Sacramento, CA – Two Middle East Refugees Arrested In U.S. On Terrorism Charges

Sacramento, CA -Authorities said Thursday that two people with ties to the Islamic State have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in California and Texas, including a refugee from Syria who is charged with lying to federal investigators about his travels to the civil war in that country.

The arrests feed a national debate over whether the United State is doing enough to screen refugees from Syria for terrorists from that nation.

Court documents say the men wanted to assist terrorist organizations affiliated with the Islamic State, though one man is accused of assisting a group that allied with Islamic State after he had returned to the United States.

A criminal complaint unsealed Thursday accuses Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, of traveling to Syria to fight and lying to investigators about it. U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a statement that while Al-Jayab was potentially dangerous, there is no indication that he planned any attacks in the United States.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office based in Houston, Texas, said late Thursday that Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, of Houston, was indicted Wednesday on three charges that he tried to provide material support to the Islamic State.

There is no indication from prosecutors that Al Hardan was a threat in the United States, but his arrest sparked immediate criticism of the Obama administration’s refugee policies from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists,” Abbott said in a statement.

“I once again urge the President to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans.”

Both men are Palestinians born in Iraq, authorities said.

The complaint in federal court in Sacramento said Al-Jayab came to the United States from Syria as a refugee in October 2012.

While living in Arizona and Wisconsin, he communicated on social media about his intent to return to Syria to fight for terrorist organizations and discussed his previous experience fighting against the regime in Syria. When he was interviewed by citizenship officials, he lied about his travels and ties, the complaint alleges.

He left the United States in November 2013, but he came to Sacramento in January 2014, the FBI said in a 20-page affidavit.

Social media and other accounts say that as soon as he arrived in the United States, he began saying he wanted to return to Syria to “work,” which the FBI says is believed to be a reference “to assisting in and supporting violent jihad.” It says it appears he wanted to assist the “Front,” which the FBI says was “likely a reference to al Nusrah Front,” considered a terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaida in Iraq.

Authorities said he fought with various terrorist organizations, including Ansar al-Islam, which in 2014 merged with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant after Al-Jayab had returned to the United States.

In another message, Al-Jayab describes first joining the fighting shortly after he turned 16.

In April 2013, the affidavit says Al-Jayab communicated with an unnamed individual living in Texas to see if he could receive training in various weapons, including the M16 military assault rifle. “I am eager to see blood,” Al-Jayab wrote to another individual the same month, according to the affidavit.

A few days later, he described, during earlier fighting, emptying seven ammunition magazines from his assault rifle during a battle and executing three Syrian government soldiers.

Ben Galloway of the federal defender’s office is Al-Jayab attorney. He did not immediately return telephone and emailed messages Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento said Al-Jayab was arrested Thursday morning in Sacramento.

Federal officials say a separate arrest in Milwaukee that grew out of the Sacramento investigation is not related to national security.

The suspects in Wisconsin are relatives of the man arrested in Sacramento, said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.

The investigation in California led to the arrests in Wisconsin as part of a separate case not related to national security, she said.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    US authorities said two people with ties to the Islamic State (ISIS) group are due in court Friday in California and Texas, including a migrant from Syria who lied about his travels there.

    The arrests come amid heightened security in the United States following last month’s assault by a Muslim couple in California that left 14 people murdered, and the November ISIS terror attacks in Paris that murdered 130 victims.

    There is also growing pressure for more scrutiny of migrants from war-ravaged Syria, amid fears that terrorist swill infiltrate the massive influx that US President Barack Obama is pushing for.

    Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, an Iraq-born Palestinian Arab arrested Thursday who came to the United States from Syria as a refugee in 2012, traveled to Syria the following year where he fought with various terror groups, according to a criminal complaint.

    One of those groups was Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam), which once operated in both Iraq and Syria.

    Listed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations and the United States, its Iraq faction has since merged with the Islamic State group, though some of its Syrian fighters rejected ISIS.

    But US Attorney Benjamin Wagner claimed that “while (Jayab) represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country.”

    Another Iraqi-born Palestinian, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, was indicted Wednesday in Texas for providing material support to the ISIS group. He is due in court Friday for an initial appearance.

    Hardan, 24, was charged with one count each of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully and making false statements.

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other local officials said Hardan’s arrest backed their calls for a refugee ban.

    “This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the US from countries substantially controlled by terrorists,” he said.

    The state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton called the arrest a “troubling revelation.”

    “The arrest in Houston of an Iraqi refugee for suspicion of terrorist activities is a troubling revelation – especially in light of the president’s insistence on placing further refugees in Texas,” he said.

    “My office will continue to press for the right of Texans to ensure that terrorists are not being placed in our communities.”

    Unpleasant past

    Hardan, who lives in Houston, was granted legal permanent resident status in 2011, two years after entering the United States.

    According to the indictment, he provided training, expert advice and assistance to ISIS.

    He also lied on his formal application to become a naturalized US citizen, saying he was not associated with a terror group despite having been associated with ISIS members and sympathizers throughout 2014.

    During an October 2015 interview, Hardan is also said to have falsely claimed he had never received weapons training of any kind when he had in fact learned to use machine guns.

    He faces up to 53 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on all charges.

    The complaint against Jayab, the 23-year-old Californian man, states that he planned his trip to Syria through online contact with various individuals and arrived there via Turkey in November 2013.

    His online messages, copies of which are contained in the complaint, indicate he was based in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, where he boasted about his activities with Ansar al-Islam, claiming he had also fought with the group while living in Iraq.

    At one point, he apparently expressed interest in joining ISIS.

    “I have been thinking of joining the State and abandon(ing) the al-Ansar,” he says in one online message to an unidentified individual.

    Authorities say Jayab crossed from Syria back into Turkey on January 17, 2014 and returned to California six days later.

    He told immigration officials at the time that he had traveled to Jordan and Britain.

    When further questioned by authorities about his travels, he stated he had gone to Turkey for a vacation and denied going to Syria.

    Jayab, who also faces an initial court appearance on Friday, in California’s state capital Sacramento faces up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of making a false statement involving

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