US youth accused of helping man join IS, arrested

Washington, March 5: A US high school student, who allegedly helped a man travel to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, has been arrested, according to media reports.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided the house of the accused teenager, a student of Osbourn Park High School in the US state of Virginia, and arrested him, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.


The teenager, however, was charged only as a juvenile, though federal prosecutors were navigating the legal process needed to move the case to an adult court, an official said.

Many details of the investigation remain unclear, but the case seems to be yet another instance of a youth living in the US and using the internet to offer tangible help to the IS.

Officials said that the teenager helped a man, not too older than himself, to travel to Syria, in part, by using online contacts that led to the IS overseas.

According to experts, such instances could become increasingly common as youths, inspired by terrorist posts and videos online, could now reach out and forge overseas connections.

"Social media has really been a gamechanger," said Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Programme on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

According to neighbours of the accused youth, and a man who hired the teenager to write for his website, the Osbourn Park student was quiet in nature, but exceptionally intelligent, authoring articles on complicated science and technology topics.

Dustin O'Bryant, who employed the teen to write for his digital currency news website, said the boy was a "great writer" who "had a really strong understanding of the technology behind digital currency in general, and even more advanced systems".

O'Bryant said he hired the teenager on the spot after reading a chemistry research paper the boy wrote. "He was a brilliant kid."

Researchers from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence have estimated that more than 20,000 foreign fighters have joined the IS, a fifth of them from western Europe.

Director of National Intelligence in the US, James Clapper, said on Monday that about 180 Americans have gone or tried to go to Syria since the conflict there began and about 40 have returned, although those who came back did not have nefarious motives for their travel.


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