A former American River College student has pleaded guilty to charges of aiding a terrorist organization after earlier arguing he was entitled to immunity because he hooked up with the kind of Syrian rebels the U.S. has backed.
Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 25, admitted in a plea agreement Wednesday to flying from Chicago to Turkey in 2013, then traveling to Syria. The agreement says he joined Ansar Al-Islam, a precursor to the Islamic State group.
The agreement calls for a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Al-Jayab told the judge he wanted to fight the Bashar al-Assad regime, but acknowledged the group he was joining engaged in terrorist actions.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
He returned to the U.S. in 2014 and settled in Sacramento, attending American River College with the hopes of studying computer science. He had a job at a Sacramento Ramada Inn, according to his Facebook page.
When he was indicted in January 2016, federal authorities say Al-Jayab had another, darker side. They say the Iraqi refugee, who came to the United States in 2012, went back to the Middle East two years later to join up and fight with terror groups in Syria before returning to this country.
Instead of going to Turkey to visit his grandmother, as he allegedly claimed, court documents say he went into Syria to join the fighting there, then lied to agents about it repeatedly when he returned to this country.
Al-Jayab’s Facebook postings consist largely of pictures of himself and photos of cars. In one picture, the young, bearded man is standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, jacket slung casually over his shoulder.
Between November and December 2013 – when he was allegedly in Syria – Al-Jayab’s Facebook postings create the impression that “he is really torn over what’s happening in Syria because he wants the people ‘to get rid of the devil, Assad and his Satanic regime.’ ” Al Zanoon said. “At one point he said, ‘There are some things that are so painful I can’t find words to describe what I’m seeing.’ ”
On May 15, Al-Jayab posted a video of someone reading words that Al Zanoon translated as saying: “Allah, you know what is unknown to me. I submit to you and for your commands. With my good behavior and discipline because of your blessing, I refuse to disobey you and I fear you, as you know my body trembles and my heart seeks forgiveness.”
Al-Jayab’s case is one of several terror-related cases in recent years in the capital region, ranging from suspects accused of training for Jihad to others accused of wanting to fight overseas for terrorist groups.