A Mississippi couple is being held without bond after allegedly attempting to join the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, and Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, were arrested at the airport in Columbus, Miss., on Saturday. The pair allegedly planned to travel to Turkey and then cross the border into Syria.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that investigators had been monitoring Young and Dakhlalla since May. According to a criminal complaint filed by the Department of Justice, Young allegedly had online conversations with an undercover agent in which she declared an interest in swearing allegiance to ISIS and assisting as a medic.
“I am skilled in math and chemistry and worked at an analytical lab here at my college campus,” Young allegedly wrote to the agent. “My partner is very good with like computer science/media.”
Young and Dakhlalla are both U.S. citizens and former students at Mississippi State University.
Mississsippi Public Broadcasting’s Desare Frazier reports Dakhlalla’s family is shocked by the news. Attorney and spokesman Dennis Harmon describes their reaction as “like getting hit between the eyes with a two-by-four … they still don’t believe it, I don’t think.”
The arrests come as the Justice Department increases efforts to stop Americans from joining terrorist organizations overseas. As NPR has reported, in the past two years more than 60 U.S. citizens have been accused of joining or supporting ISIS.