Wisconsin man pleads guilty to trying to join extremists

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man has pleaded guilty to trying to join the Islamic State group.

Joshua Van Haften, formerly of Madison, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of attempting to give material support to a terrorist group. The U.S. Department of Justice says he faces up to 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced Feb. 17.

The 35-year-old was charged last year with trying to cross from Turkey to Syria in 2014 to join the Islamic State group. He was arrested in April 2015 after he returned to Chicago from Istanbul. Court documents said he was to meet a contact to take him into Syria but nobody appeared, and he returned to Istanbul. Van Haften has been in federal custody since his arrest.

In court, Van Haften told U.S. District Judge James Peterson that he is a Muslim and wanted to “be a part of the caliphate,” or Islamic State, “that is occurring or will be occurring” in the region where Syria is located, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“So I attempted to cross the border and join,” Van Haften said.

Van Haften admitted that in 2014, he tried to provide material support to the Islamic State group, knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization, federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Van Haften posted online that he had taken an oath of allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group, and that “The only thing that matters to me is joining my brothers for the war against America(n) liars.”

A psychologist found Van Haften competent to stand trial and Van Haften didn’t challenge that. Van Haften said again in court Thursday that he did not suffer from any mental illness.

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