Riverside, CA (KTLA) — Four men with ties to Southern California have been charged with plotting to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to kill Americans overseas.
The suspects have been identified as Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, of Pomona, Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland and Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside.
According to the criminal complaint, Kabir, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, introduced Deleon and Santana to "radical and violent Islamic doctrine" back in 2010.
Kabir allegedly left the United States last year and traveled to Afghanistan in July to set up terrorist training with Al Qaeda and Taliban members, according to the criminal complaint.
Over the course of the past several months, Deleon, Santana and Gojali made numerous plans to join Kabir, according to the 77-page complaint.
The complaint alleges that Santana and Deleon told a confidential FBI informant, identified in the complaint as the "CS," that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to engage in "violent jihad."
In addition, the defendants described potential targets for violent attacks, including overseas American military personnel and bases, the complaint says.
In one discussion with the confidential source, Santana and Deleon discussed their preferred roles in carrying out attacks.
For example, Santana stated that he had experience with firearms and that he wanted to become a sniper.
Deleon stated he wanted to be on the front lines with a second choice of explosives. Both men also indicated they were willing to kill an enemy.
In September 2012, Deleon and Santana recruited defendant Gojali, a U.S. citizen, to join them and to travel overseas to commit violent jihad, as alleged in the complaint.
Over the past several months, they tried to come up with money for travel and made plans to ask family for cash and sell cars, authorities said.
Deleon listed his car on Craigslist in October, with a note that said: "Getting rid of it because I'm leaving the country (A.S.A.P) Need money fast."
They also began exercising to get in shape -- playing paintball and running -- and discussed hiking to get used to the terrain they would encounter overseas.
The four also left an extensive social media footprint, uploading radical Islamic videos to their Facebook pages, authorities said. One video uploaded by Kabir depicted a suicide bombing.
But as their planned departure neared, they told the informant they deleted everything associated with Islam and changed their pages to reflect their real names instead of Islamic "vanity" names.
The complaint also alleges that the men devised cover stories for their travel.
Deleon and Santana said they would go to Dubai to work in the cologne import-export business. They also arranged to receive a wedding invitation from Pakistan as another cover.
The men had purchased tickets on Thursday, and planned to fly from Mexico City to Istanbul.
They were arrested on Friday, two days before their scheduled departure. Kabir was taken into custody in Afghanistan.
Santana, Gojali and Deleon had their initial appearance before a federal magistrate Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
Santana and Deleon were remanded to federal custody and Gojali's detention hearing was continued to Monday, Nov. 26th.
The investigation is ongoing. If convicted, the men each face up to 15 years in federal prison.