An Iraqi refugee who investigators say wanted to set off bombs at two Houston malls was sentenced Monday to 16 years in prison for trying to help the Islamic State terror network.
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan was sentenced in Houston federal court. He pleaded guilty in October 2016 to attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
At the time of his plea, Al Hardan admitted to providing material support, specifically himself, to ISIS.
An FBI agent testified in January 2016 that Al Hardan told an FBI informant he wanted to plant bombs at two Houston malls and blow them up remotely with cell phones.
“Any person who provides material support to a foreign terrorist organization will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez said in a statement. “Al Hardan’s actions were treacherous and completely antithetical to the freedoms we as U.S. citizens value. The sentence imposed today reflects the Department of Justice’s resolve to seek out and punish all violators who would give aid and comfort to international terrorists.”
The 25-year-old came to Houston from Iraq in 2009. He was arrested in January 2016. Prior to entering the U.S., Al Harden was in two refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq. After he was admitted to the country under refugee status, he was granted legal permanent residence in 2011.
Authorities say Al Hardan was learning to make electronic transmitters that could be used to detonate explosives. Investigators discovered training CDs on how to build remote detonators, circuitry, assorted tools, multiple inactivated cell phones and a prayer list for committing jihad, as well as the black standard flag used by ISIS.
Prosecutors alleged Al Hardan was coordinating with another Iraqi refugee in California. They said the two men talked about getting weapons training and eventually going to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Al Hardan a 192-month sentence. He will also be on supervised release for the rest of his life.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.