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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Iraqi Refugee Arrested on Terror Charges

HOUSTON (CN) - Police arrested an Iraqi refugee in Houston on charges of conspiring to join Islamic State terrorists, and federal prosecutors unsealed the three-count indictment Thursday night.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, a Palestinian born in Iraq, entered the United States as a refugee in 2009 and became a permanent resident in 2011, the Justice Department said in a statement.

"The indictment alleges that Al Hardan attempted to provide material support and resources, including training, expert advice and assistance, and personnel - specifically himself - to a known foreign terrorist organization," prosecutors said.

A federal grand jury also charged Al Hardan with lying on his U.S. citizenship application that he had no ties to Islamic State members.

If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 53 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He was scheduled to go before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner at 10 a.m. Friday.

Dozens of men were indicted in the United States in 2015 for "attempting to provide support" to the so-called Islamic State - also called ISIS or ISIL - many for trying to fly to Syria to join the group.

Federal judges have given lengthy sentences to those who pleaded guilty.

Michael Todd Wolfe aka Faruq, 24, of Austin, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in June 2015 after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to join the Islamic State with an undercover FBI agent.

It's unclear whether Al Hardan's charges also stem from the work of undercover agents.

Ali Shukri Amin, 17, of Manassas, Va. received an 11-year sentence in August. He pleaded guilty to helping another Virginia teen travel to Syria to join ISIL. He also posted statements about how to use Bitcoin to fund militants on Twitter.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton used the announcement of Al Hardan's arrest to tout his lawsuit against the United States, trying to keep Syrian refugees out of Texas. The United States says Texas has no right to keep legally admitted refugees out of the state.

But Paxton called Al Hardan's arrest "a troubling revelation, especially in light of the president's insistence on placing further refugees in Texas. My office will continue to press for the right of Texans to ensure that terrorists are not being placed in our communities," Paxton said in a statement.

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