From Flirtation to Conviction: The NYPD Officer Who Helped Bring Down a Terrorist Preacher
Photo Credit: CNN
Written by: Ismael Barrios
New York - Abdullah el-Faisal's downfall was inevitable after an undercover female officer, who went by the name of "Mavish," solicited his help to join a "terrorist group overseas." Texts and emails between the undercover officer and Faisal reveal him flirting with her, claiming her as his own, and stating "I don't want you to marry anybody else." This communication lasted for months until Mavish was trusted. To gain his trust, she endured countless hours of uncomfortable conversations and video calls from various locations to verify her identity. Despite the disturbing nature of their conversations, Mavish persevered, telling herself, "This is to protect all the innocent lives that could possibly get harmed if I don't stay in character."
Mavish's efforts paid off, as she gained Faisal's trust and made contact with an ISIS frontline fighter who offered assistance in entering the Islamic State. In a voicemail, the ISIS fighter is heard saying, "Give me your WhatsApp and your Telegram...and somebody from us will contact you." This incident highlights the threat of terrorism within the United States and the potential dangers it poses.
Faisal, a familiar face at a London mosque in the late 1990s, was eventually deported from the UK and returned to his native country, Jamaica, after serving less than half of his nine-year sentence on charges of inciting hatred and soliciting the murder of certain groups of people, including Jews, Americans, and Hindus. However, his lectures grew more violent, and he became the first person to be tried under New York state terror laws after Manhattan prosecutors managed to get five terrorism-related charges against him.
Authorities believe Faisal's teachings were the inspiration for the 9/11 hijackings, and prosecutors can connect his influence to numerous other individuals who are known terrorists, including Richard Reid, Jermaine Lindsay, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and Faisal Shahzad. This led to an investigation in 2016, during which Undercover Officer 716 posed as a would-be jihadist named Mavish and gained Faisal's trust. Galati and his team traveled to Jamaica to arrest Faisal in 2017, and after an extradition fight, Faisal was brought to the US in 2020.
Faisal's sentencing was the result of a years-long, multi-continent-spanning investigation by the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau and the district attorney's counterterrorism program. He was found guilty on all five charges, including soliciting or providing support of an act of terrorism and conspiracy as a crime of terrorism. Faisal's defense team disputed that he never acted upon these statements and that his preachings on Islam were nothing but words. Faisal plans to appeal the sentencing, and his attorney referred to the evidence against him as "razor-thin."
For more information on this case, please contact the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau or the district attorney's counterterrorism program.