California suspects in terror plot 'saw this as jihad,' FBI says
The four young California men charged in connection to a plot to commit "violent jihad" may have seemed like unsophisticated aspiring terrorists, but authorities characterized the case as "extremely serious."
The California case comes after a series of similar post-9/11 federal law enforcement investigations into individuals in terror plots targeting sites in this country and abroad.
In the Pacific Northwest, a half dozen radicals were stopped after planning to open a terror training camp near the Washington-Oregon border. In Minneapolis, 20 young men were recruited to undergo training for attacks abroad; one of them, Shirwa Ahmed, died in a round of suicide bombings in Somalia. And in the notorious "Zazi" case in New York, a group of would-be terrorists were just days away from attacking the city's subway system.
At the same time, some American jihadists have been turned away from international terror groups who considered them "too soft," and others have become "cannon fodder" for terrorist networks, according to a government official on Tuesday.
"We have to take every one of these cases seriously," added the source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigations. "No matter how unsophisticated the individual, it just takes one committed guy with a gun to do violence."
A complaint unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Riverside detailed some of the specifics of the Southern California case, which resulted in the arrests of the four men: former Pomona resident Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34; Ontario resident Ralph Deleon, 23; Upland resident Miguel Alejandro Santana, 21; and Riverside resident Arifeen David Gojali, 21.
Kabir 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 the complaint. He is also accused of converting Deleon and Santana to "radical and violent Islamic doctrine."
At a news conference Tuesday, David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counter-terrorism in Los Angeles, described the men as a valid, homegrown, extremist network.
"Any time you have individuals in the U.S. who are willing to go overseas and commit violence ... we think that’s extremely serious,” Bowdich said. "They saw this as jihad."
Bowdich said the FBI kept close tabs on the suspects and that each suspect had "many, many factors" in their lives that led to their radicalization.
In the complaint, Santana was said to have told the confidential informant that he had "nothing here to stand for" and so this was a reason for him to leave things behind.