Former University of Alabama student facing terrorism charges

    A former University of Alabama student, Alaa Mohd Abusaad, is facing terrorism charges. (WBMA)

    A former University of Alabama student is accused of encouraging people to contribute money to Al-Qaeda.

    She was in federal court Monday as authorities work to figure out where she will be held until her trial is over.

    Federal authorities have charged Alaa Abusaad with providing material support to a terrorism organization. She’s being held in Shelby County Jail right now, but was arrested in Sylvania, Ohio. Her connection with Sylvania is unclear, but she was caught after talking to an undercover federal agent.

    Abusaad entered the courtroom in shackles and handcuffs, smiling and waving at family. Cameras were not allowed.

    Attorneys in the courtroom and Abusaad’s family declined to comment, but ABC 33/40 received some perspective on homegrown terrorism cases.

    "The men and women of the FBI are working around the clock to catch people who are supporting acts of material terrorism around the country all the time," says Michael Whisonant, an assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the criminal division.

    Monday, attorneys argued about whether or not Abusaad will be released and kept under surveillance with her family, no phones, no internet, until the completion of her trial.

    U.S. attorneys believe she’s a danger.

    Whisonant says, these days, homegrown terrorism cases aren't rare.

    "There seems to be a steady amount of homegrown violent extremism in the united states. It may be increasing; it's certainly not decreasing," says Whisonant.

    For that reason, local religious leaders are working on preventing extremist activity.

    “Some of the weaker minds take a route that is not only not acceptable as Americans, number one, but also, it is not acceptable as Muslims,” says Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.

    He says the plan is to reroute those individuals before anything gets out of hand.

    "If we can intervene and change things, and hopefully we have, our sermons on Fridays deal with some of those things, give the proper way, we can change things," says Taufique.

    While religious groups are trying to prevent terrorism, many of the self proclaimed radicalists don't have religious ties.

    "Ranging from white supremacists all the way to Islamic radicals, there's a broad spectrum. They all tend to have in common that they want to support a violent ideology," says Whisonant.

    The judge says the probation office will check on the property where her family is planning to live and get back with attorneys Tuesday.

    In 2015, a Hoover woman fled the United States to become a member of the Islamic State after being influenced by radicals she met online. She still has not returned to the United States.

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