Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem

Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem is a U.S. citizen, supporter of ISIS, and a convicted terrorist. Kareem helped to plot the May 2015 attack on the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, alongside co-conspirators Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi. In March of 2016, a federal jury convicted Kareem of providing material support to ISIS.David Schwartz, “Arizona man found guilty in 'Draw Mohammed' event shooting,” Reuters, March 17, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-arizona-shooting-verdict-idUSKCN0WJ306. On February 8, 2017, he was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of post-release supervision.“Arizona Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Conspiracy to Support ISIL and Other Federal Offenses,” U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, February 8, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/arizona-man-sentenced-30-years-conspiracy-support-isil-and-other-federal-offenses; “Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem Sentenced to 30 Years,” ABC15 Arizona, February 8, 2017, https://www.abc15.com/news/region-phoenix-metro/central-phoenix/abdul-malik-abdul-kareem-sentenced-to-30-years. Kareem’s trial was the first U.S. jury trial involving an ISIS-inspired attack inside the United States.“Phoenix Man Convicted of Conspiracy to Support ISIL and Other Terrorism-Related Offenses,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 17, 2016, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/phoenix-man-convicted-conspiracy-support-isil-and-other-terrorism-related-offenses.

Law enforcement investigations into Kareem’s terrorist activity date back to 2012 when authorities searched his apartment and found extremist content on his computer.Associated Press, “FBI: Man tied to Texas shooting wanted to attack bigger target,” CBS News, June 17, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/phoenix-man-shooting-texas-prophet-muhammad-contest-super-bowl-fbi/. Kareem reportedly researched how to join ISIS in the Middle East before June 2014, when he is believed to have begun planning domestic attacks on behalf of ISIS alongside Simpson and Soofi.“Phoenix Man Convicted of Conspiracy to Support ISIL and Other Terrorism-Related Offenses,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 17, 2016, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/phoenix-man-convicted-conspiracy-support-isil-and-other-terrorism-related-offenses. Kareem subsequently asked Simpson and Soofi to live with him, and, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “exhorted and encouraged” both men to carry out the attack on the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest, planned for May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas.Associated Press, “FBI: Man tied to Texas shooting wanted to attack bigger target,” CBS News, June 17, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/phoenix-man-shooting-texas-prophet-muhammad-contest-super-bowl-fbi/; “United States of America v. Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, aka Decarus Thomas,” U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, December 22, 2015, 6.

In late 2014, Kareem began researching how to obtain explosives, according to prosecutors. Before deciding to attack the Garland event, Kareem’s possible targets included the Westgate Mall and the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, which was set to host Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015.“United States of America v. Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, aka Decarus Thomas,” U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, December 22, 2015, 7.

Kareem, Simpson, and Soofi instead decided to target to the Garland cartoon contest.Fernanda Santos, “Guilty Verdict for Aiding in Attack on Anti-Islam Cartoon Event in Texas,” New York Times, March 17, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/us/garland-texas-attack-abdul-malik-abdul-kareem.html?_r=0. While Kareem was not present at the shooting on May 3, 2015, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph E. Koehler later referred to Kareem as the “motivator… bankroller…[and] trainer” behind the attack.Fernanda Santos, “Guilty Verdict for Aiding in Attack on Anti-Islam Cartoon Event in Texas,” New York Times, March 17, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/us/garland-texas-attack-abdul-malik-abdul-kareem.html?_r=0.

On May 3, 2015, Soofi and Simpson—armed with assault rifles—arrived at the Curtis Culwell Center where the cartoon contest was taking place. Dressed in full body armor, the two men began firing at the venue before entering the building. A security guard intervened, killing Soofi and Simpson in a firefight that prevented the ISIS supporters from harming anyone inside.David Taintor, Alastair Jamieson, “Garland shooting: What we know,” MSNBC, May 5, 2015, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/draw-muhammad-shooting-what-we-know. ISIS swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack and referred to Simpson and Soofi as its “soldiers.”Holly Yan, “Texas attack: What we know about Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi,” CNN, May 5, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/05/us/texas-shooting-gunmen/.

It was later revealed that an undercover FBI agent was parked outside the cartoon contest and drove away when the attack began. According to court documents, that same agent had been posing as a jihadi and texting with Simpson less than three weeks prior to the attack encouraging him to “tear up Texas.”Naomi Martin, “Security Guard Injured in Garland Terror Attack Tormented by Belief that FBI Knew of ISIS Plot,” Dallas Morning News, May 26, 2017, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2017/05/26/security-guard-injured-in-garland-terror-attack-tormented-by-belief-that-fbi-knew-of-isis-plot/; Anderson Cooper, “60 Minutes Investigates First ISIS-Claimed Attack in U.S. and What the FBI Knew,” CBS News, March 26, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/terrorism-in-garland-texas-what-the-fbi-knew-before-the-2015-attack/. On December 20, 2017, Kareem appealed for a retrial, which was ultimately unsuccessful.Associated Press, “Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem Update: Arizona Man Seeks New Trial,” ABC15 Arizona, June 13, 2018, https://www.abc15.com/news/national/abdul-malik-abdul-kareem-update-arizona-man-seeks-new-trial. His attorneys alleged that the prosecution failed to disclose the FBI agent’s text messages with Simpson and the agent’s presence outside of the convention center on the day of the attack. The prosecution responded by stating that the FBI investigation was classified at the time of the trial.Associated Press, “Phoenix Man Appeals Conviction of Helping to Plot Texas Attack,” AZ Central, December 21, 2017, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2017/12/21/phoenix-man-appeals-conviction-helping-plot-texas-attack/975109001/.

On June 11, 2018, Kareem’s attorneys filed another unsuccessful motion for a new trial, citing evidence that the FBI agent communicated with ISIS recruiter Erick Jamal Hendricks, who had also reportedly communicated with Simpson over social media prior to the cartoon contest attack.Associated Press, “Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem Update: Arizona Man Seeks New Trial,” ABC15 Arizona, June 13, 2018, https://www.abc15.com/news/national/abdul-malik-abdul-kareem-update-arizona-man-seeks-new-trial; Tom Steele, “FBI Says Man Accused of Recruiting for Islamic State Had Ties to Garland Attack,” Dallas Morning News, August 4, 2016, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/2016/08/04/fbi-says-man-accused-of-recruiting-for-islamic-state-had-ties-to-garland-attack/. The defense argued that knowledge of the FBI’s activities and Simpson’s connection to Hendricks was important information that could have changed the outcome of Kareem’s trial.Associated Press, “Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem Update: Arizona Man Seeks New Trial,” ABC15 Arizona, June 13, 2018, https://www.abc15.com/news/national/abdul-malik-abdul-kareem-update-arizona-man-seeks-new-trial.

On December 23, 2019, federal judge Susan Bolton ruled that Kareem should be retried on one count of transporting weapons across state lines.Anita Snow and Jacques Billeaud, “Arizona Judge Calls for Retrial of Phoenix Man on 1 Count in Texas Attack,” AZ Family, December 27, 2019, https://www.azfamily.com/news/arizona-judge-calls-for-retrial-of-phoenix-man-on-1-count-in-texas-attack/article_19e09e26-2904-11ea-8ad4-e777044d6167.html. Kareem’s attorneys sought a new trial or an overturn of Kareem’s conviction on the basis that the FBI failed to turn over relevant surveillance footage that showed Simpson and Soofi leaving their shared Phoenix apartment on the day of the cartoon contest attack. The video did not show Kareem, however, and the defense asserted that “a reasonable juror would expect someone who allegedly motivated, trained and bankrolled the attackers would be with them” right before the attack.“Judge Considers FBI's Failure to Turn Over Video in Terror Case Against Arizona Man,” AZ Central, October 11, 2019, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2019/10/11/abdul-malik-abdul-kareem-case-judge-considers-failure-disclose-video/3942710002/. Bolton denied the request for a completely new trial, instead finding that the new evidence only warranted a retrial on the interstate weapons transport charge. If he is found not guilty on that one count, 10 years could be dropped from Kareem’s sentence.Anita Snow and Jacques Billeaud, “Arizona Judge Calls for Retrial of Phoenix Man on 1 Count in Texas Attack,” AZ Family, December 27, 2019, https://www.azfamily.com/news/arizona-judge-calls-for-retrial-of-phoenix-man-on-1-count-in-texas-attack/article_19e09e26-2904-11ea-8ad4-e777044d6167.html.

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