Brooklyn Man, an American Citizen and Alleged ISIS Sniper, Arrested on Federal Terror Charges

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a man in his 40s who lived in Bay Ridge for 15 years, allegedly booked a one-way flight out of JFK to join ISIS in 2013

What to Know

  • A Brooklyn man has been charged with terror-related crimes for allegedly joining ISIS and becoming a sniper, federal prosecutors say
  • Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kazakhstan, allegedly joined ISIS in 2013 and rose through the ranks to "emir"
  • He's accused of helping train other ISIS members on the use of weapons, among other charges; he's expected in court later Friday

A Brooklyn man and naturalized American citizen who allegedly became an ISIS sniper and rose through the ranks of the terror group has been arrested overseas on federal terror charges, authorities said Friday.

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a man in his 40s who lived in Bay Ridge for 15 years, from the late 1990s until he allegedly booked a one-way flight out of JFK to join ISIS in 2013, faces charges of attempting to provide material support, including training, services and personnel to a designated foreign terrorist group.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday, Asainov allegedly traveled to Turkey -- a common transit point to get into Syria -- in 2013 and joined ISIS. First he allegedly became a sniper for the terror group, then rose to the rank of "emir," in charge of training other ISIS members in weapons use. 

He also allegedly tried to recruit another person to travel from the United States to Syria to fight for ISIS -- and offered a job, housing, food and a $50 stipend per month. "Even the grandmothers are coming," he allegedly told an informant in an effort to get him to bring his entire family overseas.

Asainov was detained in Syria and later transferred to the FBI, which brought him back to New York City Thursday. He appeared in federal court in Brooklyn Friday, wearing a white shirt, sweatpants, socks and sandals. 

The Friday proceeding lasted under 10 minutes. On multiple occasions, Asainov only shook his head when asked a question by the judge, who would tell him to answer out loud. When asked why he wouldn't speak, defense attorney Susan Kellman said her client "answers to a higher authority," clarifying after that referred to Allah.

According to the complaint, Asainov, who was born in Kazakhstan, allegedly asked a confidential informant in March 2015 to send him around $2,800 so he could buy a scope for his rifle. He sent two pictures showing him holding an assault rifle fitted with a scope and later messaged one associate, "We are the worst terrorist organization in the world that has ever existed," court papers say.

Asainov allegedly said he wanted to die on the battlefield. Federal prosecutors say they'll ask a judge to remand him, saying in a detention memo, "There are no conditions or combination of conditions that would reasonably safeguard the community or prevent the defendant from fleeing this prosecution." 

Asainov faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the attempted terror support charge described in the complaint -- and court papers say more charges are expected to be filed to reflect the "full scope" of his alleged conduct.

Kellman does not believe that Asainov has any family in the United States.

“The defendant, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in Brooklyn, turned his back on the country that took him in and joined ISIS, serving its violent ends in Syria and attempting to recruit others to its cause,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue said in a statement. "Our counterterrorism prosecutors and law enforcement partners will continue working relentlessly to hold accountable those like the defendant who have supported ISIS’s violent agenda."

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said the arrest should serve as a warning to anyone in the world who plots with terror groups against the United States: "You will be brought to justice."

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