Four Al-Qaeda wannabes arrested in Southern California

Nov 20, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) charged four men in Southern California with plotting to provide material support to al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan. Then men allegedly planned to join al-Qaeda and the Taliban network in Afghanistan with the intent to kill Americans as well as target U.S. interests, according to the FBI.

“The defendants conspired to provide material support to terrorists in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339A, knowing or intending that such support was to be used in preparation for or in carrying out,” according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California by André Birotte, Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, and Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

The litany of charges include:

  • conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons and damage property in a foreign country, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 956;
  • killing and attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1114;
  • killing nationals of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b);
  • conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332a(b);
  • and bombing places of public use and government facilities, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332f.

The FBI identified the defendants as, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, a former resident of Pomona and naturalized United States citizen, born in Afghanistan; Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, a lawful permanent resident alien, born in the Philippines; Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales (further described herein and in the criminal complaint as “Santana”), 21, of Upland, a lawful permanent resident, born in Mexico and whose application for citizenship is pending in the United States; Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, a United States citizen. FBI officials said all the men tried to use aliases.

The complaint alleges that in 2010, “Kabir introduced Deleon and Santana to radical and violent Islamic doctrine and various extremist material, including essays and lectures by now-deceased al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader, Anwar Al-Awlaqi. Kabir traveled overseas in December 2011 and later to Afghanistan in July 2012, where he continued to communicate with Santana and DeLeon to arrange for their travel to join him in Afghanistan.”

The complaint further states, “Kabir told Santana and Deleon that he had made contacts with individuals who have connections to terrorist organizations. Kabir said that he would wait for their arrival before departing to a training location in Afghanistan and that, when they arrived, they would meet ‘the students’ and ‘the professors.’” According to court documents, the word “students” referred to the Taliban and the word “professors” referred to al Qaeda.

The “would-be” terrorists were busted by a FBI undercover confidential source (CS). According to the complaint, Santana and Deleon told the CS they were headed to Afghanistan and planned to engage in “violent jihad” acts against America. “In addition, the defendants described potential targets for violent attacks, including overseas American military personnel and bases.”

Federal authorities contend that the men described their terrorism plans to the CS and various conversations highlighted the intent to travel oversees, attend terrorist training camps and then kill U.S. soldiers.

“In one discussion with the FBI confidential source, Santana and Deleon discussed their preferred roles in carrying out attacks. For example, Santana stated that he had experience with firearms and that he wanted to become a sniper. Deleon stated he wanted to be on the front lines with a second choice of explosives. Both men also indicated they were willing to kill an enemy,” the complaint read. “It further alleges that Santana, Deleon, and Gojali conducted preliminary training in southern California at firearms and paintball facilities to prepare for terrorist training overseas.”

According to court documents Gojali also said, “I watch videos on the Internet, and I see what they are doing to our brothers and sisters. … It makes me cry, and it gets like I’m, like, so angered with them.”

The Joint Terrorism Task Force apprehended defendants Santana, Deleon, and Gojali on Friday without incident and Kabir was taken into custody in Afghanistan.

A preliminary hearing for the three men in U.S. custody is scheduled for Dec. 3, and they will be arraigned on Dec. 5.

If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. This case will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

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© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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