An American citizen charged with receiving terrorist training at an Al Qaeda camp in Somalia — including classes in how to become a homicide bomber and “wage violent jihad” — was taken into custody by FBI agents and returned to the U.S. Monday night night, Justice Department officials told FOX News.
An indictment unsealed Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston charges Daniel Joseph Maldanado, 28, a.k.a Daniel Aljughaifi, whose last known address was in Houston, with receiving training from a foreign terrorist organization and conspiring to use an explosive device outside the United States.
Maldonado was captured by the Kenyan military on January 21 as he fled to avoid capture by Ethiopian and Somali government forces battling Al Qaeda-backed rebels, Justice Department officials said.
He was turned over to U.S. law enforcement officials last weekend, and flown to Houston on Monday night accompanied by special agents of the FBI. He appeared Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley, who ordered him detained without bond pending a detention hearing on Feb. 20.
If convicted, Maldanado could face life imprisonment on the bomb-making charge, while receiving military training from a terrorist organization carries a maximum punishment of 10 years, the Justice Department said.
“Any who seek to aid terrorists in their mission to threaten our national security will be held to account for such serious criminal conduct,” said Don DeGabrielle, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in Houston. The investigation included elements of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Houston Police Department.
According to criminal allegations in the complaint, Maldonado traveled from Houston, Texas, to Africa in November, 2005 and then on to Somalia in December, 2006. At that point, he joined the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and elements of Al Qaeda to fight “jihad” against the Transitional Federal Government to establish of an independent Islamic State in Somalia.
In the fall of 2006, the ICU used suicide bombers and vehicles containing improvised explosive devices to target the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the complaint said.
While in Somalia, Maldonado was, according to the complaint, provided an AK-47, equipped with military combat uniforms and boots in Mogadishu, and participated in training camps in Kismaayo and Jilib, Somalia.
The camps included physical fitness, firearms and explosives training all in preparation to go to the front to fight for the ICU.
Al Qaeda members were allegedly present at the training camp. During the course of his training, the complaint alleges Maldonado spoke to an individual about his willingness to become a suicide bomber if he was wounded, and also observed the making and testing of bombs with the group’s bomb-maker, the complaint said.
“This case represents the first criminal prosecution of an American suspected of joining forces with Islamic extremist fighters in Somalia,” said Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The prosecution of Mr. Maldonado demonstrates the scope of our laws and serves as a warning to others who would travel overseas to wage violent jihad.”
Joseph Billy, Assistant Director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division, said, “The FBI is working closely with our law enforcement and intelligence community partners in this country and around the world to bring all necessary resources to bear to protect Americans and its allies from terrorist attacks.”