Four men with links to Southern California have been charged with plotting to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban to attend terrorist training and engage in “violent jihad” against Americans, the FBI said Monday night.
The group's alleged ringleader, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, allegedly influenced co-defendants Miguel Santana and Ralph Deleon to convert to “radical and violent Islamic doctrine” in 2010, prosecutors said.
Kabir, a former resident of Pomona, Calif., and naturalized US citizen who was born in Afghanistan, recently traveled to Kabul to arrange the group’s terrorist training, according to a complaint unsealed Monday in federal court in Riverside.
Santana, 21, lives in Upland, Calif., and is a permanent resident who was born in Mexico and has an application for citizenship pending in the US. Deleon, 23, is a permanent resident living in Ontario, Calif., who was born in the Philippines.
The complaint alleges that in January, Deleon “liked” a video posted on Kabir’s Facebook page that “appears to be a prayer for the success of the mujahideen and features various photos including Al-Qa’ida leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, (the) 9/11 attacks, bloodied adults and children, and Islamic fighters.”
In February, Santana said he wanted to “help the brothers pave the way to Jerusalem,” the complaint states.
Prosecutors believe Santana was referring to a fatwa issued by Al Qaeda directing followers to retake control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque located in Jerusalem.
The criminal complaint alleges the men intended to meet in Afghanistan in the near future and initially join “the students,” meaning the Taliban, before joining “the professors,” meaning Al Qaeda.
In September, the group recruited Riverside resident Arifeen Gojali, 21, to join their cause.
The complaint says the defendants discussed the plot among themselves and with a confidential FBI source. The various conversations detailed their plans to kill American soldiers and others, the complaint states.
Santana said he had experience with firearms and wanted to become a sniper, prosecutors said. Deleon said he wanted to be on the front lines with his second choice being an explosives expert, according to the complaint.
The complaint further states that Santana and Deleon were “excited” about their impending trip and video-taped themselves shooting an M4 assault rifle at a southern California shooting range.
Santana, Deleon and Gojali were arrested Friday and appeared in federal court in Riverside Monday. Kabir was apprehended in Afghanistan. If convicted, the men face up to 15 years in federal prison.
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