The U.S. Department of Justice sentenced a 25-year-old Iraqi refugee to 16 years in prison on Dec. 18 for attempting to support ISIS from his residence in Houston.
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan was admitted to the U.S. in November 2009 after having been housed in refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq, according to the U.S. Justice Department. He was granted permanent legal residence in August 2011.
Al Hardan had a wife and child and cared for his aging parents, reports Chron. He did state inspection on vehicles and drove for ride-hailing firm Uber.
During that time, Al Hardan also formed an alliance with ISIS. He caught the FBI's attention in 2013 after communicating with a California man who was tied to the Nusra Front. ABC News reports that the two spoke about going to Syria to fight for Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate.
The DOJ states that Al Hardan maintained a relationship with a Confidential Human Source, or FBI informant, between 2014 and 2015. Al Hardan expressed his desire go overseas to help ISIS and learn how to build remote detonators for explosive devices.
He pledged allegiance to ISIS on Nov. 5, 2014. On Nov. 7, Al Hardan and the CHS underwent automatic weapons training.
Al Hardan also demonstrated his support for the terrorist organization on social media, posting images of ISIS flags and stating his intent to travel to Syria and fight for the group.
"I want to blow myself up," he once wrote. "I want to travel with the Mujahidin. I want to travel to be with those who are against America. I am against America."
Al Hardan checked a box indicating he was not affiliated with any terrorist groups when he applied to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2014.
Al Hardan was arrested in January 2016. According to the DOJ, investigators found materials for learning to build bombs and detonators, an ISIS flag and as a prayer list for becoming a martyr.
He pleaded guilty to providing materials or resources to a foreign terrorist organization in October 2016.
A Homeland Security Investigations agent stated at a detentions hearing that Al Hardan had once talked of plans to bomb a military base in Grand Prairie, Texas, Chron reports. He'd reportedly described to the agent how he would execute the attack and disguise himself.
Al Hardan had plans to blow up two major malls in Houston, reports Fox News.
Al Hardan's attorney David Adler admitted that his client had "made some bad decisions," but asserted that his nearly two years in prison had changed him.
Adler said that before his arrest, Al Harden "had very little contact outside his family, very little contact with English-speaking Americans and that led him to believe a lot of things he saw online that he no longer believes."
The defendant himself told the U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes that he was "not a bombmaker" and that he had "no experience with electronics."
Hughes said it was Al Hardan's intent and not his skill that merited sentencing, adding that "clumsy bombmakers, stupid planners have killed a lot of people."
Al Hardan was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison and supervision for the rest of his life. It is unclear if he will be allowed to remain in the U.S.