WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- "Dozens" of al-Qaida operatives may be living in the United States as refugees, ABC News exclusively reports.
The FBI became alerted to the possibility after two Iraqis living in Kentucky after entering the United States as refugees admitted they had attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq, ABC said in a report to be aired Wednesday night.
The arrests of Waad Ramadan Alwan, 32, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 26, in 2009 prompted the bureau to assign hundreds of agents to a round-the-clock review of its archives of 100,000 improvised explosive devices collected in Iraq and Afghanistan for fingerprints.
The men were arrested in a sting operation in which an undercover operative offered Alwan the chance to ship heavy arms to al-Qaida in Iraq.
"We are currently supporting dozens of current counter-terrorism investigations like that," said FBI Agent Gregory Carl, director of the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, known as TEDAC.
The FBI found Alwan had confessed to being an insurgent when he was arrested in Iraq in 2006. The next year Alwan crossed the border into Syria, where his fingerprints were entered into a database maintained by U.S. military intelligence in Iraq, who routinely collected fingerprints of Iraqis. In 2009, Alwan applied to come to the United States as a refugee.
Federal prosecutors said Hammadi had been detained by Iraqi officials during the war.
A senior Department of Homeland Security intelligence official told a House committee that Alwan and Hammadi "came in clean" in a check of their backgrounds.
The Kentucky case caused the State Department to stop processing refugee requests from Iraqis for six months.
More than 70,000 Iraqis live in the United States as war refugees, and most of them are law abiding, say local and state officials.
Both Alwan and Hammadi pleaded guilty. Alwan received a 40-year prison sentence. Hammadi received a life sentence he is appealing.