FBI officers search an Arden Arcade apartment
Federal agents in Sacramento arrested a suspected ISIS member Wednesday on charges that he killed an Iraqi police officer in 2014 in the Rawah District of Al-Anbar province as fighters were taking over the town.
Omar Abdulsattar Ameen, 45, was arrested in a raid at an Eastern Avenue apartment complex in Sacramento County and appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon as part of extradition proceedings to return him to Iraq to face trial on a charge of premeditated murder.
Court documents unsealed Wednesday afternoon describe Ameen as a “terrorist” and leader of al-Qaida forces that captured and executed soldiers, and as a close associate of well-known terror leaders in the region.
Documents say Ameen was part of a four-vehicle convoy that drove to the home of the victim on June 22, 2014, at about 7 p.m. and opened fire.
“In response to the attack on his home, the victim returned fire with his Kalashnikov rifle,” court documents state. “Ameen then fired his weapon at the victim while the victim was on the ground.
“A death certificate issued by the Rawah hospital confirms the victim’s death by gunshot to the chest,” the documents say. “ISIS announced the killing via a post on social media.”
Ameen was brought into a 13th floor courtroom in the federal building in downtown Sacramento shortly after 3:30 p.m. for his initial appearance. He wore a faded blue T-shirt, green cargo shorts and sneakers without socks and had his legs and arms shackled as he listened to the proceedings through an Arabic interpreter.
He did not speak as U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan explained he would be held in custody as a flight risk and danger to the community pending a hearing Monday afternoon.
“The government of Iraq seeks your extradition to that country for the charge of murder,” Brennan explained.
Federal defenders Ben Galloway and Douglas Beevers represented him, saying they had learned of the case only minutes before and that Ameen has assets of only about $3,000.
“He’s aware of the basic nature of the charges,” Beevers told the judge, adding that he and Galloway had not had enough time to discuss the case with Ameen at any length.
Ameen was being booked late Wednesday into the Sacramento County Main Jail.
Brennan said Monday’s hearing will focus on whether Ameen remains in custody and whether evidence must be presented to prove his identity, and that a hearing on the extradition request will come later. If Ameen is extradited, he could face execution in Iraq, court papers say.
Following the brief court session, two women in head scarfs — one described as Ameen’s wife, the other a friend — showed up with a young man, but they declined to comment before disappearing with the lawyers.
Ameen entered the country seeking asylum as a refugee, but court papers say he lied about his background.
He arrived in Turkey in April 2012 to begin the process of seeking asylum, and lied about his background, claiming his father had been killed because he had cooperated with U.S. forces, documents say. Instead, the documents say his father died of a cerebral clot on Christmas Day 2010.
Ameen was approved to come to the United States as a refugee on June 5, 2014, but instead is believed to have returned to Iraq to commit the slaying two weeks later, court documents say.
A photo of a resume filed with the documents lists his first job in the United States as a truck loader at a thrift store in Salt Lake City in January 2015, and says he started work in Sacramento as an auto mechanic in February 2016.
In an interview with immigration authorities in May 2016, after coming to Sacramento, he repeatedly lied about his past, saying he had never killed anyone, used weapons against people or belonged to violent groups, documents say.
Prosecutors cited his alleged background as reasons to keep him in custody.
“As an initial matter, Ameen is accused of a brutal and premeditated murder,” a filing by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey Hemesath and Heiko Coppola say. “The evidence of this crime presented in the Iraqi request for extradition alone demonstrates that Ameen is a danger to the community.
“Moreover, the national security implications of the release of an alleged member of a designated foreign terrorist organization are patent.”
Ameen has been a member of al-Qaida in Iraq and ISIS since at least 2004, court documents say, and “he is not known to have ever renounced his membership in either group.”
Instead, documents say, Ameen participated in “numerous acts of violence” ranging from the murder to planting improvised explosive devices.
“The FBI has interviewed at least eight witnesses who identify the Ameen family — including Ameen himself, his father, brothers and paternal cousins — as affiliated with AQI and ISIS.”
His personal car was a 2005 Kia Sportage “with a cut-out roof and a PKC machine gun mounted on the rear,” court filings say, and was adorned with a black AQI flag.
Ameen was born in Rawah, a town of nearly 20,000 residents, and was seen walking the streets with an AK-47, the documents say.
Multiple FBI officers wearing Joint Terrorism Task Force jackets were at 3111 Eastern Ave. in Arden Arcade earlier Wednesday, and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department deputies assisted agents in the operation.
FBI spokeswoman Gina Swankie would not comment on the specifics but would only say that officers were conducting “warrant activity.”
The operation began in the early morning, according to neighbors who woke to the activity next-door to the family’s second-floor apartment.
The residents of the apartment being searched are from Iraq, according to a Syrian father and daughter who live next door. Although the man said he didn’t know the neighbors well enough to know their names, he commented that they were good neighbors, as translated by the daughter from Arabic.
Ameen, who wore a neatly trimmed beard and short haircut, is described in court documents as wanted in the slaying of Ihsan Abdulhafiz Jasim after witnesses identified him through several photos.
The documents, filed in federal court in Sacramento and originating in Iraqi courts, describes Ameen as having 10 brothers and three sisters and owning shopping centers in Rawah District.
The documents say Ameen started working with terrorist cells in 2004 and was a founder of al-Qaida groups and “one of the close associates of Abu Mus’ ab al-Zaqqawi.”
Later, court documents say, he took control of the military leadership of and finances of al-Qaida groups in Anbar province.
“He committed the most heinous crimes against the citizens and security forces at that time,” documents say, allegedly taking soldiers as prisoners and executing them.
The documents, some of which identify the suspect by the full name of Omar Abdulsattar Ameen Husayn al-Sarhan al-Rawi, ask the U.S. government for “the kind assistance of the US competent authorities in the extradition” of the suspect.