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California convert to Islam arrested in LA while boarding bus to Mexico, had links to Islamic terrorism, traveled to Syria in 2012, said had ‘a blast’ there ‘literally’

October 12, 2013

10/11/13, “Calif. Man Pleads Not Guilty in Terrorism Case,” AP, by GILLIAN FLACCUS and AMY TAXIN

A Muslim convert who had been licensed to work as a security guard pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of attempting to join al-Qaida and lying on a U.S. passport application to aid international terrorism.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, was arrested earlier in the day in Santa Ana while waiting to board a bus to Mexico, the FBI said.

Nguyen, a U.S. citizen, was ordered detained on the grounds of danger and risk of flight during a brief federal court appearance in Orange County.

He had long hair, a beard, mustache and wore glasses. His muscular arms were cuffed and shackled to his waist.

Nguyen, who is also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, attempted to work under the direction of al-Qaida, according to an indictment returned Friday. The four-page document provided no details about the alleged terrorism act.

The Orange County Register reported (http://bit.ly/15uiVXm) that Nguyen went to Syria in December after hearing about the civil war there.

“He said that he wanted to protect his brothers,” Nguyen’s sister, Minh Ngoc Nguyen, told the newspaper. “He would want to help other people.

His family also said Nguyen spent several months in Lebanon, beginning late last year.

“He wanted to view more of the religious things. First-hand experience,” said Nguyen’s younger brother, Dinh Nguyen.

Investigators do not believe Nguyen was traveling with others, and the FBI said it was not aware of a continuing threat to the public. The investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force was ongoing.

Nguyen’s mother, Hieu Nguyen, said at the courthouse that she knew nothing about the case and was surprised by the allegations. She said he converted to Islam in the past year.

Nguyen was licensed as a security guard and had permits for a baton and firearm from California’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, according to Russ Heimerich, a state spokesman. He obtained the license and permits in 2009 and they were set to expire Sept. 30, 2013, though it wasn’t known if he tried to renew them.

Officials for the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office declined comment. Defense lawyer Amy Karlin also declined comment. Nguyen was scheduled to return to court Oct. 18.”

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10/12/13, “Little Saigon man suspected of aiding Al Qaeda,” LA Times, b

Sihn Vinh Ngo Nguyen, a convert to Islam, is pulled from a Mexico-bound bus and arrested. He’s been indicted on two counts.

A Little Saigon resident was pulled off a Mexico-bound bus in Santa Ana and arrested Friday by federal officials who said he was aiding Al Qaeda and planned to become a foot soldier for the terrorist group.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, who changed his name to Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum when he converted to Islam, was indicted on two counts of trying to support Al Qaeda and making false statements on his passport, according to an indictment made public Friday in federal court in Santa Ana.

“She said Nguyen had converted to Islam about a year ago. His brother, who did not give his name, said the conversion “made him a better person.”

Nguyen has a state firearms license typically used by those working as armed guards.

Federal prosecutors accused him in an indictment with knowingly attempting to provide material support — “namely himself,” the indictment says — to the terrorist group. He also is accused of lying on a passport application, making false statements about his name, his date of birth, his place of birth and other information.

A Facebook page with the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, the same identity Nguyen used in his passport, documented a trip to Lebanon last year and a crossing into Syria.

In January, Ghannoum wrote: “I’m doing well in Syria … having a blast here, and I mean literally.””

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