FBI agents arrested two US citizens - one at the airport in Atlanta, the other at a bus terminal in Augusta, Georgia - who they said were about to leave for North Africa ''to prepare to wage violent jihad''.
Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair and Randy Wilson, also known as Rasheed Wilson, both 25 and residents of Mobile, Alabama, were charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists in order ''to kill persons or damage property outside the United States''.
A criminal complaint filed in the US District Court in Mobile alleges the men met online two years ago, and later confided to an undercover FBI source their alleged plans to travel overseas with fake passports and join a terror network in Morocco or Mauritania. ''Jihad means people are going to die,'' Mr Abukhdair allegedly told Mr Wilson and the undercover source. ''It's a war … This is what jihad is. This is what war is.''
Mr Wilson later allegedly told the undercover source: ''One way or the other, everyone's gonna have to fight. This is just, this is the way of the world, man … Jihad is the pinnacle of Islam. There's no deed better than jihad.''
Mr Abukhdair and Mr Wilson have not yet entered pleas.
The arrests come as a Chicago man was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly 10 years in prison for planning to travel to Somalia in 2010 to wage jihad for a terrorist group connected to al-Qaeda. Shaker Masri, 29 (pictured), a native US citizen of Syrian descent, pleaded guilty in July to attempting to provide material support to the Somali group al-Shabab, which is designated by the US government as a terrorist organisation.
US District judge Sharon Johnson Coleman considered Masri's younger age, mental health and stress from his mother's sudden death in accepting the sentence worked out between prosecutors and his lawyers - nine years and 10 months in prison. But she also ordered that he be under supervised release for 20 years after his release from prison.
Masri's lead attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, had opposed the unusually lengthy supervised release, noting his client would be an old man by the time he was no longer under court supervision.
''With all due respect, 50 years old is not old,'' Judge Johnson Coleman said. ''You've still got a lot of time left.'' But Joshua Dratel, another Masri attorney, pointed out he would be nearly 60 by the time he was free of the court restrictions. ''Still not old,'' the judge said.
At one point during the sentencing on Tuesday, Masri raised a hand and asked to speak after prosecutors had just described his jihadist ideology. After conferring with his attorneys, though, Masri chose to remain silent. Later, when formally given the opportunity to address the judge, he responded: ''No, thank you.''
Even with 20 years of supervised release, Mr Dirken said the sentence was ''a reasonable resolution under difficult circumstances.''
MCT, CHICAGO TRIBUNE