Wisconsin man arrested at O'Hare, accused of trying to join Islamic State group

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Joshua Van Haften, 34, of Madison, Wisconsin, was arrested Wednesday, April 8, 2015, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago after returning on a flight from Turkey.. | AP Photo

A Wisconsin man suspected of trying to join Islamic State terrorists overseas was arrested at O’Hare Airport on Wednesday evening, federal officials said.

Joshua Ray Van Haften, 34, of Madison, Wisconsin, allegedly left the country in August for Turkey, a country known to be an entry point into neighboring Syria for those who wish to join the Islamic State group, officials said.

Authorities arrested Van Haften at O’Hare after his arrival on an international flight from Turkey, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Van Haften traveled overseas for the alleged purpose of joining and attempting to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in a statement.

Van Haften was ordered held without bail during a hearing Thursday in federal court in Madison.

He previously traveled to Egypt from October 2012 to January 2014, federal authorities wrote in court filings. While he was there a woman allegedly told the police she saw Van Haften taking pictures of a military facility. The U.S. Embassy was notified, and Van Haften was returned to the United States after his sex offender status was discovered, authorities said.

Another woman later told an FBI agent an unidentified man spoke to her 11-year-old son near the Wisconsin Capitol about World War III and leaving the United States for Syria. She later identified Van Haften as that man when shown a photograph.

The feds also pointed to several writings allegedly by Van Haften. They included a text to a former roommate indicating he’d arrived in Syria, and a Facebook post a few days later in which Van Haften wrote, “It’s calling, I can smell it’s perfume! Allah!!!”

Wisconsin court records show Van Haften has several previous convictions, including felony battery in 1998, second-degree felony sexual assault in 1999 and misdemeanor disorderly conduct in 2007.

Van Haften was sentenced to three years’ probation on the battery conviction in 1998, but his probation was revoked in 1999 and he was sentenced to a year in jail. He was sentenced to eight years’ probation on the sexual assault charge in 1999, but that was revoked in 2000. He was then sentenced to seven years in prison.

U.S. intelligence agencies said in February that as many as 150 Americans have tried to reach the Syrian civil war zone to join the Islamic State group.

CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press

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