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Man accused of aiding Al Qaeda was headed to Syria, feds say

October 14, 2013|By Richard Winton and Adolfo Flores
  • The family home of Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen in the Little Saigon district in Garden Grove.
The family home of Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen in the Little Saigon district in Garden… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

A Little Saigon man accused of attempting to join Al Qaeda as a foot soldier was headed to Syria when he was pulled off a bus bound for Mexico and arrested on terrorism-related charges, federal authorities said Monday.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen was boarding a bus headed for Mexico when he was arrested early Friday, authorities said. Investigators now say that they believe he was attempting to fly to Lebanon from Mexico and cross the border into Syria, traveling under the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum.

It would have been Nguyen second recent trip to Syria, officials said.

Nguyen, a Garden Grove resident, pleaded not guilty Friday in Santa Ana federal court to criminal counts of trying to support Al Qaeda and making false statements on his passport. He is being held without bail and was ordered returned to court Oct. 18.

Family members who attended the brief court hearing last week said they were shocked by the allegations and said Nguyen had converted to Islam within the last year.

A Facebook page with the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, the same identity Nguyen used in his passport, documented a trip to Lebanon last year and a crossing into Syria. He recounted traveling across “rigid” terrain and avoiding snipers before arriving at a village in central Syria in December.

“I got my first confirmed kill about two weeks ago,” a post dated Feb. 4 on the Facebook page said. “So pumped to get more.”

Nguyen eventually returned to the United States, his family said.

"It has been more than 3 months [since] I have been back," a post on Aug. 18 read. "After I left my brother's country, I have so many regrets of leaving my brothers and sisters who are still suffering over there... I’ll be back there."

The page, which was public on Friday, was disabled or deleted by Monday.

Another Facebook page with the same name, and with photos that appear to be Nguyen, contains two videos from 2010 that appear to show him shooting at a Huntington Beach firing range.

A series of questions and answers on the profile said he worked in security, had a high school education and favored a .45 caliber handgun.

Nguyen has a state firearms license typically used by those working as armed guards.

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Richard.winton@latimes.com

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Follow Adolfo Flores on Twitter.

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