The FBI has arrested for men for allegedly plotting to join al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the bureau announced Monday. The FBI's Los Angeles field office arrested 34-year-old Sohiel Omar Kabir, 23-year-old Ralph Deleon, 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and 21-year-old Arifeen David Gojali on Friday but the arrests were only made public late Monday night.
According to the 77-page complaint, Kabir, a naturalized citizen who immigrated from Afghanistan, was the primary recruiter of the other three. Between late 2010 through September 2012, Kabir used Facebook to post audio of Anwar al-Awlaki and other extremists while engaging the other three via shared links and other information.
According to the FBI agent in the affidavit, these Facebook postings were public, as were the "likes" given various articles and audio files. Over the course of several months, a confidential informant infiltrated the group, traveling with them to conferences in May and June of this year. From the conversations quoted in the affidavit, it appears they were trying to recruit the informant as well.
At the heart of things, this is a story of three young men who were so disconnected and alienated from their society that the message brought to them by the fourth of "absolute truth" and finding meaning to their lives through carrying out violence against others resonated deeply. Santana in particular said that he believed Islam would open the door for him to "fit in and actually be able to fight for something that's right."
From August through November they planned and trained at paintball facilities and shooting ranges. They all had a vision for the glory they would be covered in once they reached Afghanistan and actually joined the battle. At one point or another, they admitted they would be willing to return to the United States and commit acts of violence here in the name of jihad, too.
By last week, they had secured their passports and the money for airplane tickets. They had concocted a story about attending their friend Kabir's wedding in Kabul as the cover story for their family. Late Friday afternoon they were arrested just before leaving for the airport.
All of the recruits came from the Inland Empire -- Riverside and Chino. That area is extremely diverse and extremely conservative. Clearly they were alienated from their community and even their families in some cases. That, combined with Kabir's message of purpose and meaning through violent jihad seems to have resonated enough that they would trade away their citizenship here for a violent life elsewhere.
I'm sure there will be more on this, but the affidavit is a fascinating look at how this particular plot was infiltrated and stopped, as well as some of the factors leading into it.