A former Iraqi insurgent named Waad Ramadan Alwan has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges. Alwan and co-conspirator Mohanad Shareef Hammadi were arrested in Bowling Green, Ky., in May 2011 for allegedly providing assistance to Al Qaeda in Iraq and attempting to send weapons overseas.
Alwan pleaded guilty to 23 charges, including conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and attempting to provide material support to terrorists for showing an individual diagrams of IEDs and how they could be constructed.
Alwan will be sentenced April 3, 2012; he faces 25 years to life in prison. Hammadi is awaiting trial and has pleaded not guilty.
Both men were living in the United States and had been granted refugee status despite their involvement with insurgency in Iraq. Alwan allegedly was part of the insurgency from 2003 until May 2006 when he was arrested by Iraqi authorities. He came to the U.S. in 2009.
The FBI began to investigate Alwan in September 2009 and used an informant to obtain information about his involvement with the insurgency in Iraq. According to court papers filed in the case, during one meeting with the FBI's informant Alwan allegedly said that he was skilled with sniper rifle and said his "lunch and dinner would be an American [solider]." Alwan also allegedly discussed how he would assemble bomb components and place roadside IEDs after curfew in Iraq.
In November 2010 Alwan participated with the FBI informant in moving machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, Stinger missiles and plastic explosives from a storage facility to a truck that Alwan had been told was going to be used to ship the weapons overseas to Iraq. Alwan later recruited Hammadi to help him move weapons and cash to the tractor trailer. The FBI was secretly videotaping the men loading the container. The two men in March 2011 allegedly picked up two Stinger missiles from the storage facility and delivered them to the tractor trailer where they belived the items would be shipped to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
This case garnered politicial attention earlier this year when some members of Congress, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), demanded that Alwan be sent to Guantanamo Bay or transfered to military custody. McConnell stated that Kentucky would be a terrorist target because of the Justice Department's bringing this case in federal court.
On June 14, 2011, McConnell said in a statement, "Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can be certain there won't be retaliatory attacks in Kentucky. Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can prevent Kentuckians from having to cover the cost and having to deal with the disturbances and disruptions that would come with a civilian trial. And sending them to Gitmo is the best way to ensure that they get what they deserve."
"The successful investigation, arrest, interrogation and prosecution of Mr. Alwan demonstrates the effectiveness of our intelligence and law enforcement authorities in bringing terrorists to justice and preventing them from harming the American people," said Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's National Security Division.
Asked for a comment about the guilty plea, in a statement Sen. McConnell said on Friday night, "Today's plea of guilt by Alwan, who boasted of killing US troops in a warzone overseas, and bragged that his 'lunch and dinner would be an American', confirms that he was a combatant who was associated with enemy forces overseas. The military should have had custody of him to begin with for purposes of intelligence, detention and punishment."