SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) – The U.S. Attorneys Office confirms federal agents were involved in a “national security arrest” today in Sacramento and a second in Houston.
The suspect arrested in Sacramento has been identified the U.S. Attorney’s Office as 23-year-old Aws Mohammad Younis Al-Jayab. He was born in Iraq and emigrated from Syria to the United States as a refugee in October 2012.
The criminal complaint unsealed Thursday alleges Al-Jayab lied to federal agents about traveling to the Middle East, where he is believed to have associated with members of a terrorist organization.
He reportedly told investigators that in late 2013 he went to Turkey to visit his grandmother, but they said he continued from Turkey to Syria. Investigators say, prior to the trip, Al-Jayab communicated with another person that he was “going with the Mujahidin,” or Islamic guerrilla fighters.
The complaint alleges that on January 2, 2014, Al-Jayab allegedly wrote to an unnamed individual, “I have been thinking of joining the State and abandon[ing] the al-Ansar.” He explained that he was familiar with Ansar al-Islam, which the U.S. Attorney’s office says is a Sunni terrorist group in Iraq, because he “used to work with them in Iraq,” and his “commander” came to Syria from Iraq.
Investigators believe “the State” he was referring to is ISIS.
Al-Jayab faces a long list of federal charges, which include being a member of, and assisting a rebel group, militia, or insurgent organization; soliciting membership for a terrorist group or organization and providing material support to a person or group that engages in criminal activity; calling for, helping with, or committing the killing and intentional and severe injury of a person; becoming a member of a group in which he used or threatened to use a weapon against a person; and assisting a group where other people used or threatened to use a weapon against any person.
“Who he was fighting, what his goals were, are still unclear, but the FBI has stated that he wasn’t planning an attack on us. This was an individual going back home as an Iraqi to fight what he perceived as corrupt rule,” said Flagg Miller, a professor or religious studies at UC Davis and terrorism expert.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a statement that while Al-Jayab was potentially dangerous, there is no indication that he planned any attacks in the United States.
CBS13 reached out to FBI Sacramento Division spokesperson Gina Swankie who said she could not comment on the investigation.
American River College confirmed on Friday that a Sacramento resident named Aws M. Aljayab is currently enrolled at the school. Aws had been attending classes since the fall 2015 term and is majoring in computer science.
Federal authorities in Texas charged also charged an Iraqi refugee with attempting to support the Islamic State. They unsealed the indictment in Houston on Thursday.
The arrests feed a national debate over whether the United States is doing enough to screen refugees from Syria.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston says 24-year-old Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan of Houston was indicted Wednesday on three charges of trying to provide material support to the Islamic State.
Authorities say both men are Palestinians born in Iraq.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott used the arrest of the Houston suspect to reinforce his position against immigration from countries “controlled by terrorists.”
“I applaud the FBI for today’s arrest of this dangerous subject. However, this is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists. I once again urge the President to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans.”
The investigation into Al-Jayab also led to the arrest of three of his relatives in Wisconsin in a separate case.
Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, says the arrest of three suspects Thursday in Milwaukee wasn’t related to national security. She says the three are relatives of Al-Jayab. They were not identified, and no further details were immediately available.
Al-Jayab is in custody and will appear in Federal Court in Sacramento on Friday.
(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or Redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)