Two refugees arrested on terrorism charges in California, Texas

By Shawn Price  |  Jan. 8, 2016 at 6:22 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Two Iraqi refugees were arrested by federal agents for similar but apparently unrelated terrorism charges in Texas and California, federal officials said, adding fuel to concerns about the United States accepting more refugees from war-torn Syria.

Both men are of Palestinian dissent and born in Iraq. Both are in the United States as refugees. And both allegedly lied to immigration officials about terrorist connections.

Omar Faraj Saeed al-Hardan, 24, of Houston, was charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State, procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully and making false statements to investigators.

Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, Calif., is charged with lying to government officials about traveling to Syria to fight alongside terrorist organizations.

Both men were scheduled to appear in courts on Friday.

Though unsealed criminal complaints do not directly connect the men, al-Jayab attempted to get weapons training from an unnamed individual who lived in Texas in April 2013.

The indictment against al-Hardan, meanwhile, indicated he lied when applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

"He allegedly represented that he was not associated with a terrorist organization when, in fact, he associated with members and sympathizers of ISIL throughout 2014, according to the charges," a news release from the Justice Department said. "The indictment further alleges that during an interview in October 2015, al-Hardan falsely represented that he had never received any type of weapons training, when he allegedly received automatic machine gun training."

The arrests come as some Americans have expressed fear of the United States accepting a growing number of refugees leaving Syria, and other Middle East and North African countries to escape war and violence.

In December, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to block the resettlement of two Syrian refugee families in the state, saying they posed "a security risk." He said he was concerned the federal government had not properly vetted the refugees to ensure they didn't pose a threat.

"Based on the facts, as we know them, today's action may have prevented a catastrophic terror related event in the making and saved countless lives," Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement regarding the arrest of al-Hardan.

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