A Houston resident was accused of interrupting a virtual University of Houston lecture with a bomb threat and by proclaiming his association to ISIS, the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas said Tuesday.
Ibraheem Ahmed Al Bayati was arrested on September 4 for making threats or conveying false information to destroy by means of fire or explosives and making a threat over interstate commerce charges.
Al Bayati, 19, allegedly interrupted a lecture on Zoom, a video conferencing app, on September 2 saying, “what does any of this have to do with the fact that UH is about to get bombed in a few days?” prosecutors said.
Al Bayati then repeated an Arabic phrase meaning “Islamic State will remain” before leaving the call that caused the students to gasp, prosecutors said.
A spokesman from the University of Houston told CNN in a statement on Tuesday that Al Bayati was never enrolled as a student and “in most instances of ‘Zoombombing,’ meeting login information was compromised – a student shared the online class link with Al Bayati.”
Federal authorities were alerted, and Al Bayati was tracked down by the IP address he used to log into the Zoom lecture.
Al Bayati told the federal agent that the threat and hand gesture – that, according to the criminal complaint, “is sometimes an indicator of radical Islamic ideology” – was a “joke” between him and his friend.
“Mr. Al Bayati claimed it was a joke, but also when we look through at least a cursory review of one of the phones, there was ISIS material on there,” the prosecutor said in court on Tuesday.
Federal investigators recovered three phones and a laptop from Al Bayati when he was arrested, the prosecutor said.
The agent checked Al Bayati’s phone records that showed since October 2019, Al Bayati allegedly used other social media apps to find ISIS supporters, talked about helping “an individual in a certain foreign city” and asked that individual to recite a “pledge” new ISIS recruits say, according to the criminal complaint.
Al Bayati also explained to an associate “that he was ‘literally known’ as an ISIS recruiter,” according to the criminal complaint.
The prosecutor requested to hold Al Bayati’s detention hearing on September 10 as he wants Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon “to understand his (Al Bayati) full danger” to the community before considering his release.
Al Bayati’s court-appointed attorney, David Adler, objected the request since his client has been in detention since Friday, but Sheldon allowed the adjournment.
If convicted, Al Bayati faces a minimum of five and up to 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.