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2 Iraqis arrested in Kentucky, charged with aiding al Qaeda in Iraq

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The men allegedly helped al Qaeda in Iraq carry out attacks on U.S. troops
  • The defendants also are accused of trying to send U.S. weapons to al Qaeda
  • They were arrested last week, and the charges were made public Tuesday

Washington (CNN) -- Two Iraqi men living in Kentucky have been taken into custody and arraigned on a series of terrorism charges for allegedly helping al Qaeda in Iraq carry out attacks on U.S. troops, federal officials said Tuesday.

The charges also include elaborate efforts in recent months to provide weapons from the United States to al Qaeda in Iraq, officials say.

The defendants are identified as Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 23, both former residents of Iraq who currently reside in Bowling Green. They were arrested last week, and the charges were made public Tuesday when the pair appeared in federal court in Louisville.

A Justice Department official described Alwan as "a really bad guy" who had constructed and placed improvised explosive devices designed to kill U.S. troops. In more recent years Alwan has lived in the United States, officials said.

The Justice Department said both men have been under FBI surveillance for months as the suspects allegedly worked to provide weapons to the Iraqi insurgency.

An extensive undercover sting operation was launched, authorities said, and Alwan told an undercover agent he had been involved with "hundreds" of IEDs.

The 23-count indictment released Tuesday indicates the United States was able to locate Alwan's fingerprints on an IED and on the base of a cordless phone used in an attack near Bayji, Iraq.

Alwan was arrested by Iraqi authorities in 2006, but later released.

Both defendants attempted to buy and transport money, machine guns, rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, plastic explosives, and Stinger missiles to Iraqi insurgents in the past eight months, the documents say.

What they did not know was that all of the weapons had been made inoperable by FBI undercover agents. With the help of other law enforcement agencies, the two men believed they were placing weapons aboard trucks that would end up in al Qaeda custody in Iraq.

The law enforcement operations were carried out under the authority of the Justice Department's Division of National Security. The acting assistant attorney general who heads that office, Todd Hinnen, said the two suspects had been closely monitored "in the months leading up to their arrests". He stressed in a statement that at no point did the defendants plot any attacks within the United States.

If convicted, Alwan and Hammadi each could be sentenced to life in prison.