Iraqi denied bail over desire to set o≠ bombs
houston» An Iraqi refugee facing charges he tried to help the Islamic State wanted to set off bombs at two Houston malls and was learning to make electronic transmitters that could be used to detonate explosive devices, a federal agent testified Wednesday.
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, who went to Houston from Iraq in 2009, was indicted last week on three charges, including attempting to provide support to a designated terrorist organization. He pleaded not guilty to all three charges during a court appearance Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes denied granting Al Hardan bail, ruling that there would be a serious risk that the Iraqi refugee would flee if released from federal custody.
Hughes made his decision after listening to testimony from Homeland Security Special Agent Herman Wittliff, who said that in addition to Al Hardan wanting to set off bombs at the two Houston malls, including the popular Galleria mall, the Iraqi man also was learning how to make electronic transmitters that could be used to detonate improvised explosive devices.
Al Hardan wanted to use cellphones — a collection of which were found in his apartment — to detonate the transmitters.
He wanted to build the transmitters for the Islamic State, Wittliff said.
“For what purpose?” asked prosecutor Ralph Imperato.
“So he could kill people,” Wittliff replied.
Al Hardan’s arrest prompted criticism of the Obama administration’s refugee policies from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been a leader among Republican governors calling for a halt to resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called for a retroactive review of all refugees who have come to the U.S.
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, left, is escorted by a U.S. marshal in Houston. Bob Levey, The Associated Press