Ebrahim Fazeli was away at college late in 2013 when his mother called to tell him his uncle had left the country.

The uncle, Adnan Fazeli, was in Turkey and had been wearing military fatigues during a video call with his family in Maine. Soon afterward, Ebrahim Fazeli contacted federal investigators and worked with the FBI as they investigated his uncle, an Iranian native who was eventually killed fighting for the Islamic State in Lebanon in January 2015.

“I felt like he betrayed me, he betrayed his family for something that’s crazy,” Ebrahim Fazeli said. “I have no other word to describe what he did.”

Dr. Jabbar Fazeli – Ebrahim Fazeli’s father and Adnan Fazeli’s brother – said in an interview with the Bangor Daily News published Wednesday that he tried unsuccessfully to persuade Adnan Fazeli to leave the terrorist group and return to Maine. He also told the FBI about his brother’s actions, he said.

“He was a stranger talking to me,” Jabbar Fazeli said. “He was preaching to me while I was talking to him about family.”

The Press Herald obtained unsealed federal court documents about the case on Monday and attempted to speak with Jabbar Fazeli to verify details in an affidavit, but he would only agree to an interview if the newspaper guaranteed it would not name his brother. The Press Herald did not agree to the request because Adnan Fazeli’s name had become public information when the court unsealed the affidavit.


When contacted Wednesday by the Press Herald, Jabbar Fazeli said he decided to speak about the case because his name and his brother’s had been published by the paper and other media outlets.

“The story had to come out,” he said. “I felt comfortable putting it out there now that the story is out, but I didn’t feel comfortable (earlier).”

Comments by Jabbar Fazeli and his son Wednesday revealed new details about Adnan Fazeli’s involvement with the Islamic State and his family’s attempts to intervene. The father and son are estranged, but both said independently they aided the federal investigation into a loved one they never believed capable of such extremism.

“I had to do the right thing,” Ebrahim Fazeli said.

Investigators said no criminal charges are being contemplated against anyone for helping Adnan Fazeli travel to the Middle East or supporting his efforts there.

The affidavit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in October, describes one of four confidential informants as a close relative. All four informants, who are unnamed, detailed how Adnan Fazeli’s behavior changed about a year after he came to the Portland area from Philadelphia in 2009. In interviews with the FBI, they said he frequently watched hours of Islamic videos online, grew a beard and began making anti-American remarks while at an Iraqi market in Portland. The FBI office in Boston declined to comment on the case Wednesday.


Ebrahim Fazeli, who lives in the greater Portland area, said he was not a paid informant for the FBI, and would not comment further on his role in the investigation. The FBI affidavit said three of the four informants were paid.

In his interview with the Bangor paper, Jabbar Fazeli said he helped bring his brother to the United States as a refugee in 2008, but tensions grew between them when Adnan Fazeli moved to Maine a year later. He said he could not understand why his brother converted first to Sunni Islam, then Wahhabism, which has inspired the Islamic State’s ideology, or joined the terrorist group.

“This is a lesson for many, and we couldn’t tell it. And now we’re forced to tell it,” he said. “I just hope when the kids (his brother’s three children) read it years from now, that the impact will be less, since they live in Maine. Traditionally Maine has been really good to us.”

Adnan Fazeli fled Iran in 2007 or 2008 because he faced arrest as a dissident, according to the federal affidavit. He became radicalized in his Islamic faith while living in Freeport and then left for Turkey in 2013 without his family’s knowledge. In 2015, he was killed with other Islamic State fighters in a battle in Ras Baalbek, a Lebanese town near the Syrian border.

His story prompted two of Maine’s top Republicans – Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, 2nd District – to use him as an example of why the United States needs to tighten the screening process for immigrants to America. Refugees who come to the United States undergo more than two years of medical and security screening, background checks and in-person interviews by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department before they are allowed to enter the country.

On Wednesday, the Westbrook Police Department responded to typewritten threats against Muslims that were discovered by residents at a Westbrook apartment complex where Adnan Fazeli and his family previously lived.

Ebrahim Fazeli, 25, has appealed for privacy for his aunt and young cousins during what he said is a difficult time for their entire family.

“You don’t want to picture your own uncle … ” he said, his voice trailing off.

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