RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KTLA) — Four men with ties to Southern California have been charged with plotting to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to kill Americans.
The suspects are Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, of Pomona, Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland and Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside.
They’re accused of providing material support to terrorists in preparation for or in carrying out: conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons and damage property in a foreign country; killing and attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States; killing nationals of the United States; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States; and bombing places of public use and government facilities.
According to the criminal complaint, Kabir, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, introduced Deleon and Santana to “radical and violent Islamic doctrine” back in 2010.
Deleon is a permanent resident alien who was born in the Philippines, and Santana is a permanent resident born in Mexico whose application for citizenship is pending.
The complaint said the men studied Internet essays and lectures by Anwar Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric and U.S. citizen killed in Yemen in 2011 by missiles fired from a U.S. Predator drone aircraft.
Kabir traveled to Afghanistan in July 2012, where he continued to communicate with Santana and Deleon to arrange for their travel to join him in Afghanistan, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges that Kabir told Santana and Deleon that he had made contacts with individuals who have connections to terrorist organizations.
Kabir further said that he would wait for their arrival before departing to a training location in Afghanistan and that, when they arrived, they would meet “the students” and “the professors.”
According to the complaint, the term “students” referred to the Taliban and the term “professors” referred to Al Qaeda.
The complaint alleges that Santana and Deleon told a confidential source working for the FBI, identified in the complaint as the “CS,” that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to engage in “violent jihad.”
In addition, the defendants described potential targets for violent attacks, including overseas American military personnel and bases, the complaint says.
According to the complaint, the defendants both discussed the plot among themselves and with the confidential source.
The various conversations detail the defendants’ plans to travel overseas to attend terrorist training, as well as to kill American soldiers and others.
In one discussion with the FBI confidential source, Santana and Deleon discussed their preferred roles in carrying out attacks.
For example, Santana stated that he had experience with firearms and that he wanted to become a sniper.
Deleon stated he wanted to be on the front lines with a second choice of explosives. Both men also indicated they were willing to kill an enemy.
In September 2012, Deleon and Santana recruited defendant Gojali, a U.S. citizen, to join them and to travel overseas to commit violent jihad, as alleged in the complaint.
The complaint further alleges that defendants Santana, Deleon and Gojali made plans to join Kabir in Afghanistan to attend terrorist training, and that they arranged travel logistics, including flights and required documentation.
The complaint details the defendants’ activity in raising funds for their travel to Afghanistan and their discussion of various cover stories and code words they could use to conceal their true intentions when traveling abroad.
It also alleges that Santana, Deleon, and Gojali conducted preliminary training in Southern California at firearms and paintball facilities to prepare for terrorist training overseas.
Kabir was taken into custody in Afghanistan.
Santana, Gojali and Deleon were apprehended Friday by authorities with the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
They had their initial appearance before a federal magistrate Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
Santana and Deleon were remanded to federal custody and Gojali’s detention hearing was continued to Monday, Nov. 26th.
The investigation is ongoing. If convicted, the men each face up to 15 years in federal prison.