Iraqi refugee accused of plotting with ISIL to explode bombs at Houston malls

An Iraqi refugee living in Texas has been accused by the Department of Homeland Security of trying to help the Islamic State militant group (ISIS or ISIL) by planting bombs at two Houston malls and learning how to make electronic transmitters capable of detonating the improvised explosives.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan is facing three charges after authorities arrested and indicted him last week, including attempting to provide support to a designated terrorist organization. The 24-year-old emigrated from Iraq to Houston in 2009 and later became a legal permanent resident.

According to testimony from Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Herman Wittliff, Al Hardan planned to leave explosives in trash cans in Houston’s Galleria and Sharpstown malls and detonate them remotely.

Al Hardan purchased electronic components that are used to remotely detonate explosives, according to Wittliff, and practiced by blowing up model cars in his apartment. During a search of his apartment last week, agents reportedly found a collection of cellphones, which they presume were to be used to detonate devices, as well as an ISIS flag.

Al Hardan pleaded not guilty to all three charges on Wednesday. The district judge denied him bail, ruling that he is a flight risk.

Federal authorities began watching Al Hardan in April 2014, according to the Houston Chronicle. Between April 2013 and October 2014, investigators say he was communicating via Facebook messenger with a California man who traveled to Syria to fight with the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militia. That man, 23-year-old Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, is suspected of having participated in three executions while in Syria.

Al-Jayab was arrested in California last week and now faces charges related to fighting alongside militant groups, including Sunni insurgent group Ansar al-Islam, and lying about it to immigration authorities. “While he represented a potential safety threat,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a statement, “there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country.”
 The Galleria is a large high-end mall just west of the loop in Houston.  Sharpstown Mall is an older one off the Southwest Freeway.  Both generate high traffic.

Al Harden's arrest raises new questions about the Obama administration's refugee policy and the one proposed by Hillary Clinton.


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