MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Two Alabama men who federal investigators say wanted to wage violent jihad overseas have been arrested in Georgia on terrorism charges, and one has close ties to another man previously identified as an Islamic terror leader, authorities said Tuesday.
Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair and Randy "Rasheed" Wilson, both 25 and from Mobile, were named in terrorism charges filed Monday, according to Kenyen R. Brown, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
Prosecutors said Abukhdair was arrested at a bus terminal in Augusta, Ga., and Wilson was stopped in Atlanta while attempting to board a flight for the first leg of a trip to Morocco.
A sworn statement from an FBI agent said Wilson is a close friend and former roommate of Alabama native Omar Hammami, who was recently added to the list of the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects.
"The law enforcement actions of today should send a clear warning to those who would consider engaging in violent jihad, either at home or abroad, that their future is bleak: they may end up in a U.S. prison cell or a casualty on a foreign battlefield," Brown said in a statement.
Court records did not indicate whether Abukhdair or Wilson has an attorney.
Abukhdair was among a group of people arrested in Egypt in 2010, on suspicion of being involved with a terror group there, according to the sworn document, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile. He was held for two months in Egypt before being deported to the United States, the statement said.
Abukhdair is a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and had lived in South Carolina and Ohio before moving to south Alabama in October 2011, court documents said.
Authorities say the men met online in 2010 while Wilson was in Alabama and Abukhdair was in Egypt. Later, Wilson allegedly told an undercover FBI employee that he and the other man planned to travel overseas to participate in violent jihad.
Agents tracked the men's plans through an informant and the undercover FBI employee, according to the complaint. Wilson and Abukhdair planned to travel to Casablanca, Morocco, before going to Mauritania or another Muslim country to fight.
The agent's statement said Abukhdair once mentioned the possibility of a terrorist kidnapping, a bombing or a shootout with police inside the United States since he feared not being able to leave the country, but Wilson didn't like the idea.
Believing the FBI was on to their plans to wage jihad overseas and hoping to divert agents, Abukhdair and Wilson used $3,900 from a vehicle sale and more money from their father and stepfather to open a men's fragrance store in March, but it went out of business by July, the complaint said. The document didn't say where the store was located.
A mutual friend of Hammami and Wilson began helping investigators after being denied boarding on an international flight in June, said the complaint.
Both men are charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists with plans to kill people outside the United States. Abukhdair also is charged with passport fraud, accused of lying to obtain a new one since his old one contained immigration stamps from Egypt.
Hammami, the son of a Christian mother and an Islamic father, grew up near Mobile and attended college at the University of South Alabama, where he was president of the Muslim student association. The complaint said Wilson first met Hammami in 2002 and lived with him in Mobile for seven months ending in December 2004.
Wilson told an undercover FBI employee last year that the FBI "has eyes" on people in Mobile because of Hammami, the complaint said.
Officials believe Hammami is a now senior leader in the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaida. Hammami faces federal charges in Alabama of providing material support to terrorists.
AP writer Jay Reeves contributed to this report from Birmingham, Ala.