Update — October 18, 2013: Arrest in Long Island highlights continuing lure of terror groups abroad.
An Orange County man was arrested on Friday for allegedly providing material support to Al Qaeda. The arrest underscores ongoing concerns over American citizens joining terrorist groups abroad and Syria in particular.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, reportedly traveled to Syria in December, 2012, and fought against the Assad regime. While the indictment against Nguyen does not specially mention his travel to Syria, he reportedly left comments on what appears to be his Facebook page indicating his presence in the country between December 2012 and April or May 2013.
“I’m doing well in Syria…having a blast here, and I mean literally” read one comment. In another, Nguyen apparently “confirmed his first kill” and expressed eagerness for more. In April, he posted an image of a dead fighter whom he called “A Dear Brother of mine.”
Nguyen, who reportedly returned to the U.S around May 2013, was arrested while attempting to board a bus to Mexico. He is charged with attempting “to provide material support and resources, that is, services and personnel, namely himself,” to al Qaeda, as well as making false statements on a passport application. It is not clear why he planned to travel to Mexico.
Since 2007, over 50 American citizens and permanent residents have been arrested or charged in connection with attempts to join terrorist groups abroad, including Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. An increasing number of Americans have been attracted to the conflict in Syria and have attempted to join Jabhat al-Nusrah, an alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Nguyen, a Muslim convert, is licensed as a security guard and was training to be a truck driver. His purported Facebook page indicates strong interest in weapons, including posts about his favorite weapons and an image of a “commando style” rifle that served as his Facebook profile picture last winter.