Both men are Palestinians who were born in Iraq and came to the U.S. as refugees. And in Houston and Sacramento, federal authorities arrested them Thursday, on charges ranging from making false statements to giving support to ISIS.
Law enforcement officials say there was no sign of a plot to carry out an attack in the U.S. Despite announcing the arrests in quick succession, the Justice Department did not say whether the two cases are somehow linked.
“While he represented a potential safety threat,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said of Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, who was arrested in California, “there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country.”
Both men are scheduled to appear in courtrooms in Texas and California on Friday.
In Houston, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, was indicted on three counts; the Justice Department says he “attempted to provide material support and resources, including training, expert advice and assistance, and personnel — specifically himself — to a known foreign terrorist organization.”
Jayab, 23, of Sacramento “allegedly traveled overseas to fight alongside terrorist organizations and lied to U.S. authorities about his activities,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin says.
In addition to the terrorism-related charges, both men are accused of lying to U.S. authorities about their past activities when asked about previous military or weapons training or ties to rebel groups or terrorist activity.
Here’s how the DOJ summarizes each suspect’s arrival in the U.S. and recent movements:
“Al Hardan entered the United States as an Iraqi refugee on or about Nov. 2, 2009. He was granted legal permanent residence status on or about Aug. 22, 2011, and resides in Houston.”
“[Al-Jayab] came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee in October 2012. Between October 2012 and November 2013, while living in Arizona and Wisconsin, he communicated over social media with numerous other individuals about his intent to return to Syria to fight for terrorist organizations. In those communications, according to the complaint, Al-Jayab discussed his previous experience with firearms and with fighting against the regime in Syria. On Nov. 9, 2013, he flew from Chicago to Turkey, and then traveled to Syria. Between November 2013 and January 2014, Al-Jayab allegedly reported on social media that he was in Syria fighting with various terrorist organizations, including Ansar al-Islam, a designated foreign terrorist organization since 2004. He returned to the United States on Jan. 23, 2014, and settled in Sacramento.”