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Californian pleads guilty in al-Qaeda recruit training case

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An American from Orange County, Calif., who admitted he traveled to Syria and joined the al-Qaeda branch rebels fighting the Assad government, pleaded guilty on Friday to attempting to provide material support to a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, confessed that he intended to assist the Muslim terrorist group al-Qaeda in Pakistan in training new recruits of the Islamist organization, according to an Examiner news story.

The 24-year-old Nguyen entered his guilty plea on Friday morning before United States District Judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California. Judge Walter is scheduled to sentence the defendant on March 21, 2014.

As a result of his plea deal, Nguyen is expected to serve a 15-year sentence in federal prison.

In his plea agreement, Nguyen conceded that in 2012, he had traveled to Syria and joined the Islamist forces. During the four months he was in Syria, Nguyen told people on social networking websites that he was fighting against the Assad regime and that he had a “confirmed kill.”

"Once he returned to the United States, Nguyen told associates that he had offered to train al-Qaeda forces in Syria, but his offer had been turned down," according to prosecutors.

But then, between Aug. 3, 2013 and Oct. 11, 2013, Nguyen met with a man he thought was an al-Qaeda recruiter, Within the first few minutes of their first meetings, Nguyen began questioning the man to determine if he was a fellow jihadist, according to the plea agreement. Nguyen told the man -- who wasn't really with al-Qaeda but was working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- about his adventures in Syria and said he wished to return to jihad because “this was what he was born to do.”

During meetings between Nguyen and the man he thought was an al-Qaeda recruiter, they discussed how Nguyen could travel to Pakistan under a fraudulently obtained United States passport. After Nguyen gave the purported recruiter a photo of himself and a passport application with bogus information, Nguyen agreed to travel to Pakistan, where he would train 30 al-Qaeda recruits for five or six weeks to prepare them “for a guerilla warfare ambush attack on coalition forces” that would take place in December 2013, according to the plea agreement.

With the intention to travel to Pakistan to train al-Qaeda forces for the ambush on coalition troops, Nguyen on Oct. 1, 2013, purchased a plane ticket to travel from Mexico to Peshawar, Pakistan, he admitted in the plea agreement.

On Oct. 11, 2013, Nguyen went to a bus station in Santa Ana, where he purchased a ticket to Mexico. it was at that time that FBI agents pounced and took him into custody. At the time of his arrest, Nguyen was in possession of a false passport and a computer hard drive that contained “over 180 training videos on shooting firearms.”

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