Iraqi Refugee in Sacramento Arrested on Terrorism Charges

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The FBI emblem on the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building. (Cliff/Flickr)

Update, 3:00 pm:
Officials say 23-year-old Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab of Sacramento is enrolled as a community college computer science major. American River College spokesman Scott Crow said Friday that the Iraqi-born refugee has attended the college since last fall.

Al-Jayab makes his first court appearance Friday on a charge of lying to investigators about traveling to Syria to join the civil war there in late 2014 and early 2015. If convicted he could face up to eight years in federal prison.

Original post:
SACRAMENTO -- An Iraqi-born man living in Sacramento encouraged a fellow Iraqi refugee in Texas to join the civil war against the Syrian government and promised to teach him how to fight, federal authorities said Friday, a day after terrorism charges against the two men were revealed.

A criminal complaint filed against 23-year-old Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab of Sacramento details the social media communication he had with 24-year-old Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan of Houston. Al Hardan is the person identified as "Individual I" in the complaint, according to Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Sacramento.

"O God, grant us martyrdom for your sake while engaged in fighting and not retreating; a martyrdom that would make you satisfied with us," Al-Jayab wrote to Al Hardan in April 2013.


The complaint says Al-Jayab, who already had fought in Syria, promised to provide weapons training to Al Hardan and advised him on how he would be assigned to the battlefield once he arrived in Syria.

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Al-Jayab described how he began fighting shortly after he turned 16, and recounted "just shooting, spraying, spraying" with his assault rifle during a battle. He said he helped execute three Syrian government soldiers, according to the document.

Authorities say Al-Jayab fought twice in Syria, including with a group affiliated with the Islamic State. There is no indication that Al Hardan, an Iraqi refugee, actually traveled to Syria.

Al-Jayab left the United States in November 2013, but came to Sacramento in January 2014, the FBI said in a 20-page affidavit.

Social media and other accounts say that as soon as he arrived in the United States, Al-Jayab began saying he wanted to return to Syria to "work," which the FBI says is believed to be a reference "to assisting in and supporting violent jihad." Authorities said he eventually fought with various terrorist organizations, including Ansar al-Islam, which in 2014 merged with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant after Al-Jayab had returned to the United States.

Yet Al-Jayab criticized Islamic State group in several messages for killing Muslims.

"If it weren't for the (Islamic) State's bloodletting, I would have been the first one to join it," he said, according to the FBI, although he later described fighting alongside the group.

Both are Iraqi-born Palestinians who came to the United States as refugees. There was no evidence either man intended or planned attacks in the United States.

Al-Jayab faces up to eight years in prison on charges of traveling to Syria to fight and lying to investigators about it. He was due to make his initial court appearance Friday afternoon.

His attorney, Ben Galloway of the federal defender's office, did not return telephone and emailed messages Thursday or Friday.

Al Hardan made his initial appearance in Houston federal court Friday morning after he was indicted Wednesday on three charges related to accusations he tried to provide material support to the Islamic State. He faces up to 25 years in prison for the most serious charge.