Saudi man who attended terrorist training pleads to fraud

OKLAHOMA CITY – A Saudi Arabian man has pleaded guilty in an Oklahoma City federal court to fraud for failing to disclose that he attended an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Afghanistan before entering the U.S. Court documents filed Friday show 35-year-old Naif Abdulaziz Alfallaj of Weatherford pleaded guilty and admitted he obtained a visa … Continue reading “Saudi man who attended terrorist training pleads to fraud”

OKLAHOMA CITY – A Saudi Arabian man has pleaded guilty in an Oklahoma City federal court to fraud for failing to disclose that he attended an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Afghanistan before entering the U.S.

Court documents filed Friday show 35-year-old Naif Abdulaziz Alfallaj of Weatherford pleaded guilty and admitted he obtained a visa by fraud and lied to the FBI during its investigation of him. He faces up to 18 years in prison.

As part of a plea agreement, a second count of visa fraud is being dismissed and prosecutors agreed to recommend an undisclosed lesser sentence.

A February indictment says Alfallaj was granted a visa in 2011 after answering "no" when asked if he supported terrorist organizations or had received firearms training.

He has lived in Oklahoma since 2012.

Lawyers seek to exclude evidence at NYC truck attack trial

NEW YORK – Lawyers for a man charged with killing eight people in a terrorist attack on a New York City bike path said in a court filing Friday that they had learned the FBI had intercepted his communications, though it was unclear when that surveillance began.

"We are still waiting for more information from the government about the nature and basis of the wiretaps," lawyers for Sayfullo Saipov wrote as they challenged case evidence, including statements he made to investigators and the government's plan to seek the death penalty.

Saipov is accused of driving a truck down a Manhattan bike path on Halloween in 2017, running over cyclists, before crashing his vehicle into a school bus. He was shot by a police officer and arrested at the scene.

In a portion of their court filing attacking evidence in the case, Saipov's lawyers said it was clear that two FBI agents who questioned Saipov at a hospital the day after his arrest interrogated him "about matters and contacts that overlap with surreptitious FBI surveillance of Mr. Saipov's communications."

A portion of the court filing dealing with that surveillance was blacked out in the public version of the document and it was unclear when the surreptitious surveillance occurred.

The lawyers asked the court to throw out statements Saipov made to the agents, saying he was questioned while under the effect of powerful drugs as he recovered from gunshot wounds.

A spokesman for prosecutors declined comment.

Saipov goes to trial next fall. His lawyers noted that New York is a non-death-penalty state. They say federal death penalty law is too flawed to enforce.

The lawyers already have opposed the death penalty in the case on other grounds, including tweets that were sent about the attack by President Donald Trump.

After Saipov's arrest in the deadliest attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, Trump tweeted, "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY" and "Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY."

The lawyers are also asking the judge to exclude information seized from cellphones found when Saipov was arrested.

Saipov, 30, moved to the United States legally in 2010 from Uzbekistan. He lived in Ohio and Florida and worked as a commercial truck driver before living more recently with his family in Paterson, New Jersey.

Court papers say that after his arrest, he told authorities that he was inspired by ISIS video and that he had used a truck in the attack to inflict maximum damage against civilians. He's pleaded not guilty.

Trump cites France attack as reason for US-Mexico wall

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is citing a shooting attack in France as he calls on Democratic congressional leaders to support funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump tweeted Wednesday: "Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!" That's a reference to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who met with Trump Tuesday.

A suspected extremist sprayed gunfire at a Christmas market in the city of Strasbourg Tuesday, killing three and wounding at least 13.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told "Fox & Friends" Wednesday it appears no Americans were killed or injured in the attack. He also stressed the need for border security.

Gutfeld on the French terror attack

A fiend shot and killed at least two people in Northeastern France Tuesday night. He yelled "Allahu Akbar" while opening fire at a Christmas market. Wonder what he was trying to tell us.

The terrorist was known to authorities — 27 convictions, and currently wanted for other violent acts. Considered a threat to the state, he was still out and about and might already have fled the country.

As an American, the striking thing about this recent attack, is how rarely we hear about them, now. That's good.

But the venom of Islamic terror still exists — and injected into a bitter loser — culminates in mayhem. It's been so long since writing about this, I'm pretty rusty.

The fact that such evil can move freely is another reason why security is the backbone of freedom. And while you'll never be 100 percent safe — the only way to enjoy freedom is to understand the price it takes to maintain it.

A border, it's important but when someone born here is radicalized that's not enough. Solid walls keep bodies at bay but toxic ideas float happily over them. The terrorist was in prison. Prisons have walls and borders. But they only work if the dirtbag is still inside them.

So he was out and able to kill innocent people. Why? How is that possible?

France — a target of numerous attacks — still has trouble with priorities.

While America enjoys relative safety compared with the past — this is a reminder for the modern world: as we move forward, there are still those who wish to take us back.

Adapted from Greg Gutfeld’s monologue on “The Five” on December 12, 2018.

Greg Gutfeld currently serves as host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) The Greg Gutfeld Show (Saturdays 10-11PM/ET) and co-host of The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET). He joined the network in 2007 as a contributor. Click here for more information on Greg Gutfeld.

Feds: Ohio plot suspect wrote to Charleston church shooter

TOLEDO, Ohio – A woman accused of buying bomb-making supplies and plotting domestic terrorism attacks exchanged letters with the man convicted in the South Carolina church shooting and visited Columbine High School, federal authorities said.

Prosecutors described how Elizabeth Lecron had a fascination with perpetrators of mass killings and aspired to follow in their footsteps in court documents filed Monday, when she was charged with transporting explosives and explosive material with the purpose of harming others.

Officials with the FBI and Department of Justice said Lecron, 23, bought hundreds of screws and black powder last weekend.

She appeared in federal court Monday and waived a preliminary hearing. A message seeking comment was left with the federal public defender's office, which will represent Lecron.

Lecron talked with undercover agents and informants about carrying out a mass killing at a Toledo bar and later switched to talking about attacking a livestock farm and a factory where she worked, according to an affidavit.

Authorities have been investigating Lecron and a man she was living with in Toledo since June and say they both talked about carrying out violent attacks. None of those plans were carried out, and the man has not been publicly identified or charged.

A search of their home in August turned up AK-47, a shotgun, multiple handguns and large amounts of ammunition, court documents said.

Lecron began sending letters in July to Dylann Roof, a white supremacist sentenced to death in the killings of nine black worshippers in a racist attack in Charleston, South Carolina, according to the documents. She also sent him a book on Nazis that he had requested.

"You have a lot of people who care for you beyond those walls," she wrote.

In mid-August, Lecron walked onto the grounds of Columbine High School, where a security guard questioned her because he thought she was acting suspiciously, according to the filings. In 1999, two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher at the Colorado school.

Lecron told the guard that she wanted to see the memorial there and later posted photos of the trip.

Undercover agents approached her a week ago, the filings said, and told her they wanted to blow up a pipeline but needed someone to buy the supplies.

"Absolutely," she responded, according to an investigator. "I can't wait to see it on the news."

She met on Saturday with an informant, who gave her money, and she bought the supplies at stores in the Toledo area, the documents said.

Man accused of plotting large-scale attack at Ohio synagogue

TOLEDO, Ohio – Federal authorities said Monday they have charged two people involved in planning separate large-scale attacks — one who wanted to carry out a shooting at a synagogue and another who had been plotting to attack a bar and blow up a pipeline.

The attacks were never carried out, and there was never an immediate threat to the public, the FBI and Department of Justice said in a news conference announcing the charges.

Both suspects who are from the Toledo area had identified specific places they wanted to target, authorities said.

The two have been under investigation for months and had talked about their plans with undercover FBI agents, according to the Justice Department.

"These cases demonstrate terrorism comes in many forms," said Justin Herdman, the U.S. attorney for northern Ohio.

One involved Damon Joseph, 21, of Holland, a Toledo suburb, who spent months posting photos of weapons, praising the Islamic State group and talking about carrying out a violent attack before he eventually settled on targeting a synagogue in the Toledo area, Herdman said.

His plans for a synagogue shooting came together after a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, Herdman said. Authorities said he told an undercover agent: "I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually."

He wanted to kill as many people as possible, including a rabbi, and make sure no one escaped, the Justice Department said.

Joseph said his decision about which synagogue to attack would come down to "which one will have the most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home," according to court documents.

Joseph was arrested Friday after he received two AR-15 rifles from an undercover agent and was charged with attempting to provide material support to IS.

He appeared in court Monday and waived a preliminary hearing, The Blade reported. There was no telephone listing for Joseph and a message seeking comment was left with his attorney.

FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeff Fortunato said it did not appear Joseph was working with anyone else.

Within months, Joseph became radicalized and began planning an attack, Fortunato said.

Court records show that Joseph was charged with domestic violence nearly two years ago and later entered an Alford plea, which acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to convict without admitting guilt.

Authorities also arrested Elizabeth Lecron, 23, of Toledo, on Monday after they said she bought bomb-making materials. She was charged with transporting explosives and explosive material with the purpose of harming others.

A telephone listing for Lecron could not be located and court records did not indicate whether she has an attorney.

Lecron had been talking about carrying out several different types of violent attacks, including telling undercover agents in August that she and someone else had come up with a plan to commit a mass killing at a Toledo bar, officials said.

She also discussed attacking a livestock farm, her workplace and bombing a pipeline, according to authorities, who also said Lecron told agents she was making a pipe bomb.

US airstrike outside Somalia’s capital kills 4 al-Shabab

JOHANNESBURG – The U.S. military says it has killed four members of the al-Shabab extremist group with a "self-defense airstrike" outside Somalia's capital after partner forces were attacked.

The U.S. Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred on Saturday near Basra, a community outside the capital, Mogadishu. The statement says no civilians were involved.

The U.S. military has carried out 39 airstrikes this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, Africa's most active Islamic extremist group, which controls parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to stage deadly attacks in Mogadishu and other cities.

The U.S. airstrikes have picked up dramatically since President Donald Trump took office and approved expanded military operations in the Horn of Africa nation. Airstrikes also target a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group.

Survivors gather at Pearl Harbor for attack remembrance

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – About 20 survivors gathered at Pearl Harbor on Friday to pay tribute to the thousands of men lost in the Japanese attack 77 years ago.

They joined dignitaries, active duty troops and members of the public in observing a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the time the bombing began on Dec. 7, 1941.

John Mathrusse was an 18-year-old seaman second class walking out of the chow hall on Ford Island to see a friend on the USS West Virginia when the bombing began.

"The guys were getting hurt, bombs and shells going off in the water. I helped the ones that couldn't swim, who were too badly injured or whatever and helped them to shore," said Mathrusse, now 95.

Mathrusse, who traveled to Hawaii for the event from Mountain View, California, remembers carrying injured people to the mess hall and setting them on mattresses grabbed from the barracks above.

Robert Fernandez, who was assigned to the USS Curtiss, recalls being petrified.

"I was kind of nervous too. I was scared. I was 17. I went to go see the world. What did I get into? A war," he said.

The 94-year-old from Stockton, California returns for the annual remembrance each year because he's now alone after his wife died four years ago.

Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said the nation can never forget the heavy price paid on that day. He cited 21 vessels damaged or sunk, 170 planes destroyed, more than 2,400 people dead, including servicemen and civilians.

"Despite these losses, it did not break the American spirit. In fact, it charged it," he said in a keynote address.

The survivors are declining in number as they push well into their 90s, and are increasingly treated as celebrities. They say people ask for their autographs and request to take photos and selfies with them.

"I am given a lot of attention and honor. I shake hands continuously," said Tom Berg, who lives in Port Townsend, Washington. Berg, who is 96, served on the USS Tennessee.

This year, no survivor from the USS Arizona attended the ceremony as none of the men were able to make the trip to Hawaii.

The Arizona sank after two bombs hit the ship, triggering tremendous explosions. The Arizona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines, the greatest number of casualties from any ship. Most remain entombed in the sunken hull of the battleship at the bottom of the harbor.

Dozens of those killed in the attack have been recently identified and reburied in cemeteries across the country after the military launched a new effort to analyze bones and DNA of hundreds long classified as "unknowns."

In 2015, 388 sets of remains were exhumed from the USS Oklahoma and buried in a national cemetery in Honolulu. The Oklahoma had the second-highest number of dead after the Arizona at 429, though only 35 were identified in the immediate years after the attack.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has identified 168 sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma since the exhumations three years ago. It has said it expects to identify about 80 percent of the 388 by 2020.

Several families were scheduled to rebury their newly identified loved ones on Friday, including Navy Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz of Appleton, Wisconsin.

His remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

___

This story corrects the spelling of John Mathrusse's last name.

Global violence index finds fewer deaths for 3rd year

WASHINGTON – An annual terrorism index finds deaths have dropped for a third straight year.

The Institute for Economics and Peace recorded nearly 19,000 deaths last year in its annual Global Terrorism Index. That is a decrease of 27 percent from a year earlier and down 44 percent from a peak in 2014.

The Australia-based organization that released the study Wednesday cites military defeats suffered by the Islamic State and other groups such as Boko Haram and counterterrorism measures as the main reasons for the decline in the number of deaths.

Afghanistan recorded the largest number of deaths attributed to terrorism. There was a sharp drop in deaths in Europe but an increase globally in the number of attacks attributed to far-right groups.

Soldier who tried to help terrorists gets 25-year sentence

HONOLULU – A soldier based in Hawaii was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison for trying to help the Islamic State group.

Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang, 35, pleaded guilty in August to four counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He provided classified military documents, a drone and other help, he said.

"Your honor, I know what I did was wrong," Kang said before Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway imposed a sentence that includes 20 years of supervised release. "When I'm released I won't do it again."

The sentence is part of a plea agreement. If convicted at a trial, Kang, 35, could have faced life in prison.

He provided the support to undercover agents Kang believed were part of the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS.

"The conduct that you committed was extremely serious," Mollway said. "It had the potential to be disastrous."

More than six years ago, Kang became sympathetic to the group and to terrorism, Mollway said, and that by 2016 he talked about wanting to join and commit violence.

Kang watched hours of videos daily of violence including beheadings, shootings, suicide bombings and child soldiers, Mollway said.

Kang provided voluminous, digital documents that had sensitive information including the U.S. military's weapons file, details about a sensitive mobile airspace management system, various military manuals and documents containing personal information about U.S. service members, prosecutors said.

Trained as an air traffic controller with a secret security clearance, Kang also provided documents including call signs, mission procedures and radio frequencies, prosecutors said.

"You had a distinguished career in the United States Army. And you had access and training that would have been valuable to the people associated with ISIS," Mollway said.

At one of the meetings with agents Kang believed were part of the Islamic State, he swore loyalty to the group in Arabic and English and kissed an Islamic State flag given to him by a purported Islamic State sheikh, prosecutors said.

He then said he wanted to get his rifle and fight — "just go to downtown Honolulu and Waikiki strip and start shooting," prosecutors said in a news release in August.

Soon after Kang's arrest, defense attorney Birney Bervar said his client may suffer from service-related mental health issues that the government was aware of but neglected to treat.

Several letters of support filed in court allude to mental health concerns. An older sister wrote that Kang grew up in an abusive home and that the violence increased when their mother started using crystal methamphetamine.

The sister, who cried as she watched the sentencing hearing, declined to comment afterward.

Letters by former Army colleagues described how Kang seemed easily influenced.

Kang would stare at a wall for hours and would say, "I'm just listening to the sound of the blood running through my veins," wrote retired Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Maia, who was Kang's supervisor when they were stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Maia described another incident when Kang got agitated by seeing a cat that he said "was talking to him and trying to take his soul."

Bervar requested Kang be sent to a detention facility where he can receive mental health help.

Kang is still in the Army, but he isn't being paid while in civilian confinement. Bervar said he expects the Army will soon move to discharge him.