A spokesperson from the FBI (FBI) [official website] announced Monday that four Southern California men were charged [complaint, PDF; press release] with terrorism-related offenses and plotting to join al Qaeda. The criminal charges were brought in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] for "conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists." The allegations include "conspiracy to kidnap, maim or injure persons or 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 Unites States, and bombing places of public use and government facilities." The plot began in 2010 when alleged instigator Sohiel Omar Kabir introduced Ralph Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana Virdales, and Arifeen David Gojali to extremist Islam and "violent jihad." Confidential FBI sources were used to infiltrate the group and receive information regarding their plans. Kabir is alleged to have arranged meetings in Afghanistan with fellow jihadists, and the three men devised a series of plans to be executed in mid-November including meeting Kabir overseas. Kabir was arrested in Afghanistan. Santana, Gojali, and Deloen were taken into custody on Friday by authorities in cooperation with the Joint Terrorism Task Force [official website]. The investigation is ongoing, and if convicted the four could face up to 15 years in federal prison.
This is not the first case dealing with alleged al Qaeda operatives with strong US connections. In October the US District Court for the Western District of Washington sentenced Ahmed Ressam [JURIST report], an al Qaeda trained terrorist convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999. Also in October an Iraqi court sentenced an American citizen to life in prison for funding terrorist activities in Iraq and aiding al Qaeda [JURIST report]. In June Wesam El-Hanafi pleaded guilty [JURIST report] before the US District Court for the Southern District of New York of providing material support to al Qaeda. In 2008 Jaber Elbaneh, a Yemeni-American, was charged for alleged participation in acts of international terrorism including involvement with al Qaeda [JURIST report].