Houston: The US Federal authorities have arrested two Iraqi-born refugees on terror-related charges for providing material support to the Islamic State terror group, officials said today.
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, was arrested in Houston, Texas, and charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, while Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, was arrested from California and charged with traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS and making a false statement to investigators.
The arrests, coming just over a month after the San Bernardino attack in California in which a Pakistani-origin couple killed 14 people, has renewed the debate in the US that authorities are not doing enough to screen the migrants coming from strife-torn countries in the Middle East.
Both suspects were Palestinians born in Iraq and both were living as refugees in the US, according to the US Justice Department.
Citing social media communications, the criminal complaint against Jayab said he spoke with an unnamed Texas resident about weapons and training in Syria.
That unnamed individual is Hardan, who was indicted on Wednesday on three charges of providing material support to ISIS, according to the law enforcement officials.
"I need to learn from your weapon expertise," the individual wrote to Jayab, according to the complaint. In reply, Jayab wrote, "We will make your abilities very strong," according to authorities.
"Our concern now is only to arrive there," Jayab went on. "When you arrive to al-Sham [Syria] you will be trained." It was not immediately clear whether Hardan or Jayab had retained legal representation. They are both scheduled to appear in court later today.
If convicted, Hardan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a USD 250,000 fine. Jayab entered the US as an Iraqi refugee in October 2012, the Justice Department said.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, Jayab exchanged messages on social media in 2012 and 2013, saying he planned to go to Syria to fight. In November 2013, the complaint alleges, he flew from Chicago to Turkey, and then traveled to Syria.
He "allegedly reported on social media that he was in Syria fighting with various terror organisations, including Ansar al-Islam," officials said.
Meanwhile, the US Attorney Benjamin Wagner said there were no signs that Jayab was involved in any US terror plots. "While he represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country," Wagner said.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a USD 250,000 fine.