PHOENIX — An Arizona man was convicted Thursday of a terror charge tied to an attack last spring on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas, marking the second conviction in the U.S. related to the Islamic State group.
Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, an American-born Muslim convert, also was found guilty of providing the guns two of his friends used to open fire outside the anti-Islam event in suburban Dallas. The two Islamic State followers died in a police shootout and a security guard was wounded May 3, but no one else was injured.
He was convicted of a conspiracy charge related to plotting the attack as well as conspiring to provide support to the Islamic State group. Authorities say Kareem and the two gunmen, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, had researched travel to the Middle East to join Islamic State fighters.
It was the second time a person was tried in the U.S. on charges related to the group. A trial in New York ended a week ago with a guilty verdict against a U.S. military veteran charged with attempting to join Islamic State.
Kareem’s attorney, Daniel Maynard, declined to comment after the verdict.
Federal authorities said the conviction demonstrates their commitment to combating terrorism.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Carlin, head of the U.S. Justice Department’s national security division, said the agency “will continue to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who conspire with others to support foreign terrorist organizations and to commit acts of violence.”
Kareem, who faces a maximum prison term of 45 years, was scheduled to be sentenced June 27.
Prosecutors say Kareem, who grew up in a Baptist household and converted to Islam as an adult, hosted Simpson and Soofi at his home to discuss the plot and went target-shooting with them in the Arizona desert.
The 44-year-old moving company owner testified that he had no knowledge beforehand that his friends were going to attack the contest featuring cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims. He insisted that he didn’t even know about the event until after Simpson and Soofi were killed.
It’s unknown whether the attack was inspired by the Islamic State or carried out in response to an order from the group.
Prosecutors said Kareem tried to carry out an insurance scam to fund a conspiracy to support the Islamic State group and attempted to indoctrinate two teenage boys in his neighborhood on radical jihadism.
They also say Kareem, Simpson and Soofi initially wanted to blow up the Arizona stadium where the 2015 Super Bowl was held, but when that plan failed, they set their sights on the cartoon contest.
Kareem told jurors that he evicted Simpson from his home because he believed Simpson was putting tracking devices in his car. He also said he strongly disapproved of Simpson using Kareem’s laptop to watch al-Qaida promotional materials.
Stefan Verdugo, one of Kareem’s former roommates, testified that Kareem wanted to get revenge against people who portrayed the Prophet Muhammad in drawings and had inquired about the types of explosives that would be needed to blow up the stadium.
Defense attorneys attacked Verdugo’s credibility by pointing out that he is in jail on a sex trafficking charge.
Kareem denied inquiring about explosives.