WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Iraqi man has been arrested in Kentucky on charges that he helped plot and carry out attacks on American troops after the U.S. invasion in 2003, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.
Waad Ramadan Alwan was charged with conspiracy in connection with attacks between 2003 and 2006. He and a second Iraqi, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, were also charged for allegedly trying to provide support and weapons to an al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq in a subsequent U.S. sting operation.
They entered the United States in 2009 after seeking and receiving refugee status. They were arrested last week in their current hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky and if convicted, could face up to life in prison, U.S. prosecutors said.
Alwan, 30, was charged with conspiracy to kill Americans overseas, distributing information about how to build and detonate improvised explosive devices (IED) and attempting to provide support to al Qaeda in Iraq, a loose affiliate of the late Osama bin Laden's group, among other charges.
The FBI launched an investigation into Alwan in September 2009 and nearly a year later began using a confidential source to talk with him about his activities in Iraq, which allegedly included using IEDs and sniper rifles to target U.S. troops, between 2003 and 2006, according to prosecutors.
In the investigation, the FBI was able to identify two fingerprints that belonged to Alwan that were obtained from a part of an unexploded IED recovered on a roadway near Bayji, Iraq, according to court papers unsealed on Tuesday.
During conversations with the confidential source, Alwan said that he "didn't come here for America. I came here to get a passport and go back to Turkey, Saudi or wherever I want," according to the court papers.
Both men were detained by Iraqi authorities at some point, though the circumstances of their release were not immediately clear.
It appeared that the screening process for Iraqi refugees entering the United States did not detect the men's alleged prior activities.
As part of the investigation, U.S. authorities conducted a sting operation involving the two Iraqi men who believed they were helping to provide weapons and money to al Qaeda operatives in Iraq.
Charges against Hammadi, 23, were focused on the sting operation, including attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda in Iraq as well as conspiracy to send weapons overseas.
Court papers, however, said he described to the same confidential source that he had been arrested in Iraq after getting a flat tire shortly after he and others placed IEDs. No charges have been filed for his alleged role in such attacks.
The sting operation included picking up inert weapons like Stinger missiles and delivering them to locations where they believed the items would be shipped to al Qaeda operatives in Iraq, the prosecutors said.
The U.S. authorities said the money and weapons never left the country.
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Paul Simao)