Stockbroker-turned-unrepentant ISIS sniper convicted on US terrorism charges
Stars and Stripes February 9, 2023
An American who was captured in Syria after becoming a sniper instructor for the Islamic State group was found guilty this week of providing support to the terrorist organization.
Onetime New York stockbroker Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 46, was convicted in federal court Tuesday and now faces the possibility of a life sentence.
Asianov was “committed to the terrorist organization’s evil cause ... (and) made an extraordinary journey to the battlefield in Syria, where he became a lethal sniper for ISIS and trained many other ISIS members to kill,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a Justice Department statement Wednesday.
Asainov was born in Kazakhstan but became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He abandoned his family in Brooklyn in 2013 to travel to Syria, where he was caught six years later.
Also known on the battlefield as “Suleiman Al-Amriki” and “Suleiman Al-Kazakhi,” Asainov converted to Islam in 2009 and over the years became increasingly interested in Islamic extremism, prosecutors said.
He dropped out of Manhattan Community College, quit his job as a stockbroker and bought a one-way ticket to Syria.
Over the course of nearly six years, he received combat arms training on machine guns, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades from the organization and joined ISIS’ fighting brigades on Syrian battlefields.
Asainov admitted to agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that he had fought in “numerous battles” as a “warrior and sniper,” including major clashes in Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab; Tabqa; and Deir al-Zour.
On one occasion, he sent a photo of three dead fighters to his family, his ex-wife testified.
As an “emir,” he reportedly provided sharpshooting training to an estimated 100 students, according to court documents. A U.S. Navy SEAL scout sniper testified that the training Asainov gave was consistent with what SEALs learn to become snipers.
He was captured near the Syria-Iraq border in 2019 after the last stand of ISIS at Baghouz.
Asainov never showed remorse and continued to pledge allegiance to ISIS, Peace said in the Wednesday statement.
In phone calls to his mother from prison, Asainov said he was carrying out God’s orders and that he intended to return to fight for ISIS again if released.
Asainov even crafted a black ISIS flag on a piece of letter paper and posted it above the desk in his cell, according to trial testimony.