Man Held on Terror Charges Targeted Texas Malls

(Reuters) —
File - In this Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, left, is escorted by U.S. Marshals from the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse, in Houston. Al Hardan, who came to Houston from Iraq in 2009 is set to be arraigned Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2015, and have a bond hearing after his arrest on charges he tried to help the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Bob Levey, File)
In this Jan. 8 photo, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, (L), is escorted by U.S. Marshals from the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey, File)

A Palestinian born in Iraq who entered the United States as a refugee was an Islamic State sympathizer planning to set off bombs at two Houston malls, a federal investigator was quoted as telling a U.S. court on Wednesday.

U.S. investigators began looking into Omar Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan in 2014 and found that he was buying components online to detonate homemade bombs, the Houston Chronicle reported, quoting Herman Wittliff, a Department of Homeland Security special agent, testifying at a federal court hearing.

Al-Hardan, 24, pleaded not guilty at the court in Houston to charges he supplied support to Islamic State and lied to U.S. officials, it reported.

A judge ordered that Al-Hardan be held without bail after prosecutors argued he was a flight risk and a danger to the community, it said.

He was charged with offering his services and material support to the terror group, according to an indictment unsealed last week. He also faces two charges about giving false information to U.S. officials over his ties to Islamic State and being provided with weapons training.

The most serious charge carries up to 25 years in prison.

Al-Hardan was granted legal permanent residency status in the United States in August 2011, though he is not yet a U.S. citizen.

In a second related case last week in Sacramento, the U.S. Department of Justice said Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, who came to the United States in 2012 as a refugee from Syria, was arrested on a federal charge of making a false statement involving international terrorism.

More than 75 U.S. residents allegedly radicalized by Muslim terrorists have been arrested since 2014.

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