An Iraqi refugee who wanted to bomb two Texas malls has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The Justice Department announced Monday that Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, a 24-year-old Houston resident, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS — after gaining admission to the United States a refugee.
Al Hardan was admitted to the United States as a refugee in November 2009. Prior to arriving in the United States he had stayed in at least two refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq. Al Hardan was approved for and received legal permanent residence status in August 2011. He was in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship when he was arrested on terrorism charges earlier this year.
Federal agents foiled Al Hardan’s plans when they arrested him in January and discovered training material on how to build remote detonators, multiple cells phones, electronic circuitry components and corresponding tools. Officials also found, what the Justice Department described as, “a prayer list for committing Jihad and becoming a martyr and the ISIL flag.”
The government began its investigation into the 24-year-old refugee in June 2014.
Law enforcement used a Confidential Human Source (CHS) in its investigation into Al Harden’s activities. Al Hardan and the CHS, according to the Justice Department, discussed traveling overseas to support ISIS and Al Harden told the CHS that he wanted to learn how to build remote detonators for improvised explosive devices. Al Harden further claimed that he had taught himself how to make such explosives by viewing online videos.
In November 2014, Al Harden took a loyalty oath to ISIS. Shortly thereafter, he and the government’s CHS participated in “tactical weapons training” with an AK-47.
Al Harden also posted numerous statements of support for the terrorist group ISIS on social media, the Justice Department said. He also made a number of statements expressing his desire to travel to Syria, fight with ISIS and become a martyr.
“I want to blow myself up. I want to travel with the Mujahidin. I want to travel to be with those who are against America. I am against America,” he said at one point, according to the Justice Department.
Al Harden faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine. He is slated to remain in custody until his sentencing hearing on January 17, 2017.