WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An Iraqi living in Kentucky pleaded guilty on Friday to charges that he tried to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, aided al Qaeda operatives there and taught how to make roadside bombs, the Justice Department said.
Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, pleaded guilty to a 23-count indictment in a federal court in Kentucky – a case that drew harsh criticism from Republicans in the U.S. Congress who argued that such terrorism suspects should be tried in military courts at the American military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Obama administration rebuffed such demands, countering that federal courts also can handle major terrorism cases.
“The successful investigation, arrest, interrogation and prosecution of Mr. Alwan demonstrates the effectiveness of our intelligence and law enforcement authorities in bringing terrorists to justice,” Lisa Monaco, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, said in a statement.
Alwan was accused of taking part in roadside bomb attacks on U.S. troops between 2003 and 2006, linked in one such instance by fingerprints obtained by U.S. forces from a device that did not detonate.
The FBI started investigating him in September 2009 and nearly a year later began using a confidential source to talk with him about his activities in Iraq, which allegedly included using improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, and sniper rifles to target U.S. troops.
During conversations with the source, Alwan said he worked at a power plant but often hid roadside bombs, according to court papers filed earlier this year. He also allegedly boasted of attacking Hummers and Bradley fighting vehicles.
He and a second Iraqi, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, also were charged for allegedly trying to provide support and weapons to an al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq in a sting operation subsequently run by U.S. authorities.
Hammadi has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The two Iraqis entered the United States in 2009 after receiving refugee status. They were arrested in May in their hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Refugee Iraqis from their hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky? Did we miss something about the space-time continuum?
Alwan faces at least 25 years and up to life in a U.S. prison under the plea agreement and he is scheduled to be sentenced on April 3.