Three men accused of plotting to commit acts of terror against U.S. troops overseas were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday.
Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, and Miguel Alejandro Vidrales Santana, 21, of Mexico could face 15 years in prison if convicted of providing material support to terrorists for the purpose of harming U.S. citizens and destroying U.S. property abroad.
Another defendant, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, is also charged in the case but was not named in the indictment. He is being federally detained in his native Afghanistan.
Deleon, Gojali and Santana are being held without bail.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the defendants conspired to:
-- kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons and damage property in a foreign country;
-- attempt to kill officers and employees of the United States;
-- use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States; and
-- bomb places of public use and government facilities.
Because of the indictment, federal prosecutors will not have to prove the validity of the government's allegations against the trio in a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for next week.
Deleon, also known as "Ya Sin," Gojali and Santana, also known as Muhammad Khattab, were taken into custody two weeks ago. They're slated to appear before a federal judge on Monday, but that hearing will likely be vacated.
Prosecutors said that in 2010, Kabir introduced Deleon and Santana to radical Islamic doctrine, using lectures and essays by U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was regarded by U.S. officials as a key al-Qaida figure in the Arabian Peninsula until he was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
Kabir went to Afghanistan in July, maintaining contact with his co- defendants. He had told them to follow him to Afghanistan, where he would introduce them to Taliban and al-Qaida operatives for training, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Deleon and Santana unwittingly told an FBI informant that they planned to travel to Asia to engage in violent jihad, targeting American military personnel and bases, according to prosecutors.
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Riverside-based Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is made up of members from the Riverside and San Bernardino County sheriff's departments; the Riverside, Beaumont and Ontario police departments; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Attorney's Office; and the FBI.
According to the indictment, most of the planning and meetings between the defendants took place in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.