FBI agent: Calif. terror plot 'very serious case'

Associated Press Published: November 21, 2012
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Stateside, Deleon and Santana were eager about the prospects of being terrorists. When asked by the FBI informant if both men had thought about how it would feel to kill someone, Santana responded, "The more I think about it, the more it excites me."

Santana, who claimed he went to Mexico to learn how to shoot different kinds of guns and how to make explosives, wanted to be a sniper. Deleon said he hoped he could be on the front lines or use C-4, an explosive, in an attack.

Gojali, 21, a U.S. citizen, was recruited in late September and he said he would be willing to kill, court documents state.

Gojali's younger sister said the family learned of his arrest through news reports that left them stunned.

"He's not even remotely close to being violent at all," the 18-year-old sister told the Associated Press in an interview in front of the family home. "He's not capable of any of this."

She said Gojali, vulnerable, unemployed and lacking even a high school diploma, had recently become fast friends with Deleon, who was a compelling speaker and popular figure at the mosque the two attended.

"I just think he was lost. I think peer pressure is one of his biggest problems in life, and that's why he's in trouble now," said the sister, a freshman in community college who requested anonymity because she did not want to be associated with the alleged crimes.

Defense attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment.

This past summer, plans to travel to Afghanistan became clearer for the group.

They talked about how they would avoid detection. They talked about opening an Afghan orphanage or possibly posing as cologne salesmen. They finally devised a cover story that they were going to attend Kabir's fictional wedding.

It's unclear whether Kabir actually made contact with Taliban or al-Qaida fighters, but in an August video conversation with Deleon, Kabir was with a shiekh or an imam, the complaint said.

Kabir also had intended to go on a suicide mission earlier this month but got sick, according to the court documents. He indicated he would wait for the group, which included the FBI informant, before staging an attack, according to the affidavit.

Using the informant's debit card, Deleon bought four tickets for a flight from Mexico City to Istanbul. Had the men made it to Afghanistan, they would have attended terrorist training camps and then targeted Americans living abroad, authorities said.

"They saw this as jihad. They saw this as their way to push out the aggressors," Bowdich said.

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Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus, Julie Watson, Raquel Maria Dillon and Shaya Tayefe Mohajer contributed to this report. Watson reported from San Diego.