A young Mississippi couple who are charged with attempting to join the Islamic State were ordered held without bail Tuesday, pending federal grand jury action on the charges.
Nineteen-year-old Jaelyn Delshaun Young and 22-year-old Muhammad “Mo” Dakhlalla, who were arrested at a Mississippi airport just before boarding a flight bound for Istanbul, went before US Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander on Tuesday in Oxford.
Alexander denied bail, saying that even though the pair have never been in trouble with the law and have relatives willing to oversee their home confinement, she believed their desire to commit terrorism is “probably still there.”
During the two-day hearing, prosecutors had urged Alexander to deny bail, citing statements Young and Dakhlalla made to undercover agents and handwritten farewell letters they left for their families saying they would never return.
Assistant US Attorney Clay Joyner likened them to Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, saying that, like him, they could commit violence with knives, vehicles or homemade weapons.
“They don’t need a gun to do harm,” Joyner said. “They don’t need military training to do harm. What they need is a violent, extremist ideology, and that’s exactly what they have espoused.”
Alexander agreed that their apparent methodical planning overcame a recommendation by federal court personnel to allow pretrial release.
“It was a very calculated, step-by-step thing,” Alexander said of the planning that led the pair to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport Saturday morning. FBI agents arrested them there, filing criminal charges that both were attempting and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group, a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
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An FBI agent’s affidavit said both confessed their plans after their arrest. Defense attorneys declined to comment after the hearing, but told Alexander the material didn’t prove either had committed a crime.
The families of Young and Dakhlalla were still trying to come to grips with the accusations.
Dakhlalla’s family is “absolutely stunned” by his arrest, said Columbus lawyer Dennis Harmon, who represents the family. He said Tuesday they have been cooperating with the FBI.
Dakhlalla’s father, Oda H. Dakhlalla, is the longtime imam of the Islamic Center of Mississippi in Starkville, Harmon said, and has previously been reported to be a native of Bethlehem, in the West Bank. His New Jersey-born mother, Lisa Dakhlalla, has run a restaurant in Starkville and sold Middle Eastern food at farmers’ markets. Harmon said Dakhlalla is the youngest of three sons and was preparing to start graduate school at Mississippi State University.
Harmon said the FBI searched the Dakhlalla home over the weekend and that the family “did not expect this at all.”