US brings terror case against 2 Ky. Iraqis
Allegedly tried to aid Al Qaeda
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two Iraqi men living as refugees in Kentucky tried to send sniper rifles, Stinger missiles, and money to Al Qaeda operatives in their home country, and both boasted of using improvised explosives against American troops there before moving to the United States, according to court documents unsealed yesterday.
Thirty-year-old Waad Ramadan Alwan and 23-year-old Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, both of Bowling Green, were arrested last week after an investigation that began months after they arrived in the United States in 2009. Neither is charged with plotting attacks within the United States, and authorities said their weapons and money didn’t make it to Iraq because of a tightly controlled undercover investigation.
Alwan is charged with conspiracy to kill a United States national, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Hammadi is charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists and knowingly transferring, possessing, or exporting a device designed or intended to launch or guide a rocket or missile.
The FBI said in an affidavit that Alwan told an informant that he took part in insurgent attacks on US troops in Iraq using improvised explosive devices and a sniper rifle, saying “lunch and dinner would be an American.’’ Court documents say Hammadi also told an informant he planted improvised explosives in Iraq.
The men pleaded not guilty to the charges during a preliminary hearing yesterday, and they’re in federal custody pending a detention hearing.
The criminal complaints against the two men say they entered the United States legally in April 2009 and had refugee status. By late 2010, Alwan had told the informant he wanted to help terrorists in Iraq, and he recruited Hammadi early this year, authorities said. They are accused of trying to send the rifles, missiles, and C4 plastic explosives to Iraq. Federal prosecutors and the FBI declined to say how the two men were able to enter the country as refugees, or what they were doing in Bowling Green, a city of 60,000. State officials said at least 253 Iraqi refugees have moved to the city since 2008 but wouldn’t comment on whether the state’s refugee office had dealings with the suspects.
“Perhaps they just thought it was a lovely community,’’ said Elizabeth Fries, the FBI special agent in charge, who declined to say what the men did for a living.
A Department of Homeland Security official, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Alwan and Hammadi slipped through gaps in the immigration vetting system that have since been filled. The official said the agency now checks people repeatedly as new information becomes available.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said in February that his agency was taking a fresh look at Iraqi nationals in the United States who had ties to Al Qaeda’s offshoot in Iraq. The group had not previously been considered a threat in the United States.
Hammadi’s court-appointed lawyer, James Earhart, said he has not conferred with his client and doesn’t know much about the case.