Terror trial begins for NYC man accused of training ISIS snipers
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The ex-wife of an accused radical who abandoned America and his family to become an ISIS sniper told jurors on Monday that his terrorist transformation seemed like something out of a movie.
Ruslan Asainov’s former spouse testified at his trial in Brooklyn Federal Court on charges that he conspired to provide material support for terrorists while training snipers for ISIS.
She said the loving husband and father-turned-violent-extremist sent his estranged wife pictures of dead soldiers and photos of himself in camouflage holding an assault rifle to show his commitment to the terrorist cause.
After Asainov abruptly pulled up roots in the U.S. in 2013 and made his way to Syria to become a “warrior, sniper and sniper trainer” for the jihadi organization, he and his wife remained in contact, though their exchanges were tense, she said.
In late October 2014, he sent a series of messages in response to seeing photos of their daughter dressed in a Halloween costume.
“We are dying here to get rid of these holidays and my daughter is participating in them,” Alexandra Asainov recalled him as saying.
Then he sent a photo of three dead men in green fatigues surrounded by bloody boot prints with a message, she said.
“These guys are my friends who died in the last battle which I participated in,” he wrote, according to her testimony. “Do you know what for? So all of this will not exist.”
After that, she cut off contact, she said.
“I was living in a movie,” she continued. “I couldn’t believe something like this could actually happen to anybody.”
Alexandra Asainov told jurors about her family’s turbulent life on the same day attorneys presented their opening arguments.
Prosecutors said Asainov gave weapons training to dozens of other ISIS members and tried to get money and equipment for the terrorist organization, including night vision scopes.
“People died as a result of the defendant’s actions,” Nina Gupta, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the anonymous jury. “He trained dozens of other members of ISIS to be snipers. You will hear in great detail how he taught his students to shoot, how he taught them to kill.”
Asainov left the U.S. and made his way to Syria to become a “warrior, sniper and sniper trainer” for the notorious jihadi organization, according to prosecutors.
They said a former ISIS fighter will testify and the jury will be presented with texts, emails and photos sent to Asainov’s estranged wife and co-conspirators, as well as voice messages and calls with Asainov admitting he was fighting for ISIS.
Asainov, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was born in Kazakhstan and lived in Brooklyn between 1998 and 2013. He married in the U.S., had a child and converted to Islam in 2009, prosecutors said.
His interests turned to violent extremism and ISIS, and in 2013 he booked a one-way ticket to Turkey via Switzerland and then made his way to Syria, prosecutors said.
Even though he was still married in Brooklyn, he took another wife in the Syrian city of Taqba and had children with her, the feds say. Asainov was detained in Syria and brought back to the U.S. in 2019 to face federal charges.
Asainov made incriminating statements to authorities after his capture and before his federal court arraignment, according to court filings.
In 2020, he was caught with a makeshift ISIS flag in his cell at the now-shuttered Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, according to feds.
His lawyer Susan Kellman said Asainov, a religious Muslim, left the U.S. to live in Syria.
“He wanted to live under Sharia law,” Kellman said. “In the government’s opening, you heard a lot of scary words, words that scare me to death. Words like ISIS, terrorism, battle. You have to put them aside and listen for evidence, facts.”
If convicted, Asainov could face life in prison.