Inland Empire men used social media in terror plot, FBI says
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Two of the men charged in Southern California with plotting to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban allegedly posted terrorist videos on Facebook and communicated via Skype, federal authorities said Monday night.
In all, four men with Southern California ties were charged in the international terrorist plot that authorities say stretched from the Inland Empire to Afghanistan.
Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, a former Pomona resident, allegedly left the United States last year and traveled to Afghanistan in July to set up terrorist training with Al Qaeda and Taliban members, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday in federal court.
Kabir is accused of converting Ontario resident Ralph Deleon, 23, and Upland resident Alejandro Santana, 21, to ‘radical and violent Islamic doctrine,’ according to the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside. The men allegedly sought to target Americans.
Santana and Kabir allegedly posted terrorist audio and video files on the Facebook pages and communicated via Skype when Kabir was overseas, federal authorities said in the complaint.
Kabir, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001, according to court records filed with the complaint. The records did not specify why Kabir spent only a year in the service.
A portion of the case rests on a confidential source who befriended Santana and Deleon and wore a recording device.
The source was paid more than $250,000 by the federal government in October and received unspecified ‘immigration benefits,’ according to a footnote in the complaint. The source was previously convicted of trafficking in pseudoephedrine.
‘At various times,’ the complaint alleged, ‘Santana and Deleon discussed their preferred roles in committing violent jihad,’ according to the complaint. Santana allegedly said he wanted to be a sniper, and Deleon said he wanted to be on the ‘front lines.’
The men allegedly went to shooting ranges, where they practiced firing semiautomatic weapons, according to the complaint.
In September, Santana and DeLeon recruited Riverside resident Arifeen David Gojali, 23, to travel overseas with them and join Kabir for terrorist training, according to federal authorities. Gojali is a U.S. citizen.
Santana, Gojali and Deleon were apprehended Friday by authorities with the Join Terrorism Task Force. They appeared appeared before a magistrate Monday in federal court in Riverside.
Kabir was apprehended by authorities in Afghanistan. The investigation is ongoing. If convicted, the men face up to 15 years in federal prison.
— Robert J. Lopez