Two Middle Eastern refugees were arrested Thursday, one in Texas and one in California, and charged with deceiving federal officials about their connections to terrorist organizations. Officials said the two men — both Palestinians born in Iraq — were in communication with each other.
“Based on the facts, as we know them, today’s action may have prevented a catastrophic terror related event in the making and saved countless lives,” said Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
Officials said Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, of Houston, was charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento was charged with making a false statement involving international terrorism.
“Who else is there? What are they planning next?,” said Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz when learning of the arrests. Cruz repeated his call for a ban on Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. and urged a “systematic and careful retroactive assessment” to determine if refugees already in the U.S. have terrorist ties.
The criminal complaint against Jayab said he communicated with a Texas man other sources identified as Hardan regarding weapons and training in Syria.
“I need to learn from your weapon expertise,” the Texan wrote to Jayab, according to the complaint.
“We will make your abilities very strong,” Jayab allegedly replied. “Our concern now is only to arrive there. When you arrive to al-Sham (Syria) you will be trained.”
The complaint also captured an exchanged from 2013 in which Hardan allegedly wrote to Jayab, describing his inexperience with a type of Russian-made rifle.
“Do you know that I have never sprayed fire with a Kalashnikov?,” Hardan wrote.
“God willing, you will have your chance to shoot,” Jayab replied.
Hardan, who entered America as an Iraqi refugee in November 2009, was granted legal permanent resident status in August 2011, the Justice Department said.
Jayab entered the U.S. as an Iraqi refugee in October 2012, the Justice Department said.