Kentucky Terror Case: Two Iraqis Charged With Supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq

The two granted refugee status in U.S. despite prior arrests by Iraqi officials.

May 31, 2011, 4:28 PM

May 31, 2011 -- Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, two Iraqi nationals, were arrested in Bowling Green, Ky., after a two-year FBI investigation.

They were indicted for allegedly providing assistance to Al Qaeda in Iraq and attempting to send weapons overseas. The men were living in the United States and had been granted refugee status, despite their insurgency activities in Iraq and their role in attacking U.S. troops.

Alwan has been charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, distributing information about explosives, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to transfer and possess weapons. Hammadi is charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to transfer and possess weapons.

The FBI began to investigate Alwan in September 2009, using an informant to obtain information about his involvement with the insurgency in Iraq. During one meeting with the FBI's informant, Alwan allegedly said that he was skilled with sniper rifles, adding that his "lunch and dinner would be an American [soldier]." Alwan also allegedly discussed how he would assemble bomb components and place roadside IEDs after curfew in Iraq. Alwan allegedly was part of the insurgency from 2003 until May 2006, when he was arrested by Iraqi authorities.

As the FBI continued its investigation into Alwan, analysts concluded that a set of his fingerprints matched an unexploded IED that U.S. troops had recovered in Bayji, Iraq, in September 2005. The match was made by the FBI's Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, which analyzes bomb construction, components and forensics to identify bomb makers and new and emerging trends that U.S. forces have seen in war zones. The center has also tried to work on countermeasures to disrupt and disarm IEDs. Alwan allegedly told the FBI informant that he had lived near Bayji, and that he had used a specific type of cordless phone to construct an IED, which was made up of three artillery shells.

The FBI informant told Alwan that his boss had received funds from Osama bin Laden, and during a September 2010 discussion Alwan allegedly expressed interest in helping them provide support to terrorists in Iraq. The criminal complaint against Alwan alleges that the informant "told Alwan that a group he was affiliated with planned to support the mujahedeen in Iraq by shipping them money and weapons ... by secreting them in hidden compartments in vehicles that were being shipped to Iraq."

Alwan has been charged with providing material support for allegedly drawing diagrams of IEDs, and showing how they could be constructed. The informant asked Alwan during an October 2010 meeting if he could train people to produce the devices. Alwan allegedly said, "It's easy. It doesn't take much."

In November 2010, Alwan participated with the FBI informant in moving machine guns and 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 video taping the men loading the container. The men in March 2011 allegedly picked up two Stinger missiles from the storage facility and delivered them to the tractor trailer where they believed the items would be shipped to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Last February, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before Congress that the FBI was looking at possible instances of individuals in Al Qaeda in Iraq being involved in activities in the United States.

"I'll mention two other areas of threat within the United States," Mueller said. "One is -- relates to individuals going to Somalia to fight with al-Shabab, where we are closely monitoring that situation, as well as threats from Al Qaeda in Iraq, individuals who may have been resettled here in the United States that have had some association with Al Qaeda in Iraq."

Although both Alwan and Hammadi had been arrested by Iraq security forces, in 2006 they were allowed to enter the United States as refugees in April and July 2009, respectively. Asked why officials and Homeland Security had not properly vetted or reviewed the men's records, a Homeland Security official said, "This case demonstrates specific gaps that were present in the screening process that was in place in the beginning of the administration. Once the administration became aware of these gaps, it took immediate steps to fill them. Today our vetting process considers a far broader range of information than it did in past years."

Officials at Homeland Security say that they now continue to review applicants' names and fingerprint data, and cross reference it with available intelligence information and watchlists to see if there is derogatory information that may bar individuals from entering the United States or denying them a U.S. visa.

Lawyers for the two men could not be identified or reached based on a review of the court files available at this time.

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