Members of the media gather outside the home of 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales of Upland, Calif. Tuesday. Vidriales is one of four Southern California men who have been charged with plotting to kill Americans and destroy U.S. targets overseas by joining al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, federal officials said Monday. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)
LOS ANGELES — Three California men excited at the prospect of training in Afghanistan to become terrorists prepared, authorities say, by simulating combat with paintball rifles, wiping their Facebook profiles of any Islamic references and concocting cover stories.
Just two days before they were going to board a plane bound for Istanbul — and then onto Afghanistan — FBI agents thwarted plans that officials said included killing Americans and bombing U.S. military bases overseas.
The arrests last week in the U.S. and of the man said to be the ringleader, 34-year-old American Sohiel Omar Kabir, in Afghanistan was laid out in a 77-page affidavit.
While authorities don’t believe there were any plans for an attack in the U.S., two of the men arrested told a confidential FBI informant they would consider American jihad, according to the court documents unsealed in federal court Monday.
Along with Kabir, Ralph Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali are facing charges of providing material support to terrorists. The charges can carry a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
Defense attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment.
Federal investigators said Kabir met Deleon and Santana at a hookah bar and introduced them to the radical Islamist doctrine of the U.S.-born extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed last year in an American airstrike in Yemen.
Kabir, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001 at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., pulling aircraft or vehicle parts from a supply store. He was administratively separated for unknown reasons and was given an honorable discharge, the military said.