Fil-Am, 3 other terror suspects planned attacks in PhilippinesBy Dennis Atienza Maliwanag
MANILA, Philippines—Philippine consular officials in the US have visited a 23-year-old Filipino immigrant accused of involvement in an alleged terror plot that included killing Americans, bombing US military bases overseas and attacks on targets in the Philippines.
Consul Charmaine Serna-Chua of the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles went to the San Bernardino Sheriff Central Detention Center to check the condition of Ralph Kenneth De Leon, who is being held in solitary confinement, said Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr.
De Leon, who migrated to the US in 2003 and still a holder of a valid Philippine passport, appeared well, Cuisia said in a statement.
He was arrested on Sunday together with alleged ringleader 34-year-old American Sohiel Omar Kabir, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali just two days before their scheduled flight to Afghanistan where they would be trained to become terrorists.
They are facing charges of providing material support to terrorists, which can carry a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
Consul General Dela Vega said the preliminary hearing on the case was set on December 3.
Cuisia said Filipino officials in the US were closely monitoring the case—the latest in a series of cases where US residents were targeted to become terrorists. De Leon is a lawful, permanent US resident.
“The embassy and the Consulate General in Los Angeles are working closely with American authorities to get more information about the reported terrorist plot and to ensure that the rights of Mr. De Leon, a Philippine national, are protected,” he said.
Cusia said the embassy was hoping to receive more details about the reported terrorist plot from the FBI, particularly the plans of the suspects to mount attacks against US targets in the Philippines.
On Wednesday, Police Attaché Chief Superintendent Armando Ramolete, requested the FBI to provide the embassy with additional information about the terrorist plot.
Federal investigators said Kabir met Deleon and Santana at a hookah bar and introduced them to the radical Islamist doctrine of the US-born extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed last year in an American airstrike in Yemen.
Deleon and Santana were eager about the prospects of being terrorists. When asked by the FBI informant if both men had thought about how it would feel to kill someone, Santana responded, “The more I think about it, the more it excites me.”
The two men also discussed where they could do the most damage. After considering going to Palestine and the Philippines, Santana said he preferred Afghanistan because the military bases there could easily be ambushed.
Deleon studied business administration at California State University, San Bernardino, but withdrew in September after first enrolling five years ago, said university spokesman Joe Gutierrez.
Before his scheduled departure for Istanbul last week, Deleon said he was going to leave his parents a farewell letter. Asked by an FBI informant if Deleon could lie about his true intentions in the letter, Deleon said, it’s OK to lie in war. “I believe right now … we are in a state of war,” he said.
Using the informant’s debit card, Deleon bought four tickets for a flight from Mexico City to Istanbul scheduled to leave this past Sunday. Had the men made it to Afghanistan, they would have initially joined the Taliban and then graduate to al-Qaeda, said David Bowdich, special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterterrorism division in Los Angeles.
“They saw this as jihad. They saw this as their way to push out the aggressors,” Bowdich said. ” With a report from Associated Press in Los Angeles