SACBEE: Federal agents have arrested an Iraqi immigrant in Sacramento on a charge that he lied to immigration authorities over his ties to the Islamic State and travel to Syria, and there are indications the investigation extends to Houston and Milwaukee.
Aws Mohamed Younis Al-Jayab is named in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Sacramento and unsealed late Thursday as word of his arrest began to spread through the media.
He is to appear in federal court on Friday at 2 p.m.
“Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab allegedly traveled overseas to fight alongside terrorist organizations and lied to U.S. authorities about his activities,” Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said in a statement. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is protecting the nation from terrorism, and we will continue to hold accountable those who seek to join or aid the cause of terrorism, whether at home or abroad.”
Word of the complaint came amid reports of teror-related investigations in Houston and Milwaukee, but Al-Jayab was the only suspect whose arrest was annonued on Friday by the office of U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner in Sacramento.
“According to the allegations in the complaint, the defendant traveled to Syria to take up arms with terrorist organizations and concealed that conduct from immigration authorities,” Wagner said. “While he represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country. I commend the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for their dedicated work on this matter.”
The case came to light following an unusual closed hearing in federal court in Sacramento with U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan presiding behind closed doors.
No information regarding the hearing was posted on the court calendar or filed in publicly available court documents, and Sacramento FBI spokeswoman Gina Swankie said she could not discuss the matter.
“I can neither confirm nor deny any of the information in your email,” Swankie said in response to a request from The Sacramento Bee.
The Houston Chronicle reported that officials in that state had been briefed on the matter and that the Houston connection involved an Iraqi refugee living in the Texas city, although it was not clear whether that was a reference to Al-Jayab . The newspaper also said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Thursday afternoon on the matter.
“This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists,” Abbott said in a statement. “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.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office declined to comment and referred inquiries to the FBI.
California is the site of the latest and deadliest terror attack – the Dec. 2 slayings of 14 people in San Bernardino last month by two ISIS supporters – since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
That attack came one day after a Lodi-area man, Nicholas Teausant, pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento to a count of trying to provide support to a terrorist organization. Prosecutors say Teausant, 22, tried to travel to Syria to join the group. He faces sentencing March 8 and could be given up to 15 years in prison.