Iraqi Refugee Sentenced for Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIL
HOUSTON – Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, the 25-year-old refugee who was born in Iraq and resided in Houston, has been ordered to federal prison for 16 years following his conviction of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He pleaded guilty Oct. 17, 2016.
Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana Boente, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston made the announcement.
“Any person who provides material support to a foreign terrorist organization will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Martinez. “Al Hardan’s actions were treacherous and completely antithetical to the freedoms we as U.S. citizens value. The sentence imposed today reflects the Department of Justice’s resolve to seek out and punish all violators who would give aid and comfort to international terrorists.”
Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Al Hardan a 192-month sentence. He will also be on supervised release for the rest of his life.
At the time of his plea, Al Hardan had admitted he attempted to provide material support – specifically himself – to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Al Hardan entered the United States as a refugee on or about Nov. 2, 2009. Prior to entering the country, Al Hardan was in at least two refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq. After being admitted into the U.S. as an Iraqi refugee, he was granted legal permanent residence status on or about Aug. 22, 2011, and had resided in Houston.
In 2013, federal agents began investigating Al Hardan who had been communicating with a California man whom he understood was associated with the Al-Nusrah Front. In those communications, the individual had told Al Hardan that he had previously traveled to Syria to fight for Al-Nusrah and discussed plans to return to Syria with Al Hardan to fight for Al-Nusrah.
Beginning in June 2014 and continuing through 2015, Al Hardan also developed a relationship with a Confidential Human Source (CHS). During that time, they discussed traveling overseas to support ISIL in fighting jihad and various ways to assist ISIL. 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. Al Hardan indicated he taught himself how to make remote detonators by accessing online training videos and other resources he found online and showed the CHS a circuit board he built to be used as a transmitter for a detonator.
On Nov. 5, 2014, Al Hardan took an oath of loyalty to ISIL. Two days later, Al Hardan and the CHS participated in approximately one hour of tactical weapons training with an AK-47 that Al Hardan indicated he wanted.
During the investigation, Al Hardan had also posted many statements on social media in support of ISIL. 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.” He also made numerous statements about his plans to travel to Syria and fight alongside ISIL and become a martyr. In one instance he said “I want to blow myself up. I want to travel with the Mujahidin. I want to travel to be with those who are against America. I am against America.”
Upon his arrest in January 2016, investigators discovered training CDs on how to build remote detonators, electronic circuitry components, tools used to build circuitry, multiple cell phones (that had not been activated), a prayer list for committing Jihad and becoming a martyr and the ISIL flag.
Al Hardan has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Houston Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ted Imperato, Carolyn Ferko and S. Mark McIntyre prosecuted the case.