Federal agents have arrested four southern California men over an alleged plot to provide material support to terrorists and join al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in order to strike American targets.
The four men, one of which was a former member of the U.S. Air Force, conspired to provide material support to terrorists who planned to commit "violent jihad," including the bombing of military bases and government facilities and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, officials said.
The FBI claims the group had conducted training including going to shooting ranges and were planning on traveling to Afghanistan to bomb and kill U.S. soldiers.
According to the complaint, which was unsealed Monday, Sohiel Omar Kabir, a 34-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, introduced Ralph Deleon, 23, and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, to radical and violent Islamic doctrine, including essays by Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last year.
Deleon and Santana posted radical content to Facebook, while engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about violent jihad. According to the complaint, Santana told undercover agents both online and in person that he planned to engage in jihad once he converted to Islam.
Kabir traveled to Germany in December 2011 and in July 2012 to Afghanistan, and continued to communicate with Santana and DeLeon to arrange for their travel to join him in Afghanistan, officials say. Kabir told the two he had contacted people in terrorist organizations and said he would wait for them to arrive before departing to an Afghanistan training location, according to the complaint.
Arifeen David Gojali, 21, was recruited by Santana and Deleon, the complaint states, in September 2012 to travel with then to Afghanistan. The three allegedly trained at firearms and paintball facilities to prepare for terrorist training abroad and made plans to join Kabir in Afghanistan, where they would attend terrorist training, according to the court document. They had made flight arrangements and obtained the required passports and visas, the complaint states.
A confidential FBI source met with the trio several times over the course of the investigation. In May, the source traveled with the trio to Las Vegas to attend a conference, recording many of their conversations throughout the trip. Speaking of law enforcement during the trip, Deleon said he'd "cut their throats if I had the chance."
While on the trip, the men revealed to the FBI source that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet Kabir and commit acts of jihad.
Last week, the three men, along with a confidential FBI source, bought plane tickets for a flight from Mexico City to Istanbul on Sunday. From there they planned to fly to Kabul.
The tree men were apprehended without incident by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Kabir is currently in custody in custody in Afghanistan.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison. A preliminary hearing is slated for Deleon, Santana and Gojali for Dec. 3, and an arraignment is set for Dec. 5.