Welcome to the Countdown: Top 21 stories of 2017.
by WorldTribune Staff, January 24, 2017
Republicans have long voiced concern over the threat of terrorists entering the U.S. from Mexico, a concern the Obama administration largely downplayed.
Available data suggest the concern is justified, according to a Jan. 15 report by the Christian Science Monitor which included 10 incidents of terror suspects and enablers of terrorists who took advantage of the multiple points of access in the U.S.-Mexico border.
Guled Ali Omar
A member of the Somali-American community in Minnesota, Guled Ali Omar dreamed of fighting in Syria for ISIL. He knew that a number of individuals had been arrested trying to fly from the U.S. to join the terror group, so he decided to travel to Mexico for his flight overseas to help conceal his travels from U.S. law enforcement officials.
Partway through his planning, he discovered a potential benefit to ISIL of his anticipated trip across the border with Mexico. He could identify contacts and smuggling routes in Mexico that would help ISIL members from overseas to easily infiltrate the U.S. homeland.
“You know what I had in my head,” he asked his friends about the planned trip from the U.S. into Mexico. “[We could] go through Mexico to learn all the spots there, make connections there, send some brothers back over there,” Omar said during secretly recorded conversations on file in federal court.
“And I know some dudes [in ISIL], if they get determined to come through back to this country and do something here, [I swear to Allah] they will take it,” he said. “[I swear to Allah] scope it out for them, bro. Just learn the routes, everything,” he said, according to a transcript.
“Imagine that, like six brothers, those dudes… from like from Iraq coming to Mexico. They already look Mexican. They’re Arab. They are coming into this country as immigrants. Imagine [what they might do],” he said. “They’ll do crazy damage. [I swear to Allah], we have a big opportunity.”
The recorded conversation took place in March 2015. Omar never did get to Syria – or Mexico. Before he could make the trip, he was placed under arrest and charged with attempting to provide material support to a terror group. On Nov. 16, 2016, Omar was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Abdullahi Omar Fidse
In June 2008, Abdullahi Omar Fidse crossed the Rio Grande by walking across the bridge from Mexico to the official port of entry at Hidalgo, Texas. There he declared himself a refugee from Somalia and requested asylum.
While federal agents investigated his request for asylum, Fidse was held in an immigration detention center where he revealed to a friend he made at the center that he wasn’t a refugee at all and that he supported Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaida, and Al Shabab.
Tipped off, the FBI sent a confidential informant into the detention center to befriend the would-be refugee. The two men discussed a passage in the Koran that calls on Muslims to gather up their weapons and “terrorize” the infidels. Fidse told the confidential informant that he agreed with the militant interpretation of the passage, according to federal court documents. “We are terrorists,” Fidse declared.
Fidse was denied asylum. Instead he was prosecuted and sentenced to eight years in prison for lying to federal agents.
Aslam Khan Waqas
Rakhi Gauchan, a woman from Nepal who had run smuggling rings for 11 years in Europe and Asia, told an undercover informant that she moved her operation to Mexico and smuggled about 10 individuals per months into the U.S. She charged up to $40,000 for someone living in India and $3,000 to $4,000 for someone who had already made it to Mexico, according to court documents.
In November 2012, Aslam Khan Waqas paid her $3,500. For that he was flown from Mexico City to the border and then driven to a spot near the official border crossing at Nogales, Arizona. Waqas crossed the U.S. border at Nogales on Dec. 27, 2012 and requested asylum. He was allowed to reside in the U.S. pending determination of his asylum request.
Federal agents tracked him down to determine whether he was, in fact, a terrorist or drug trafficker. In addition, they needed his testimony to prosecute Guachan.
She was arrested in December 2013 when she traveled from Mexico City to San Antonio. Guachan eventually pleaded guilty to one count of human smuggling. After spending a year in jail in pre-trial detention, she was sentenced to time served.
Irgan Ul Haq
Ecuador-based human smuggler Irgan Ul Haq told undercover operatives that it was not his “concern what [his clients] want to do in the United States – hard labor, sweep floors, wash dishes in a hotel, or blow up. That will be up to them,” he said, according to federal court documents.
Haq’s smuggling ring charged $50,000 to $60,000 per person to smuggle an Indian or Pakistani national into the U.S., including provision of forged passports and Pakistani exit visas.
Haq and two of his associates were arrested in 2011 in Miami as part of the sting operation. All three pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terror group. Haq was sentenced to 4 years in prison. His two accomplices received three-year prison terms.
Adnan El Shukrijumah
Adnan El Shukrijumah spent more than a decade at the top of the FBI’s most wanted list. According to documents obtained in December 2015 in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, he was smuggled into the U.S. in 2003 and was believed to have been hand-picked by Osama Bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to plan and launch follow-up attacks against the U.S. and other Western countries.
The U.S. government first learned of Shukrijumah during the interrogation and waterboarding of Mohammed in 2003. The following year, officials at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez received a tip about “suspect Arab extremists who have been smuggled through Mexico to the United States/Mexico border. The confidential source stated his family member, who is a human trafficker, knows the exact whereabouts of three Arabs who are currently being hidden in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico.”
The city of Agua Prieta is on the U.S.-Mexico border adjacent to Douglas, Arizona. Although there is a fence separating Agua Prieta from Douglas, it is possible, even today, to walk around the end of the fence and into the U.S.
Shukrijumah, who managed to elude capture for more than a decade, was named in an 11-count indictment in 2012 for his alleged role planning and authorizing what was to be a three-man, coordinated suicide bombing attack in 2009 on the New York City subway system at rush hour. Officials arrested the would-be bombers before they could launch the attack.
Shukrijumah was shot and killed during a 2014 raid by the Pakistani military in a tribal area near the Pakistan-Afghan border.
For $3,000, Ahmed Dhakane promised his clients he could smuggle them into the U.S. across the Mexican border. At least five of his clients were supporters or members of Al Shabab or associated Somali terror groups – and at least three of them made it into the U.S., according to federal court documents.
“Dhakane stated he did not know their exact reason for wanting to enter the United States, but cautioned that he believed they would fight against the U.S. if the jihad moved from overseas locations to the U.S. mainland,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors in Dhakane’s case. “All of these individuals are ready to die for the cause,” he told federal agents.
Dhakane was arrested after he tried to smuggle himself into the U.S. by claiming refugee status. He forced a Somali juvenile to pose as his wife. The girl, one of Dhakane’s smuggling clients, “told agents that [Dhakane] kept her locked away and repeatedly raped and impregnated her prior to coming to the United States,” according to court documents.
The documents continue: “[Dhakane] stated that it would better his asylum chances if he had a pregnant wife.”
In April 2011, Dhakane was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of making false statements on his application for U.S. asylum.
Miguel Santana Vidriales
In 2012, federal agents in California arrested three men who were planning to travel to Mexico on their way to joining Islamic militants in Afghanistan.
The FBI initiated an undercover investigation and discovered that Miguel Santana Vidriales, a Mexican national with a pending application for U.S. citizenship, wanted to join Al Qaida and engage in jihad.
Asked about his recent trip to Mexico, Santana told an undercover FBI employee that he went to Mexico to “train.” He said he “learned how to use, fix, and shoot a lot of different kinds of guns, and I was practicing with explosives, learning how to use and make them,” according to federal court documents. In March 2015, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Jason Michael Ludke
Jason Michael Ludke was looking to travel from Milwaukee to Raqqa, Syria to join Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) but a bracelet with a GPS tracker affixed to his ankle, and the lack of a passport to travel overseas held him back. In September 2016, he turned to social media to reach out for a contact inside ISIL who might help him get to Mexico and then on to Syria.
The contact was an undercover employee of the FBI who was posing as an ISIL supporter. In an internet exchange on Oct. 4, 2016, the undercover FBI employee told Ludke that “people would be ready to receive him in Mexico and may have passports for Arabic countries available.”
The ploy didn’t work. Ludke and another man were already on the move somewhere south of Milwaukee. He had cut the tracking device off his ankle. The two were driving to the border while spending nights sleeping in their car in mosque parking lots along the way, according to court documents.
The FBI located Ludke and the other man in San Angelo, Texas, on Oct. 5. Ludke was charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIL. He was 400 miles (six hours by car) from where he planned to cross the border into Mexico.
Anthony Joseph Tracy
A U.S. citizen and Muslim convert, Anthony Joseph Tracy set up a travel business that specialized in helping would-be travelers from Somalia obtain visas to Cuba, seen as a doorway to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Tracy told federal agents that he had helped 272 Somalis travel illegally to the U.S., according to court documents.
Tracy pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiring to induce non-citizens to enter the U.S. without legal authorization.
In 2001, Mahmoud Kourani was smuggled across the Mexican border into the U..S in the trunk of a car.
Federal court documents reveal that Kourani was a member, fighter, and fundraiser for Iran-backed terror organization Hizbullah. He settled in Dearborn, Mich., as an unauthorized migrant, raising money for Hizbullah until he was ordered deported in 2003.