Federal authorities arrested Sean Andrew Duncan, 21, on Friday after executing a search warrant at his Sterling, Va., home. Federal authorities stated that Duncan was acting in a manner “indicative of an individual planning and researching how to conduct an attack,” according to federal records, and arrested for “knowingly altering, destroying, mutilating and concealing tangible objects… with the intent to impede and obstruct the investigation [ ].”
Duncan is the target of an investigation associated with Homegrown Violent Extremists by the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
Duncan was on the JTTF radar for some time and from at least four different lead sources.
Federal authorities had been aware of Duncan after he converted to Islam and began to voice his opinions in a rebellious tone.
According to court documents, a family member of Duncan reported the conversion as well as Duncan’s purported verbalized radical tendencies such as his support for, “westerners being beheaded in the Middle East.”
Duncan’s relative also reported he and his [new] wife planned to travel to Turkey.
This lead federal authorities to questioned Duncan and his wife after learning he booked a trip to Istanbul, traveled to Turkey, yet was denied entry and “deported” back to the United States. It is not clear why Duncan was denied entry to Turkey and Duncan was not arrested after being questioned once back in the United States.
What is clear – Duncan became paranoid and according to court documents deleted his Facebook account and changed his cellular number immediately after being questioned.
The second source federal authorities had pointing them to Duncan was through his marriage and the death of his infant child.
Duncan grew up in eastern Baltimore County and according to sources befriended several Muslim students and became interested in Islam while in high school. By his senior year, Ducan had submerged himself in a love for Islam, especially the language and prayers. Duncan even went so far as to raise money online to study Quranic Arabic at Fawakih, and Islamic educational center in Herndon, Va.
His mother, a realtor, and other family members did not understand this change or “conversion” and were later at a loss when Duncan announced he was getting married to a Muslim woman, some 15 years his elder.
Zakiya Sadeq, 36, and Duncan were married in January 2016 according to court records and lived in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
Sadeq was purportedly a doctor who obtained her medical degree at the International Islamic University Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. Sedeq was also reportedly working at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center sometime prior to Ducan’s move to Sterling.
Sadeq became pregnant in late 2016 and had a boy, Muhammad Duncan. Muhammad died in June of 2017 at four months old. The death was routinely investigated and ruled inconclusive, often the case with what was suspected as sudden infant death syndrome. However, local authorities were given concent by Duncan to search his cell phone and laptop noting an extremely high and alarming number of terrorist-related sites being searched. Over 24,000 positive results if common counterterrorism terms according to court documents. Allegheny County authorities later contacted federal authorities and provided a cloned copy of Duncan’s phone and laptop.
The third source of Duncan being on the federal radar was a female ISIS supporter.
According to court documents, investigators acquired information provided by a female “unnamed co-conspirator” (UCC) who was in the custody of a foreign government for actively planning to travel and join ISIS. Duncan was one of her US-based Muslim contacts who expressed interest in joining ISIS and conducting an attack on the United States. They spoke on encrypted mobile messaging applications.
The connection with radicalism and violence, terrorism, was very deep.
The UCC told federal agents she became acquainted with Duncan around January 2015. Duncan was just 19. The UCC only agreed to have a relationship with Duncan if he was pro-ISIS. Duncan was and would share news articles from Amaq News, an ISIS news outlet and expressed agreement with ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani that Muslims should be striking their own homelands along with his overall support for ISIS.
Duncan and the UCC spoke of marriage and living in Syria, a known ISIS territory with Duncan wanting to fly overseas to propose in person. Duncan even sent her directions on how to create homemade bombs to handle non-Muslim women. The UCC ultimately turned him down but they remained in contact.
After Duncan was married in the United States to Sadeq, Duncan again proposed to the UCC, asking her to be his second wife.
Around the same time, Duncan’s name was also found on other lists.
The fourth connection came in late 2017 when law enforcement authorities from a foreign government arrested one of their citizens, a known ISIS recruiter, for inciting rebellion. The recruiter admitted in an interview with federal authorities that Duncan had been a member of one of her “groups” at one time—groups being used to recruit local and foreign Muslims to help terrorists fight government troops.
Along with evidence from Duncan’s previously searched phone and laptop and Duncan recently starting a Twitter account, @DawlahtulIslam, an Islamic phrase translating to ‘The Islamic State,’ there was an escalation of Duncan preparing to conduct an attack and defend himself from severe bodily harm. Federal authorities had enough probable cause to obtain the search warrant executed Friday. The overt acts by Duncan after federal authorities announced themselves, is what led to his subsequent arrest for destruction of evidence.
This is a developing story.
The federal Affidavit filed on December 30, 2017 can be viewed here.