Iraqi immigrant pleads guilty in federal court in Oregon to supporting Islamic State

Jun 13, 2023, 3:12 PM | Updated: 4:50 pm

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An immigrant from Iraq pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Portland, Oregon, to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group by producing and distributing propaganda and recruiting materials online.

Hawazen Sameer Mothafar, 33, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is scheduled to be sentenced on January 11 by U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernández. Mothafar was arrested in November 2020 following an FBI investigation.

The case underscores the Islamic State group’s focus on maintaining an online presence, or “digital caliphate,” after the group — also known as ISIS — lost most of its self-declared caliphate in territory it seized in Iraq and Syria by late 2017.

“One of the primary mechanisms ISIS uses to threaten the West is its media outlets,” Christine Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in January. “The most prolific ISIS threat to the United States or other Western countries is through inspired attackers who are vulnerable to influence by ISIS messaging.”

Mothafar immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq in 2014. An indictment handed down in November 2020 by a federal grand jury alleged that Mothafar conspired with Islamic State group members to create and edit publications and articles supporting the group, and also provided technical support to its members overseas on social media and email accounts. Authorities said he distributed articles about how to kill and maim with a knife and encouraged readers to carry out attacks.

The resident of the Portland suburb of Troutdale had originally pleaded not guilty to charges of providing material support to a designated terrorist organization and conspiring to provide that support. After several postponements, the trial was supposed to have started on June 6, but Mothafar’s attorney instead told the court that Mothafar intended to change his plea.

On Tuesday, Mothafar pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the U.S. attorney’s office in Oregon said in a statement. Mothafar, who has physical disabilities and uses a wheelchair, has been out of jail because he is considered a low flight risk, with limits set on his travel and the use of electronic devices. The same release conditions still apply, said Kevin Sonoff, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Mothafar was accused of providing assistance to Al Dura’a al Sunni, or Sunni Shield, a pro-Islamic State internet-based media organization that published Al-Anja! newspaper, including by moderating private chat rooms.

National News

Associated Press

A popular tour guide’s death leads to more scrutiny of border issues

Kristie Thibodeaux’s gunfire death made headlines first because it happened in the French Quarter — New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood and a place where residents of historic homes and owners of tourist-dependent restaurants and clubs have long worried about recurring violent crime. Then came the news that one of three suspects in the armed robbery and […]

9 minutes ago

FILE -FILE - A Delta Air Lines jetliner is shown at Denver International Airport in Denver, June 26...

Associated Press

Delta Air Lines adopts new rules for flight attendant uniforms after Palestinian pin flap

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines is changing its employee uniform policy following a turbulent ride through a social media storm started by a passenger’s outrage over two flight attendants photographed wearing Palestinian pins. The uproar over the July 10 post, which described the Palestinian pins as “Hamas badges,” led Delta to ban its employees […]

53 minutes ago

Associated Press

Man accused of holding girlfriend captive in Minnesota college dorm room reaches plea deal

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A man who was accused of holding his girlfriend captive in her dorm room at a Minnesota college for three days while raping, beating and waterboarding her has reached a plea deal that calls for a sentence of up to 7 1/2 years. Keanu Avery Labatte, 20, of Granite Falls, […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Voters depart an election center during primary voting, May 21, 2024, in Kennesaw, Ga. Conse...

Associated Press

Conservative groups are pushing to clean voter rolls. Others see an effort to sow election distrust

Conservative groups are systematically attempting to challenge the legitimacy of large numbers of voter registrations across the country before the presidential election. The strategy is part of a wider effort raising questions about the integrity of this year’s election as former President Donald Trump repeatedly claims without evidence that his opponents are trying to cheat. […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference May 31, 2024, in New York. Fac...

Associated Press

The Latest: Republicans gear up for their convention as Dems struggle over Biden as nominee

Republicans are gearing up for their convention next week while Democrats are still struggling with whether President Joe Biden should stay on as their candidate in the November election. In a sign of how important Pennsylvania is for both parties, Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Donald Trump and first lady Jill Biden are all […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Garvey points to his supporters as he walks on the st...

Associated Press

Steve Garvey visited Israel, but will it win over California voters in Senate race against Schiff?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Looking to boost his longshot bid for one of California’s U.S. Senate seats, Republican Steve Garvey traveled to Israel last month searching for room to run against U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff — a Jewish Democrat known for his support of America’s key ally in the Middle East. It’s common for politicians […]

3 hours ago

Iraqi immigrant pleads guilty in federal court in Oregon to supporting Islamic State