ISIS Sympathizer Targeting Houston Malls to Likely Plea Guilty

Houston Chronicle/AP

HOUSTON, Texas — A refugee who prosecutors say wanted to fight for the Islamic State is headed back to federal court on Wednesday. He is anticipated to change his plea to guilty at his rearraignment hearing.

In January, Breitbart Texas reported that the Iraqi refugee was accused of providing material support to the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL), an organization that has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan appeared before a federal judge in Houston to hear the formal charges against him. He was accused of providing material support to a terrorist group and of lying about his ties to terrorist organizations on his application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was also accused of lying about having weapons training.

Al Hardan is a Palestinian born in Iraq who entered the U.S. as a refugee in 2009. He was granted permanent residence status on or about August 22, 2011 and lived in Houston at the time of his arrest.

Prosecutors say the ISIS sympathizer indicated he wanted to target the Galleria and Sharpstown malls in Houston with bombs before he was arrested and charged with terrorism-related charges.

Al Hardan reportedly trained with an AK-47 outside of Houston.

Click2Houston reports that Al Hardan is set for a rearraingnment hearing and thus is expected to change his not guilty plea. He is in jail because he was denied bond.

The three-count indictment charged the Iraqi refugee with: attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State; unlawfully procuring citizenship or naturalization; and making false statements.

The indictment alleges that “Al Hardan attempted to provide material support and resources, including training, expert advice and assistance, and personnel—specifically himself—to a known foreign terrorist organization.”

The charge of attempting to provide material support to terrorists carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Al Hardan is also accused of knowingly certifying and swearing untruthfully on his formal application when applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is alleged to have represented that he was not associated with a terrorist organization when, in fact, he associated with members and sympathizers of ISIL throughout 2014. The charge of false citizenship procurement carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism.

The indictment further alleges that during an interview in October 2015, Al Hardan falsely represented that he had never received any type of weapons training, when he allegedly received automatic machine gun training. The charge of making false statements carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.


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