Andrew Blankstein and Pete Williams, NBC News, October 11, 2013
An Orange County man who had fought with Syrian rebels against the Assad regime was arrested Friday morning as he tried to leave the U.S. with a fake passport to fight for al Qaeda against U.S. soldiers overseas, said authorities.
Twenty-four-year-old Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of Garden Grove, also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, was stopped at a bus station in Santa Ana, Calif. at 7:30 a.m. by members of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force and arrested on suspicion of providing material support to al Qaeda.
According to a grand jury indictment, Nguyen, a U.S. citizen, lied about his name, his date of birth, and his place of birth on a passport application in August, and also falsely answered no when asked if he’d ever applied for a passport previously.
According to law enforcement officials, Nguyen traveled to Syria last year to fight with rebels against the Assad regime. When he returned, he allegedly expressed a desire to go to Pakistan and join up with al Qaeda. He allegedly met someone he thought could help him, but that person turned out to be working undercover for the U.S.
Federal officials said Nguyen told the person helping him that he wanted to go overseas, fake his own death and get a new identity so he join al Qaeda and fight against U.S. soldiers. He allegedly gave the person photos, got a new fake passport, and was arrested when he tried to use that passport to leave the country.
At the courthouse, his mother, Hieu Nguyen, told The Associated Press that he had converted to Islam in the past year.
Last year, four Riverside County, Calif. men–Sohiel Omar Kabir, Arifeen David Gojali, Ralph Kenneth Deleon and Miguel Santana Vidriales–were charged by federal prosecutors in connection with a purported plot to join al Qaeda and the Taliban to carry out “violent jihad” against American soldiers and military bases in Afghanistan.