CNN covers the Key West sting to "bring down an ISIS-supporting weightlifter" here. The pepper eating seems weird:
Harlem Suarez grabbed a jalapeno pepper from his plate and took a big bite. The heavily tattooed Cuban-American crepe-maker was eating dinner with two new friends, Shariff and Mohammed, at a Denny's in Key West on a warm June night. Suarez wanted to impress them but they laughed instead, joking in Arabic that he seemed suicidal.
"You've got nothing to prove, man," said Mohammed, as Suarez's eyes welled up with tears from the heat of the pepper.
Suarez did have something to prove. He wanted to convince Mohammed and Shariff that he was a devout jihadist with a grand plan to rain hell on Key West.
Never mind that Suarez had tried and failed repeatedly to make contact with ISIS recruiters abroad, according to court documents. He spent most of his downtime lifting weights at the gym and partying at kitschy bars on Duval Street.
Before long he'd be one of only two Americans sentenced to life in prison by the US government for plotting terror attacks on behalf of ISIS.
One Facebook user accepted Suarez's friend request because he saw they had a mutual friend. He was alarmed by the images and rhetoric on Suarez's page, so he notified the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and gave screen grabs to the FBI. Within weeks of the initial tip from the Facebook friend, the FBI had a surveillance team following Suarez around the clock. At least 20 agents surveilled Suarez each day and sometimes 10 to 20 extra FBI employees were brought in to help keep tabs on him, according to court testimony. Mohammed, one of Suarez's dining companions at Denny's, was a paid FBI informant who specialized in terror cases. Shariff was an undercover agent posing as an ISIS supporter who knew a bomb-maker. They were both wired for sound and video as they joked about spicy peppers at the chain restaurant that calls itself "America's diner," famed for its big breakfasts and epic menu.
Mohammed said, "Eating those jalapenos is a struggle, it's a jihad."
As the three laughed, Shariff praised Suarez, "He said he didn't know any Arabic (but) he knows 'jihad.' "
Suarez didn't know Arabic. Nor did he recognize the name of ISIS' leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mohammed taught him about al-Baghdadi and introduced him to the terror group's handbook, "How to Survive in the West." Mohammed told Suarez he had camera gear and said they should make a recruiting video. The two wrote the script at Burger King and filmed it in a roach-laden room at a Knights Inn in Florida City.