(Corrects day of three arrests from Monday to Friday in
* Suspects were planning to travel to Afghanistan
* Men face up to 15 years in prison if convicted
By Lisa Shumaker
Nov 20 Four men with ties to Southern California
have been arrested and charged with plotting to kill Americans
overseas by joining up with al Qaeda to engage in "violent
jihad" or Islamic holy war, the FBI said on Monday.
Other charges the men face include plotting to bomb
government facilities and conspiracy to kill Americans.
Since the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, the U.S. government has
stepped up surveillance efforts to catch both domestic and
foreign militants, but has repeatedly warned that such groups
continue to pose a threat.
The authorities said Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, traveled to
Afghanistan where he planned to introduce the other suspects to
his al Qaeda contacts. Kabir is a naturalized U.S. citizen who
was born in Afghanistan, and served in the U.S. Air Force from
2000 to 2001.
Also arrested were Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, California;
Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland; and Arifeen
David Gojali, 21, of Riverside. If convicted, the men face up to
15 years in prison.
The FBI said in its complaint that Kabir had introduced
Deleon and Santana to radical Islamic teachings in 2010,
including those of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was
killed by a U.S. drone. Deleon and Santana then converted to
In one conversation with an FBI confidential source, Santana
and Deleon discussed their preferred roles when it came to
carrying out attacks.
Santana stated that he had experience with firearms and that
he wanted to become a sniper, while Deleon said he wanted to be
on the front line but that his second choice was handling
Both men also indicated they were willing to kill people
they perceived to be enemies. When asked if he had thought about
how it would feel to kill someone, Santana told the informant:
"The more I think about it, the more it excites me".
Deleon is a lawful permanent resident alien who was born in
the Philippines, and Santana is a lawful permanent resident who
was born in Mexico and had applied to become a U.S. citizen,
according to the FBI.
In September 2012, Deleon and Santana recruited Gojali, a
U.S. citizen. The three men planned to travel overseas for
training and to carry out attacks in Afghanistan or Yemen.
In preparation for their trip, the FBI said the men had
removed all radical Islamic postings from their Facebook
accounts. Deleon and Santana also worked out and practiced
shooting assault rifles at a Los Angeles firing range.
Just last week, the three men sold personal belongings,
including Deleon's car, and bought airline tickets to travel
from Mexico City to Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov. 18. They then
planned to make their way to Kabul, Afghanistan, the FBI said.
Santana, Deleon and Gojali were arrested on Friday and made
their initial court appearance later in the day in U.S. District
Court in Riverside, California, where they were ordered to
remain in federal custody. Gojali's detention hearing was
continued to Nov. 26. Kabir was taken into custody on Saturday
in Afghanistan, the FBI said.
(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and