Adel Daoud looks every bit 18 years old.
Daoud, dressed in an orange jumpsuit with long, curly hair and a scraggly beard, said “Salam” to his father — meaning “peace” in Arabic — as he walked into a federal courtroom Monday.
The Hillside teenager was arrested Friday during an undercover operation where agents pretending to be extremists gave him a fake car bomb that he allegedly planned to blow up outside a downtown Chicago bar.
“He is an immature 18-year-old,” said Daoud’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, who added that he was awkward socially and confused. “What are your beliefs at age 18? That’s debatable.”
Daoud is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to damage and destroy a building with an explosive. Durkin said he will contest those charges on probable cause and detention.
Detention, in this case, means Adel Daoud is in a secured housing unit for 23 hours solitary confinement, with one hour out. Although the unit is assigned to prisoners on a case-by-case basis, Durkin said in those of Islamic radicalism, it is nearly every time.
Durkin calls Daoud’s charges “very suspicious,” with the FBI “parading around” as terrorists.
“Is this really a terrorism case?” said Durkin, who has prosecuted 9/11 and Guantanamo Bay cases. “I have my doubts.”
Daoud’s father, Ahmed, cried as he used a wall outside the courtroom to support himself Monday, and said the charges weren’t “fair.” Ahmed Daoud asked for Adel’s glasses to be given to him so he could see his father, but the FBI allegedly has not located them.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a release that the bomb was inert and the public was never in danger.
Daoud’s older brother, Amr, 21, told The New York Times that he and his family were surprised by the arrest. A devout Muslim, his brother went to mosque for prayers with their father every day at 4 a.m., Amr said. He said their parents came to the U.S. from Egypt, but neither his parents nor his two sisters were as religious.
He said Adel wanted to go to school in Canada to become a sheikh, a Muslim religious official. Adel Daoud graduated from the Islamic Foundation high school in Villa Park and still attended prayers there.
“He’s a very peaceful guy; I never even knew him to be violent,” Amr Daoud told the Times. “One time he got punched in school, and he didn’t do anything. He’s a very passive person.”
Meanwhile, the FBI began watching Daoud after he allegedly posted material online about “violent jihad” and killing Americans.
In October 2011, according to the complaint against him, Daoud began using an email account to obtain and distribute material related to violent jihad and the killing of Americans. He also allegedly used the same account to encourage others to support violent jihad.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice in Chicago, Daoud’s arrest was the result of an undercover operation during which he developed his attack plans and surveyed and selected a target. Daoud was closely monitored by law enforcement and offered several chances to change his mind and walk away from the supposed attack, officials said.
Two FBI undercover agents contacted Daoud in May in response to material he posted online, according to the criminal complaint. From late May to mid-June, Daoud allegedly sought guidance regarding whether to carry out a terrorist attack in the U.S., relying mostly on online resources.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that about 7:15 p.m. Friday, Daoud met one agent in Villa Park and drove to downtown Chicago. During the drive, Daoud allegedly led the agent in a prayer that they succeed in the attack, kill several people and cause destruction.
Once downtown, the statement said, they entered a parking lot where a Jeep loaded with the purported explosive device was parked. Daoud drove the Jeep out of the lot and parked in front of a downtown bar that he’d selected beforehand.
According to reports, Daoud got out of the vehicle and walked into an alley about a block away. With the undercover agent watching, he attempted to detonate the bomb by pressing the triggering mechanism and was then arrested.
As word spread Saturday in Daoud’s neighborhood, where the street was dotted by journalists and camera crews, some who knew the family found the news hard to believe. Estelle Pappas — who lives next door and has been in the same house for 24 years — called Daoud a good kid from a good family.
Pappas recalled times when he helped her start her lawn mower when her husband wasn’t around and said the family — which includes two daughters and another son — often pass out pastries to neighbors during holidays.
“They’re good people to us,” she said. “In my eyes and in my heart, they’re good people.”
Sweetie Leverson, another neighbor, also called the news a “big shock to all.”
She said her nephews played video games and basketball with Daoud when they were younger.
Other members of the Muslim community have spoken out against Daoud’s alleged actions, saying they are not a part of Islamic teaching.
“We strongly denounce these planned acts of violence in Chicago. We categorically reject terrorism,” said Haris Ahmed, director of public affairs at the Chicago West Chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Glen Ellyn. “Individuals like Adel Daoud fail to understand that terrorism of any form is against Islamic teachings and practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.”
Daoud will next appear in federal court at 3 p.m. Thursday.