The Iraqi refugee arrested last week amid federal investigations in Sacramento, Houston and Milwaukee was indicted Thursday in Sacramento on a charge of making false statements involving international terrorism.
Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, an American River college student, was arrested Jan. 7 after being named in a criminal complaint for allegedly lying to U.S. officials about his travels overseas.
Authorities say Al-Jayab, who is being held without bail in the Sacramento County jail, claimed that he went to Turkey in 2013 and 2014 to visit his grandmother, but that he actually had gone to Syria, where the indictment says he was “a member of a rebel group, militia and insurgent organization.”
Al-Jayab faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The indictment says he lied about never having solicited others to join a terror group, claiming he did so in April 2013. The indictment also states that Al-Jayab “called for and helped with the killing of a person” while he was in Syria between Nov. 19, 2013, and Jan. 17, 2014.
Al-Jayab’s attorney, assistant federal public defender Ben Galloway, said his client will plead not guilty.
“The allegedly false statements relate exclusively to a brief trip overseas two years ago,” Galloway said after the indictment.
Al-Jayab, who appeared in federal court last week along with his brother, who is charged in an unrelated case in Milwaukee involving allegations of selling stolen goods, is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 22.
His arrest came as an individual in Houston, Omar Al Hardan, 24, was charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State terror group.
Testimony in that case Wednesday indicated Al Hardan plotted to bomb two shopping malls in Houston and took a loyalty oath to the Islamic State, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The Chronicle also said testimony indicated Al Hardan had been communicating with Al-Jayab through Facebook Messenger and that Al-Jayab had allegedly participated in three executions while fighting in Syria with the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria.
Galloway said, “To be clear, Mr. Al-Jayab’s communications with Al Hardan are alleged to have occurred back in 2013. I am not aware of any communication between the two men after 2013. There is no indication that Mr. Al-Jayab ever planned or supported any act of terrorism here in the United States.”