The FBI arrested and charged four men in Southern California for plotting to join al-Qaeda and the Taliban to commit "violent jihad" against America, the agency announced Monday.
The men are charged with conspiracy to kill or harm citizens and members of the U.S. military, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the U.S., and planning to bomb government facilities and public places.
Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, recruited two other men to the jihadi cause in part by studying the teachings of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim cleric assassinated by an extra judicial drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Kabir allegedly travelled to Afghanistan in July to arrange training for a "violent jihad" against the U.S. During this time, Kabir communicated via Skype with Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, Calif., and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, a lawful permanent U.S. resident born in Mexico.
Authorities say that "Kabir influenced Santana and Deleon to convert to Islam" and told the two men he would wait for their arrival in Afghanistan to begin training. Kabir told Santana and Deleon he had made contacts with terrorist organizations and that the group would meet "the students" and "the professors," which the FBI alleges refer to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, respectively.
Santana and Deleon allegedly recruited the fourth man charged, Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, Calif. Together, the three men allegedly discussed travel logistics for their trip to join Kabir in Afghanistan and "conducted preliminary training in southern California at firearms and paintball facilities to prepare for terrorist training overseas."
The four men's downfall was a confidential FBI source identified in the statement as "CS," who the three men told of their violent plans. In one discussion with the source, Santana and Deleon discussed what roles each would play in violent attacks, with Santana saying he would prefer to be a sniper and Deleon mentioning explosives.
The men were taken into custody Monday, including Kabir in Afghanistan. They each face up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted. The confidential source, who was previously convicted of trafficking pseudophedrine, a key ingredient in crystal meth, was paid $250,000 in October and given "immigration benefits" for his assistance, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.