LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three Southern California men charged this week with plotting to kill Americans and bomb U.S. military bases overseas spent months preparing for a trip to Afghanistan where, authorities say, they hoped to join the Taliban and eventually graduate to the ranks of al-Qaida.
They seemed determined to reach their goal — even excited about the prospects of being terrorists — and weren’t dissuaded when at least one of them suspected someone might be following them.
The men were unaware that one of their cohorts was an FBI informant who recorded conversations that helped thwart the plot by what authorities called a valid, homegrown extremist network.
“The main lesson learned is: Don’t underestimate these groups,” said FBI Special Agent David Bowdich. “This is a very serious case. I think ultimately the outcome was a success.”
The arrests are the latest in a series of cases where U.S. residents were targeted to become terrorists. Last month, a Minneapolis man was convicted of helping send young men to Somalia to join the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.
Among those arrested last week were 34-year-old American Sohiel Omar Kabir, who was captured over the weekend in Afghanistan, Ralph Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali. All four men are facing charges of providing material support to terrorists, which can carry a maximum 15-year prison sentence.