FBI details terrorist charges against Young

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Federal authorities at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport detained a Vicksburg native and her boyfriend from Starkville over the weekend, charged with attempting to leave the country and join the terrorist organization ISIS.

During an initial court hearing Monday in Oxford, authorities identified the two as Jaelyn De’Shaun Young of Vicksburg and Mohammed Dakhlalla of Starkville.

Young is a 2013 graduate of Warren Central High School. Young, who is a former student at Mississippi State University, was a member of the National Honor Society, an honor roll student, senior homecoming maid and a member of TEAM 456 Siege Robotics.

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Criminal charges filed Saturday say Young, 19, and Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, were arrested that morning at Golden Triangle Regional Airport near Columbus.

Both are charged with attempting and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group. A hearing on their detention began Monday in U.S. District Court in Oxford, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar said it would continue Tuesday. FBI Special Agent Deborah Madden said federal officials would release a statement Tuesday.

An affidavit by an FBI agent says both confessed their plans after their arrest Saturday. It was unclear late Monday which lawyers represent the two.

The court papers say both Young and Dakhlalla are U.S. citizens. Mississippi State University spokesman Sid Salter said records show Dakhlalla graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Salter said Young was enrolled until May as a sophomore chemistry major but had not enrolled for classes since.

For her academic achievement and participation in the robotics program, Young was the first recipient of the Kimmy Melton Scholarship.

Eddie and Amy Vaughn Melton, the parents of the late Kimmy Melton, awarded Young with the first scholarship given in their daughter’s honor.

“I thought of her as if she were my own daughter,” Amy said.

She said she was numb when she learned of Young’s plans to join ISIS.

“I thought that it was uncharacteristic of her,” she said. “It’s not the same Jaelyn that I know.”

Eddie agreed that the situation was unexpected.

“I don’t understand what’s happened to her in the past year,” he said. “Even some of the people who were close to her didn’t see this coming.”

Eddie said he read the criminal complaint and it didn’t look good for Young.

“She’s part of my extended family and I’m not going to turn my back on my family, but sometimes you have to pay for what you do,” he said. “I feel for her family and for her parents. This has got to be tough for them.”

Eddie said he couldn’t understand why Young would do something like this.

“This is not the Jaelyn that I know,” he said. “She’s loving and kind and caring. Her friends and community have an opportunity to help her see the error in her way and her choices instead of condeming and ostrasizing her.”

Eddie said people should be mindful that if Young could become involved in this, others are at risk as well.

“We also have an opportunity to talk to other kids in our community to tell them there are organizations in Mississippi like ISIS,” he said. “Jaelyn is no different than they are.”

Young’s father is a member of the Vicksburg Police Department and has served as a Seabee Petty Officer Second Class in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

“The family has no comment at this time,” he said when contacted Monday night.

The charge indicates undercover FBI agents interacted online with Young beginning in May about her desire to travel to Syria to join the group. The charge states her Twitter page said the only thing keeping her from traveling to Syria was her need to earn money. “I just want to be there,” she is quoted as saying. In later conversations peppered with Arabic phrases, she said she planned a “nikkah,” or Islamic marriage to Dakhlalla so they could travel without a chaperone under Islamic law.

In June, the first FBI agent passed Young off to a second FBI agent posing as an Islamic State facilitator. The charge says Young asked the second agent for help crossing from Turkey to Syria, saying “We don’t know Turkey at all very well (I haven’t even travelled outside U.S. before.)”

Young specified her skills with math and chemistry and said she and Dakhlalla would like to be medics treating the injured. Later, the charge says, she told the second FBI agent Dakhlalla could help with the Islamic State’s Internet media, saying he “really wants to correct the falsehoods heard here” and the “U.S. media is all lies when regarding” the group, which she called by its preferred internal name, Dawlah.

Dakhlalla told the first FBI agent in an online conversation in June that he was “good with computers, education and media” and that his father had approved him and Young to get married. In July, the charges say, he expressed a desire to become a fighter for the group. “I am willing to fight,” he is quoted as saying.

Young later told the FBI she and Dakhlalla had gotten married June 6 and they planned to claim they were traveling on their honeymoon as a cover story. She also expressed a desire to “raise little Dawlah cubs.”

The FBI said Dakhlalla and Young both expressed impatience with how long it was taking for them to be issued passports, and the charges say Dakhlalla paid $340 to expedite passport processing on July 1.

Though the charges say earlier messages indicate the couple planned to fly to Greece and then take a bus to Turkey, the couple later bought tickets on Delta Air Lines leaving Golden Triangle bound for Atlanta, Amsterdam and ultimately Istanbul. Young expressed confidence that security at the small airport would not detect them.

Salter said Mississippi State has cooperated with the investigation once the university was contacted Saturday, providing information on the former students.


The Associated Press contributed to the report.