RIVERSIDE – Four Southern California men — two of them American citizens — stand accused of planning to join al-Qaida and the Taliban to fight U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
The four were named in a complaint unsealed during their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Riverside Monday. They are:
— Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, a former resident of Pomona and an Afghanistan- born naturalized U.S. citizen;
— Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, a lawful permanent resident alien born in the Philippines;
— Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland, a lawful permanent resident born in Mexico whose application for citizenship is pending;
— Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, a U.S. citizen.
The criminal complaint said the defendants conspired to provide material support to terrorists, knowing or intending that such support would be used to carry out:
— a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons and damage property in a foreign country;
— the killing of and attempts to kill officers and employees of the United States;
— the killing of U.S. nationals;
— a conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States; and
— bombings at places of public use and at government facilities.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
The complaint alleges that in 2010, Kabir introduced Deleon and Santana to radical and violent Islamic doctrine, using lectures and essays by the U.S.- born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a key al-Qaida figure until he was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
Kabir went to Afghanistan in July, maintaining contact with his co- defendants. He had told them to follow him to Afghanistan, where he would introduce them to Taliban and al-Qaida operatives for training., according to U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. and Bill Lewis, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
Santa and Deleon told an FBI informant that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to engage in violent jihad, targeting overseas American military personnel and bases, according to Birotte and Lewis.
The case is being prosecuted by the L.A.-based U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Riverside-based Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is made up of members from the Riverside and San Bernardino county sheriff’s departments; the Riverside, Beaumont and Ontario police departments; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and the FBI.