARTHY CONCERNED OF TERROR ‘SLEEPER CELLS’ IN US AMID ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR, SAYS SPEAKER MUST PRIORITIZE BORDER The couriers retrieved the funds often within 24 hours of transfer, prosecutors said. Surveillance footage from money transfer businesses captured Kurashev during some of the transactions, according to the DOJ. Prosecutors said social media and encrypted mobile messaging discussions between Kurashev and the fundraiser made clear that Kurashev was fully aware of the fundraiser’s violent extremist ideology and participation and work on behalf of HTS.  Kurashev stated that he wished he could join the fight in Syria as a mujahideen and regretted that he could only provide financial support. As their conversations showed, Kurashev and the fundraiser believed that providing money in support of the HTS fighters “was tantamount to being engaged in violent jihad,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert’s office said.  US SHOULD ACT LIKE TERROR ‘SLEEPER CELLS’ ARE ‘ALREADY HERE,’ BORDER SECURITY EXPERT WARNS According to court documents, Kurashev followed the fundraiser’s online presence and various social media accounts, which included solicitations for money to purchase military equipment, boots, clothing, firearms, and, in one case, a motorcycle. Forensic analysis of Kurashev’s Apple iCloud account revealed it to be replete with violent extremist content, including a video depicting HTS fighters, according to the Justice Department.  Kurashev is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on March 18, 2024. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an American think tank in Washington, D.C., Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, HTS or the “Organization for the Liberation of the Levant,” traces its beginnings to the outset of the Syrian civil war and has remained a dangerous opposition force throughout the duration of the conflict.  In May 2018, HTS was added to the State Department’s existing designation of its predecessor, the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The think tank says that HTS retains a Salafi-jihadist ideology despite a public split from al-Qaeda in 2017.
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