A Ladson man plotted an attack similar to the shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub that killed 50 people, but prayer steered him to join ISIS in the Middle East so he could fight American soldiers "until death," according to federal court documents unsealed Tuesday.
Zakaryia Abdel Abdin, 18, is now jailed and accused of trying to enlist in the terrorist group.
The American citizen had been released from a juvenile prison last year after serving time on a gun charge. But in January, an arrest affidavit stated, he started buying guns and training in combat tactics at Charleston-area shooting ranges.
His vision, he told an undercover FBI agent, was to become a sniper in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula or an infantryman leading a unit on raids. He was ready to wage holy war and become a martyr.
"I want to kill and be killed," Abdin told the agent, according to the affidavit. "I run towards the enemy like a lion to a sheep.
"Blood and death does not frighten me."
For weeks, the authorities said, Abdin planned a trip to link up with the Islamic State organization that inspires young Muslims to do its bidding worldwide. He sold his weapons and ammunition for cash and got a new passport. But the FBI kept tabs on him, and he was arrested Thursday as he checked in at Charleston International Airport for a flight itinerary bound for Amman, Jordan.
He is expected to have a preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in downtown Charleston's U.S. District Court. Abdin's charge of attempting to provide material support to terrorists carries up to 15 years in prison.
Abdin had been implicated in a suspected terrorist plot once before. In 2015, he was sentenced in York County to be imprisoned for being a minor in possession of a firearm. He had schemed to get more guns and attack military bases, authorities said at the time.
But he was granted parole last year over police officials' objections, and the restrictions on his release expired in January.
Early that month, the FBI started tracking Abdin's weapons purchases and agents interviewed him. He claimed that he had distanced himself from the extremist ideology and that he wanted a gun for hunting.
But the FBI developed an extensive case on him since then and documented it in the 23-page affidavit:
Abdin first bought a single-shot .308-caliber Winchester rifle at a North Charleston shop and later returned it for another rifle.
He visited a range at a Summerville shop and rented other guns, including one similar to an AK-47. He filmed himself firing the rifle during one outing.
Then in February, Abdin sold two rifles at a North Charleston pawn shop and bought two 30-round magazines for a military-style rifle. FBI agents later learned that Abdin had obtained that type of rifle, along with a 9 mm pistol, likely through private deals.
But it was through social media that the investigators unearthed his true plans, they said. An undercover agent, whom he thought was an ISIS official overseas, reached out to him on the platform, which was not identified in the records.
In chats, Abdin expressed a desire to imitate Omar Mateen, the Orlando killer whom he called his "brother" in a common cause. But at the time, in June, he couldn't. He was still on parole.
"I heard all over the news when he did it ... and I was going to do the same thing one month later," he said. "But I did not have the weapons. ... So I saved and saved. ... Got weapons."
But before his planned attack, Abdin told the agent, he prayed.
"I almost got in my car and left for (the) location, but I just made the (prayer)," he said. "I was very close to doing what our brother Omar did. ... (I prayed for God) to give me a chance to make the (migration) and unite me with (ISIS)."
That's when he posted, he said, and eventually got in touch with the agent.
'Coming to fight'
He harbored a disgust for Americans, he told the agent. In a video, he pledged allegiance to ISIS and vowed to "wage jihad against the enemy of Allah."
But he also spoke of breaking his mother's heart by never returning home from the battlefield. The agent quizzed him on whether he had second thoughts.
"I am coming to fight, not to play video games," he said, laughing off the questions. "I will never back down until they all (bow to the almighty)."
He prepared himself. He test-fired rifles and pistols. He did target practice in the darkness. He wanted to be "put in a sniper unit or make house-to-house raids." He hoped to one day raise a flag over Arish, Egypt.
"I want you to place me on the front lines just to fight (the Americans)," he told the agent. "I will fight them until death."
Abdin knew his moves would be closely watched. He alerted the FBI to his vacation plans in Jordan. He had applied for a new passport.
"If something goes wrong and I feel like (I) will get caught," he told the undercover agent, "I am prepared to do anything you need here."
He added, "They will pay the price with their blood."
He got rid of his weaponry to pay for the journey. In early March, he sold a rifle, along with 150 rounds of ammunition and two magazines, to another undercover official for $425.
His passport came March 22.
"Let the brothers know I am coming very soon," he told the agent.
He got a boarding pass at the airport last week. But agents stopped him before he could get through security and fly to Jordan, where he had planned to meet his ISIS contact at a Starbucks.