HOUSTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice said a 24-year-old Iraqi refugee living in Houston pleaded guilty on Monday to supporting the Islamic State.
Omar Faraj Saeed al-Hardan, who was born in Iraq, entered the United States in 2009. He was in at least two refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq prior to reaching the United States and being granted permanent legal residence status in 2011.
Hardan was accused of attempting to fight for Syria's al-Nusra Front, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL, after severing ties with al-Qaida earlier this year.
"In April 2014, federal agents began investigating al-Hardan who had been communicating with a California man whom he understood was associated with al-Nusra Front," the Justice Department said in a statement. "In those communications, the individual had told al-Hardan that he had previously traveled to Syria to fight for al-Nusra and discussed plans to return to Syria with al-Hardan to fight for al-Nusra."
From June 2014 through 2015, Hardan also befriended another person, a confidential source working for U.S. authorities. Hardan and the source talked about traveling overseas to support the Islamic State in combat.
"Al-Hardan also said he wanted to be trained in building remote transmitter/receiver detonators for improvised explosive devices, wanted to learn to use cell phones as the remote detonators and wanted to build remote detonators for ISIL," the Justice Department wrote.
Hardan, who said he taught himself how to make remote detonators through online resources, and the source participated in tactical weapons training with an AK-47 two days after Hardan took an oath of loyalty to the Islamic State, according the agreement to which Hardan pleaded guilty. He will be sentenced on Jan. 17, facing up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"During the investigation, al-Hardan had also posted many statements on social media in support of ISIL," the Justice Department added. "One of those included a photo of a Humvee with an ISIL flag. Above the photo, al-Hardan posted, 'ISIS yesterday in Iraq, today in Syria and Allah willing, tomorrow in Jerusalem.'"
The Justice Department also said Hardan made statements about his plans to travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State "and become a martyr."
"In one instance he said: 'I want to blow myself up. I want to travel with the mujahedin. I want to travel to be with those who are against America. I am against America,'" the Justice Department wrote, quoting Hardan's statements.