Just in case anyone wondered whether the threat of home-grown terrorism had abated, ABC News and the LA Times report today that federal agents broke up a ring of would-be jihadis, including a former member of the US Air Force. The group got infiltrated early by the FBI, but at least one of the group made it to Afghanistan to arrange the introduction of the others to terrorist networks for training before being apprehended in his native country:
Federal agents have arrested four southern California men over an alleged plot to provide material support to ter
rorists 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.
Only one of the men appears to be a native-born citizen of the US. Kabir was born in Afghanistan, while Deleon was born in the Philippines and Santana Vidriales in Mexico. The fourth, Arifeen David Gojali, is a native US citizen, according to the report in the LA Times. All three had prepared themselves for their upcoming training and had committed themselves to terrorism:
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.
Needless to say, the value of these recruits wouldn’t have been wasted on fighting in Afghanistan. These terrorist networks want to recruit Americans to commit acts of terrorism within the US, and their familiarity of American culture and US citizenship would have given them almost unlimited opportunity to plot and conduct attacks. The FBI has been succeeding at sniffing out these groups before they have the opportunity to put their plans into action, but that takes a level of vigilance that can be difficult to maintain and support if the threats isn’t made plain on a regular basis. We’re fortunate that this group got stopped before they could do any real damage, but can only hope and pray that we get to them all in a similar manner.