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FBI Charges Four Men, Accuses Them Of Trying To Join Al-Qaida

Federal authorities are accusing four men from California of plotting to help al-Qaida and the Taliban. Last Friday, they arrested Ralph Deleon, 23, Arifeen David Gojali, 21 and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21 as they prepared to fly to Afghanistan. They were to meet Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, who was already there. Kabir is being held by officials in Afghanistan.

The FBI seal
/ AP
The FBI seal

The FBI complaint says about two years ago, Kabir, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, was able to interest Deleon and Santana in "violent Islamic doctrine", especially online, where the three of them shared comments and links to Islamist websites. A favorite site featured material posted by the late Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American and former spokesman for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, killed in a U.S. drone strike.

In 2012, Kabir traveled to Afghanistan, where he urged Santana and Deleon to join him. Santana is from Mexico and his application for U.S. citizenship is currently pending; Deleon is a permanent U.S. resident originally from the Philippines. The FBI charges the two younger men told a confidential source they planned to go overseas to "engage in violent jihad", allegedly pointing out U.S. military bases and personnel as targets.

The FBI says its confidential source was once convicted of drug trafficking pseudoephedrine, a chemical found in decongestants and used to make the illegal drug, methamphetamine. The report says the source has worked with the FBI for more than four years and gotten more than $250,000 in payments, along with unidentified immigration benefits.

The source reported to the FBI that Deleon and Santana spoke of their intention to train to fight in a Taliban camp and then go on to fight for al-Qaida in an undecided location: perhaps Palestine, Israel or the Philippines. The suspects visited shooting ranges and paintball facilities.

Last September, Deleon and Santana successfully encouraged Arifeen Gojali to join them. Although he was new to the group, the FBI says he shared the others' view on extremist violence. The three men were preparing to leave for Afghanistan to join Kabir when they were arrested last week.

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Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.

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