(WASHINGTON) — Two men from Alabama have been arrested in a terrorism case, including the former roommate of a man on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.
Randy Wilson, a.k.a. Rasheed Wilson, and Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair, both 25 years old, were arrested Tuesday by the FBI for allegedly attempting to travel to Africa to engage in fighting with terrorists groups there. Both were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Abukhdair was also charged with passport fraud.
Wilson is allegedly a close friend and former roommate of Omar Hammami, an American commander in Somalia’s Al Shabaab terrorist group who was recently added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.
Also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, Hammami is the Alabama-raised son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian father. Since arriving in Somalia in 2006, he has acted as a mouthpiece for Al Shabaab, the Somali branch of al Qaeda, but in recent months has released a series of videos claiming that his life was in danger and that he was having difficulties with the terror group.
Hammami was added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list last month.
Wilson and Abukhdair allegedly met online during 2010. Abukhdair is a U.S. citizen originally from Syracuse, N.Y., who had traveled to Egypt from the United States in 2007 but was arrested and detained by Egyptian security forces in 2010 for suspicion of terrorist activity. Abukhdair was eventually deported back to the United States in January 2011 and lived in both Ohio and Alabama.
The FBI used an undercover FBI employee to approach Wilson to learn about his possible motive and interests in terrorist activity.
The criminal complaint alleges that Wilson, Abukhdair and the undercover employee spent numerous hours watching terrorist propaganda, including lectures by Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Alawki and that the men discussed ways to travel overseas to Somalia or to Sudan to engage in jihad.
According to the criminal complaint, during one Feb. 3, 2012, meeting Abukhdair stated that he was unsure whether he could leave the United States because of his time in Egypt and deportation.
“Abukhdair proposed that they conduct a terrorist attack in the United States instead. Abukhdair said he was losing patience, and inquired about the cost of buying six guns for a domestic attack,” the complaint alleged.
Wilson allegedly told Abukhdair to be patient and to wait for their passports to arrive.
The following day Abukhdair became suspicious that the FBI was watching the men and as they drove to meet the undercover FBI employee they threw their computers and electronic devices off a bridge into Mobile Bay.
The case took an unusual twist as they became more concerned that the FBI was watching them.
“To convince the FBI that they no longer wanted to travel for jihad, Wilson and Abukhdair decided to open a men’s fragrance store. Wilson told the [undercover agent] that even if their passports arrived, they were not going to travel right now. On Feb. 7, 2012, Wilson sold his minivan for $3,900 and used money to rent space for their store,” the criminal complaint alleged.
The FBI affidavit in the case notes that because of a lack of business the store was only open for four months before being closed in July 2012.
According to the criminal complaint the FBI also used an informant who also knew both Wilson and Hammami to get information on Wilson. The informant had previously tried to leave the United States in June 2012, but may have been on the no-fly list and later worked with the FBI as a confidential source on the investigation.
In October 2012, the two finally decided that they should travel to Mauritania, allegedly in hopes of getting to fight in jihad in Mali where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has recently become more active.
Wilson was arrested Tuesday morning in Atlanta attempting to board a flight that would ultimately take him to Morocco. Abukhdair was arrested in Augusta, Ga., at a bus terminal for a bus to Canada. The two planned to fly to Morocco before going to Mauritania.
Defense attorneys for Wilson and Abukhdair could not be identified in court records at this time.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Shannon Gupta, CNN
Shachar Peled, CNN