Riverside Man Among Those Arrested in Terrorist Plot
RIVERSIDE – A Riverside man, along with three others, was arrested last week by federal investigators for lending support to al-Qaida and Taliban forces in plans to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan.
On Monday, the FBI released a statement that described the actions of four men, including Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, along with three conspirators who were each charged with five felony counts, including the bombing of U.S. facilities and conspiring to kill, kidnap, main or injure Americans by using weapons of mass destruction.
Gojali, along with Ralph De Leon, 23, of Ontario, and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland, appeared in federal court on Monday. According to the release, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, is an American citizen from Afghanistan, and was arrested and remains in custody there. He had traveled to Afganistan apparently with the intend of arranging training for the other three suspects.
Federal investigators learned about the plot through a confidential informant, according to a complaint filed in federal court.
An FBI statement that specified the accused men’s plans said, “The various conversations detail the defendants’ plans to travel overseas to attend terrorist training, as well as to kill American soldiers and others.”
De Leon was born in the Philippines, and Santana is a pending U.S. citizen born in Mexico. The latter two and Gojaili were arrested on Friday.
In a complaint filed by the FBI, it describes Kabir introducing De Leon and Santa to radical Islamic doctrine and violent extremist materials in 2010. All three men allegedly followed writings provided by now-deceased al-Qaida leader Anwar Al-Awlaqi, who was the reigning terrorist leader in the Arabian Peninsula.
Investigators charge that Kabir told Santa and De Leon he was working with terrorist organizations, inviting them to begin training in Afghanistan. In September, De Leon and Santana recruited Gojali to travel overseas for training. They did some training in Southern California shooting ranges and paintball courses to prepare for their attack, according to reports.
De Leon had expressed to the informant a desire “to be on the front lines, with a second choice of explosives.”
Santana spoke of his experience with firearms, telling the informant he wanted to become a sniper.
The informant said the men planned to go to Afghanistan to launch “a violent jihad.”
Part of the plan included the men raising money, creating cover stories and code words to keep their plot under wraps.
All four are facing a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison if convicted. While Kabir remains in custody in Afghanistan, Santana and De Leon were left in federal custody while Gojali will appear in court on Nov. 26.
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