By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) — Four men from the greater Los Angeles area were allegedly on their way to train with the Taliban in Afghanistan and were plotting to kill American soldiers and bomb government installations, according to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.
They were charged Monday in a federal court in California, where three of them appeared for the first time. The fourth man was already in Afghanistan, where he was also apprehended, said U.S. attorney André Birotte Jr. and assistant director Bill Lewis from the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office in a joint statement.
Sohiel Omar Kabir, Ralph Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali face charges of supporting terrorists who conspired to kill, kidnap or harm U.S. officers and other U.S. citizens, as well as bomb public places and government facilities.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force in Riverside, California, arrested Deleon, 23, Santana, 21, and Gojali, 21 on Friday. Kabir, 34, spent over six months in Germany before arriving in Afghanistan in July, and is in custody there, according to the statement.
Kabir encouraged Santana and Deleon to convert to Islam then recruited them to join the Taliban and then eventually al-Qaeda, the criminal complaint alleges. Santana then recruited Gojali, a fourth man, to join them. All four allegedly took part in pre-training on a firing range and at a paintball center.
“Santana and Deleon told a confidential source working for the FBI, …that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to engage in “violent jihad,” according to the FBI statement.
Their conversations revealed that they were “arranging travel logistics, including flights, passports and visas.” Kabir was to meet up with them and lead them to the Taliban, the court complaint said.
Kabir is a naturalized U.S. citizen, who was born in Afghanistan and lived in Pomona, California. Deleon is a permanent U.S. resident living in Ontario and was born in the Philippines. Santana, a resident of Upland, is a lawful permanent resident, born in Mexico. Gojali, 21, of Riverside, is a U.S. citizen.
If convicted, the men face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.