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Nation & World

4 Southern California men held in alleged terror plot

(MCT) — LOS ANGELES — Four men with ties to Southern California have been charged with plotting to join al-Qaida and the Taliban to commit “violent jihad” and target Americans, the FBI said Monday night.

One of the men, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, allegedly traveled in July to Afghanistan, where he arranged for terrorist training to be conducted with al-Qaida and Taliban operatives, according to a complaint unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Riverside, Calif.

Kabir, who lived in Pomona, Calif., is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, federal authorities said.

In 2010, Kabir allegedly introduced Ontario, Calif., resident Ralph Deleon, 23, and Upland, Calif., resident Miguel Alejandro Santana, 21, to “radical and violent Islamic doctrine,” according to the complaint.

“Kabir influenced Santana and Deleon to convert to Islam,” the complaint said.

Kabir and Santana allegedly posted terrorist audio and video files on their Facebook pages and communicated via Skype when Kabir was overseas, according to federal authorities.

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. The death of Awlaki, a mid-level al-Qaida operative, was considered a major coup because he had been effective in reaching disaffected Muslims in the U.S. and elsewhere with his online speeches and sermons.

Santana is accused of posting audio files of Awlaki on a social media site, the complaint alleges.

After arriving in Afghanistan, Kabir told the two men he had arranged for them to travel to that country for terrorist training, the complaint alleged.

Santana and Deleon are accused of telling a confidential source working for the FBI that they planned to go to Afghanistan to take part in “violent jihad,” the complaint said. Santana is a permanent resident born in Mexico, authorities said, and Deleon is a permanent resident born in the Philippines.

The confidential source was paid more than $250,000 in October by the federal government and received unspecified “immigration benefits,” according to a footnote in the criminal complaint. The source was previously convicted of trafficking in pseudoephedrine.

In September, Santana and Deleon recruited Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside 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 Joint Terrorism Task Force. They appeared before a magistrate Monday in federal court in Riverside.

Kabir was taken into custody in Afghanistan.

The investigation is ongoing. If convicted, the men each face up to 15 years in federal prison.

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