Los Angeles: A 24-year-old American charged with trying to join al-Qaeda was intercepted by the FBI after using the Internet and Facebook to connect with the terrorist group, a prosecutor said here.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen confessed to federal agents that he planned to offer himself as a trainer of some 30 al-Qaeda forces to ambush troops in Syria, where he had already spent five months fighting with rebels, Assistant US Attorney Judith Heinz said yesterday.
US District Judge John Walter expressed scepticism with some of the evidence and questioned whether the want-to-be terrorist had any special skills to offer al Qaeda.
Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to two charges of making a false statement on a passport and attempting to provide material support and resources to a terrorist organisation.
Heinz said a confidential informant and an undercover FBI agent posing as an al Qaeda recruiter gathered evidence against Nguyen after he reached out on the Internet and on his Facebook page to join the terrorist group.
He was arrested October 11 at a Santa Ana bus station as he prepared to board a bus for Mexico with plane tickets to Pakistan, authorities said. The undercover agent escorted him to the bus and had told him they would be meeting "his sheik" in Peshawar, the prosecutor said.
When agents arrested him, Nguyen exclaimed, "How did you guys find out?" Heinz said.
The prosecutor said Nguyen had a fake passport, USD 1,850 in Syrian currency and a pamphlet with extensive instructions on shooting and setting up battle plans.
Three swords, two large axes, two hatchets and a copy of the famous tome, "The Art of War," were found in the Garden Grove home where he lived with his parents.
Heinz said Nguyen planned to train al-Qaeda forces in shooting.
The judge noted that Nguyen was never a member of the US armed forces, having been rejected because of a hearing problem.
"I don`t see evidence that this defendant had any particular skill in firearms," he said, "or that he had the ability to procure or deliver weapons to these 25-30 individuals. This is the part of the case that escapes me."
The judge also was dismissive of the prosecution`s pointing out that Nguyen owned two guns and went target shooting, saying he sometimes went target shooting himself.
Nguyen made no comment during the hearing and was ordered held without bail.
The judge asked Heinz again to identify the resources Nguyen was providing to al-Qaeda.
"He was providing himself," she said.