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US man convicted of aiding ISIS as sniper and trainer

The National logo The National 07/02/2023 Adla Massoud
Ruslan Asainov appears in Federal Court in New York. AP © Aggie Whelan Kenny Ruslan Asainov appears in Federal Court in New York. AP

A US citizen and former New York stockbroker-turned-ISIS militant was convicted on Tuesday of becoming a sniper and trainer for the extremist group during its brutal reign in Syria and Iraq.

Ruslan Asainov faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Asainov was charged in 2019 with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS; providing material support to ISIS in the form of personnel, training, expert advice and assistance and weapons; receipt of military-type training from ISIS; and obstruction of justice, a criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court showed.

A naturalised US citizen who was born in Kazakhstan, he lived in Brooklyn with his wife and child.

In December 2013, he booked a one-way ticket to Turkey through Switzerland and made his way to Syria.

In a case built largely on Asainov’s own words in messaging apps, emails, recorded phone calls and an FBI interview, prosecutors said he fought in battles and built a notable profile in ISIS as a sniper and later an instructor of nearly 100 other long-range shooters.

Asainov then joined ISIS and over time he rose through the group’s ranks to became an “emir” in charge of training other members in the use of weapons.

According to government documents, Asainov tried to recruit an undercover officer with the New York City Police Department to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS.

In 2014 and 2015, he maintained a relationship with the informant.

In post-arrest videos shown at his trial, Asainov readily tells the undercover officer that he provided instruction in everything from rifle maintenance to ballistics to adjusting for weather effects — and “how to actually pull the trigger".

He was arrested by the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria and handed over to the FBI.

He arrived back in the US on July 2019 to face federal charges.

AP contributed to this report

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