WASHINGTON — FBI agents arrested two U.S. citizens — one at the Atlanta airport, the other at a bus station in Augusta, Ga. — on charges they were about to leave the U.S. for North Africa "intending to prepare to wage violent jihad."
Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair and Randy Wilson, also known as Rasheed Wilson, were charged Tuesday with conspiring "to kill persons or damage property outside the United States." The pair, who are 25, once ran a men's fragrance store in Mobile, Ala.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile alleged that the men met online two years ago and that they later confided to an undercover FBI source their plans to use fake passports to join a terrorist network in Morocco or Mauritania. At one point, the complaint said, Abukhdair suggested buying firearms and taking hostages in this country.
"Jihad means people are going to die," Abukhdair allegedly told Wilson and the undercover source. "This is what jihad is. This is what war is."
Wilson later allegedly told the undercover source, "One way or the other, everyone's gonna have to fight.... Jihad is the pinnacle of Islam. There's no deed better than jihad."
Abukhdair and Wilson have not yet entered pleas in the case.
Steven E. Sorrells, a supervisory FBI agent in Mobile who has handled terrorism cases in the U.S. and abroad, provided details about the men in a court affidavit.
According to the document, Wilson was born in Mobile and is married with two small children. He also was a close friend and former roommate of Omar Hammami, a Daphne, Ala., native who joined the Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group in Somalia, and is now on the FBI's most-wanted list.
The affidavit also said that Abukhdair, a Syracuse, N.Y., native who is single, was briefly jailed in Egypt for ties to a terrorist group and then deported to the U.S. In October 2011, he moved to Mobile.
There the two men "spent hours" watching videos of guerrilla tactics, bombings and prisoner beheadings, as well as mutilations of women and children. They often spoke in code — Nevada for Nigeria, San Francisco for Sudan and San Diego for Somalia. They decided to acquire fake passports and move to North Africa as jihad fighters, but when the effort took too long, Abukhdair suggested hitting U.S. targets.