Two American citizens residing in Alabama were arrested yesterday in Georgia on suspicion of terrorism-related activity.
Randy “Rasheed” Wilson was arrested in Atlanta attempting to board a flight to Morocco. Wilson allegedly claimed to be a close friend of Omar Hammami, the Alabama native who became the public face of Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Somali terrorist organization. His co-conspirator, Mohammad Abukhdair, was arrested at a bus station en route to Canada from where he reportedly planned to join Wilson. Both were charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists in an Alabama federal court on Monday.
According to court documents, Wilson and Abukhdair expressed their admiration for radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, as well as repeating their commitment to carry out violent jihad, to an undercover FBI employee. They even turned over a cache of jihadist propaganda, including Awlaki lectures, to the undercover employee for destruction. Wilson, who is 25, apparently believed that “one way or another everyone’s gonna have to fight… there’s no deed better than jihad,” according to the transcripts of recorded conversations submitted to the court.
Wilson had previously reportedly conspired with another mutual friend of Hammami’s (who later became a confidential informant) to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabaab. Abukhdair had been detained by Egyptian authorities on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity and was deported back to the United States. He apparently admitted to the undercover FBI employee that he had jihadist material on his laptop at the time and believed that “Allah protected him” because Egyptian intelligence had not found it.
The two men, who met online in 2010, supposedly discussed several possible destinations, including traveling to Somalia via Sudan, where they reportedly expected special treatment because of Wilson’s relationship with Hammami. Abukhdair alternatively proposed that they carry out attacks in the United States because he feared he would not be allowed to travel internationally after being turned away from a flight to Jordan earlier this year. According to the charges, Abukhdair allegedly suggested engaging in hostage-taking operations in the U.S. and demanding the release of Muslim terrorists being held in American prisons in exchange.
The court documents assert that Wilson and Abukhdair made definite travel arrangements to go to Mauritania via Morocco in October. The two also reportedly discussed traveling to Mali from Mauritania where Islamic militants are active in the north of the country.