Crime

Plano teen who planned ISIS-inspired attack pleads guilty, is sentenced

Inside ISIS’s former capital: The forgotten people of Raqqa

The New York Times went back to Raqqa, which was liberated over a year ago. Syrians were celebrating the final battle against ISIS. But destruction is still all around and progress is slow. The fear now is that frustration could breed radicalization.
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The New York Times went back to Raqqa, which was liberated over a year ago. Syrians were celebrating the final battle against ISIS. But destruction is still all around and progress is slow. The fear now is that frustration could breed radicalization.

A Plano high school student accused of planning an ISIS-inspired attack on a Frisco mall has pleaded guilty, according to authorities.

Matin Azizi-Yarand, 17, will be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Azizi-Yarand’s target was the Stonebriar Centre Mall in Frisco, according to his arrest affidavit. The attack was planned for May 2018 and when undercover officers learned that Azizi-Yarand had a date planned, investigators said they had to move quickly to arrest him.

The FBI first learned about Azizi-Yarand’s attack plans in the fall of 2017. He was arrested in May at Plano West Senior High School, where he attended.

Azizi-Yarand had sent more than $1,400 to others to buy weapons and tactical gear at the time of his arrest, the Collin County District Attorney’s Office said. He’d also written and planned to distribute a “Message to America” explaining the attack.

He also had a document originally authored by Columbine shooter Eric Harris on how to make pipe bombs and sent links to videos about bomb-making and knife attacks to FBI sources he communicated with online who were posing as sympathizers to ISIS.

An arrest affidavit details parts of those conversations between Azizi-Yarand and the FBI.

“Look at all the other lone wolves,” Azizi-Yarand said. “What training did they have, yet they simply killed the kuffar?”

“Kuffar” is Arabic for “disbelievers.”

Azizi-Yarand allegedly told the source he was reading ISIS magazine guides “for performing operations and making bombs.”

“I want to put America in the state that Europe is in, which is having to have soldiers deployed in streets,” Azizi-Yarand said.

In several conversations, Azizi-Yarand expressed the desire to travel to Pakistan, cross the border into Afghanistan and join ISIS.

By February, Azizi-Yarand had decided to “stay here and fight,” the affidavit says, adding that he saw people who “deserve” to be attacked whenever he went outside.

He told FBI sources about two other people he met online who said they would assist in the attack, according to the affidavit.

Azizi-Yarand considered several other targets including a police officer, a Hindu temple and his high school, the affidavit reads.

“I’d actually like to make a cop surrender and drop his gun, then douse him with gasoline and burn him ... record it,” he said.

After Azizi-Yarand’s arrest, the Islamic Association of Collin County held a news conference to discuss Azizi-Yarand and any connection he might have to the organization. One of the group’s leaders, Asad Rahman, who serves as general counsel, said that from information they’ve been gathering since the news broke, Azizi-Yarand may have attended the Islamic mosque there in the past.

“We’re hearing second-hand information that he might have prayed here on occasion but not actively,” Rahman said. “We don’t register people and our doors are open for everybody. On Friday, our holy day, anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people come in and pray.”

Rahman said Azizi-Yarand’s arrest and his plan came as a shock on the one hand and a relief on the other.

“They caught him, so it’s a huge relief,” he said. “We all go to that mall and it’s so close to home.”

He added: “We have so many youth programs, sports and other activities to try to keep our kids engaged and doing positive things. It saddens you because it’s like he’s one of the ones that got away.”

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.
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