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California man accused in plot to join al Qaeda denied bail

By Dana Feldman

RIVERSIDE, California (Reuters) - A California man accused alongside three co-defendants of conspiring to provide support to al Qaeda and Taliban militants plotting attacks against Americans overseas was ordered held without bail on Monday by a federal judge.

Arifeen David Gojali, 21, was arrested with two others last week outside a southern California apartment complex by authorities who said the trio had imminent plans to travel to Afghanistan via Mexico and Turkey to prepare for "violent jihad."

A fourth man, accused ringleader Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, was apprehended in Afghanistan and remains in custody there, according to the FBI.

"I specifically find that the defendant poses a serious risk of flight and a danger and the defense has not rebutted to the contrary," U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym said in ordering Gojali jailed without bond.

Defense attorneys did not contest Pym's ruling during proceedings in U.S. District Court in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, and said outside court that Gojali and his family could not afford to post bond.

"When you can't get over that hurdle, there's nothing you can do," attorney John Aquilina said of his client, who was escorted into court by U.S. Marshals wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and shackled at the waist.

The four defendants, all U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Kabir, the accused ringleader, is charged with recruiting co-defendants Ralph Deleon, 23, and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, who converted to Islam under his tutelage. Those two are in turn alleged to have enlisted Gojali.

In conversations relayed or recorded by an unidentified paid FBI informant, Deleon and Santana spoke about traveling to Afghanistan to join Kabir and engage jihad, according to the criminal complaint. It said they described potential targets for attacks including U.S. military bases.

Together with Gojali, they also made visits to a Los Angeles firing range and a paint ball facility for shooting practice "to prepare for terrorist training oversees," the FBI said.

Kabir, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Pomona before going abroad in late 2011, was born in Afghanistan and served in the U.S. Air Force from 2000 to 2001, according to the FBI.

The FBI has declined to elaborate on Kabir's status or discuss when he might be returned to the United States to face charges, saying only that he remained in custody in Afghanistan.

They each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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