RIVERSIDE, California (AP) – Two men were convicted Thursday of conspiring to support terrorists and kill Americans overseas.
Sohiel Omar Kabir and Ralph Deleon, both of California, each face life sentences for the convictions in US District Court after jurors deliberated for a week.
Kabir, 36, and Deleon, 25, were each charged with five counts of conspiracy for what prosecutors said was a plan to train overseas as terrorists so they could target US military and allies.
Kabir was acquitted on one of five conspiracy counts, and jurors were deadlocked on two of the five identical counts against Deleon.
“This case shows that the appeal of extremist ideologies can reach from Afghanistan to America,” US Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said in a statement, “demonstrating the clear need for continued vigilance in rooting out home-grown violent extremists who plot terrorist acts both here and abroad”.
Defence lawyers portrayed the two defendants as hapless pot smokers who talked a big game but didn’t intend any harm.
Deleon and two other men were arrested two years ago before embarking on a journey to meet Kabir in Afghanistan.
Kabir was later caught by US troops in Kabul.
Federal agents began tracking the group after one of the men, Miguel Santana Vidriales, returned from visiting his mother in Mexico in 2012 with a copy of a militant magazine in his possession.
Prosecutors portrayed Kabir as the ringleader who met Deleon and Santana at a hookah bar and introduced them to radical teachings.
Arifeen David Gojali was recruited later.
Santana and Gojali previously pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors.
An FBI informant who infiltrated the group secretly recorded many of their discussions about plans to train first with the Taleban and then graduate to al-Qaeda.
The men began hiking to prepare for the rugged terrain in Afghanistan, and they took target practice at shooting ranges and played paint ball to simulate combat, authorities said.
Defence lawyers blamed informant Mohammad Hammad for prodding the men along and paying some of their expenses.