Young Mississippi couple accused of planning to join ISIS for their 'honeymoon'

Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, and Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, as seen in their high school yearbook photos:
Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, and Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, as seen in their high school yearbook photos:PHOTO: WJTV

OXFORD, Miss (REUTERS) - A Mississippi couple, accused of seeking to join the militant ISIS group on a planned honeymoon trip, remained in custody on Tuesday after being denied bond in federal court.

Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, and Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, were charged with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the US Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

"Our story will be that we are newlyweds on our honeymoon," the young woman allegedly wrote. She also allegedly praised the murder of four marines in a "lone wolf" attack in Tennessee last month.

According to prosecutors, the former Mississippi State University students were planning to travel to Syria to join the group. They were arrested over the weekend before boarding a flight at an airport in Columbus, Mississippi.

A law enforcement official said Dakhlalla is the son of a local imam, and Young is the daughter of a Vicksburg, Mississippi, police officer and a recent convert to Islam.

Family members did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mississippi State University spokesman Sid Salter said Dakhlalla, of Starkville, Mississippi, graduated in the spring with a degree in psychology, and Young was last enrolled in the spring as a sophomore studying chemistry.

If convicted, the couple faces up to 20 years in prison in the latest case in a recent wave of US prosecutions involving individuals accused of trying to aid Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS.

On Monday, a New Jersey man was arrested on Monday on charges of conspiring to support ISIS, becoming the sixth person arrested in New York and New Jersey since June as part of what authorities have said is a broader plot.

Federal officials have said they are investigating such cases in all 50 states.

In the Mississippi case, Young discussed her plans to marry Dakhlalla with undercover FBI agents, explaining that "our story will be that we are newlyweds on our honeymoon", prosecutors said in a criminal complaint.

In social media posts, she celebrated the killing of five US servicemen last month at a military training centre in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in an attack by a gunman who was later fatally shot, according to the court records.

"The numbers of supporters are growing," she said in a message, according to the complaint.

The court documents detail what federal investigators say were the couple's plans to travel to Syria and join ISIS, as allegedly communicated through social media to the undercover FBI employees over the past several months.

The documents said that they described their skills and asked how they could help the terror group's efforts.

"I am good with computers, education and media," Dakhlalla allegedly wrote in one message. "What could I contribute?"

Young also allegedly told an undercover FBI agent: "I am skilled in math and chemistry and worked at an analytical lab here on my college campus. My partner is very good with things like computer science/media. We learn very fast and would love to help with giving medical aid."

Attorneys for the couple noted in court that they had no weapons nor military training, and would not pose a threat to others if released on bond.

Prosecutors, however, contended that they represented what is seen as a growing threat of attacks on US targets by homegrown "lone wolves" inspired by ISIS or other militant groups.

US Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander noted that they appeared to have been raised in a sheltered environment by parents who sought to give them every opportunity.