Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, an American foreign fighter for al-Qaeda, was arrested by the FBI while attempting to travel to Syria for his second time. He was later sentenced for a variety of terrorism charges.Douglas Ernst, “Man who tried to join al Qaeda through Facebook, assist terror group gets 13-year sentence,” Washington Times, July 1, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/1/man-who-tried-find-al-qaeda-faceook-assist-terror-/.

According to his family, Nguyen was raised Catholic and faith-driven. As he sought an understanding of God, Nguyen began to study the Quran along with the Bible and started to attend mosques.“‘I’m literally having a blast’: What Californian Muslim convert posted on Facebook from Syria before being arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda,” Daily Mail (London), October 12, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2457191/Im-literally-having-blast-What-Californian-Muslim-convert-posted-Facebook-Syria-arrested-aiding-Al-Qaeda.html;
Adolfo Flores and Anh Do, “Family paints different picture of terrorist suspect,” Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/14/local/la-me-1015-al-qaeda-figure-20131015.
Nguyen converted to Islam in 2011 and changed his name to Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum.“‘I’m literally having a blast’: What Californian Muslim convert posted on Facebook from Syria before being arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda,” Daily Mail (London), October 12, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2457191/Im-literally-having-blast-What-Californian-Muslim-convert-posted-Facebook-Syria-arrested-aiding-Al-Qaeda.html. After his conversion, Nguyen became self-radicalized and traveled to Syria with intentions to fight alongside the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front against the Bashar al-Assad regime.“Enemies Among Us: What We Know About Homegrown Terrorists,” RAND Corporation, February 26, 2015, http://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2015/02/enemies-among-us-what-we-know-about-homegrown-terrorists.html;
“California man admits to using Facebook, Internet to connect with Al Qaeda,” New York Daily News, December 27, 2013, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-admits-facebook-connect-al-qaeda-article-1.1559775;
Evan Kohlmann and Laith Alkhouri, “Profiles of Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq,” CTC Sentinel 7, no. 9 (2014). https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/profiles-of-foreign-fighters-in-syria-and-iraq.

In December 2012, Nguyen traveled to Lebanon with a passport under the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum. He then crossed the Lebanese border into Syria and spent five months fighting alongside the Nusra Front.“‘I’m literally having a blast’: What Californian Muslim convert posted on Facebook from Syria before being arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda,” Daily Mail (London), October 12, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2457191/Im-literally-having-blast-What-Californian-Muslim-convert-posted-Facebook-Syria-arrested-aiding-Al-Qaeda.html;
Evan Kohlmann and Laith Alkhouri, “Profiles of Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq,” CTC Sentinel 7, no. 9 (2014). https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/profiles-of-foreign-fighters-in-syria-and-iraq.
His family was under the impression that he had traveled to Lebanon and Syria in order to expand his knowledge of Islam and study the Quran.“‘I’m literally having a blast’: What Californian Muslim convert posted on Facebook from Syria before being arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda,” Daily Mail (London), October 12, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2457191/Im-literally-having-blast-What-Californian-Muslim-convert-posted-Facebook-Syria-arrested-aiding-Al-Qaeda.html

Using a Facebook account under his Islamic name, Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, he documented his trip through various posts. In December 2012, Nguyen described traveling across difficult terrain, preparing to “fight against Assad and his minions.” He narrowly avoided snipers while attempting to get to a Syrian village.Adolfo Flores and Anh Do, “Family paints different picture of terrorist suspect,” Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/14/local/la-me-1015-al-qaeda-figure-20131015. He also reached out to family and friends in a January 2013 posting, “I’m doing well in Syria…having a blast here, and I mean literally.”“‘I’m literally having a blast’: What Californian Muslim convert posted on Facebook from Syria before being arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda,” Daily Mail (London), October 12, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2457191/Im-literally-having-blast-What-Californian-Muslim-convert-posted-Facebook-Syria-arrested-aiding-Al-Qaeda.html By February 2013, Nguyen bragged about his first kill with al-Qaeda. “I got my first confirmed kill about two weeks ago. So pumped to get more.”Adolfo Flores and Anh Do, “Family paints different picture of terrorist suspect,” Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/14/local/la-me-1015-al-qaeda-figure-20131015.

After he returned home, Nguyen used the same social media account to post his promise to return to Syria. “It has ben more than 3 months [since] I have been back. After I left my brother’s country, I have so many regrets of leaving my brothers and sisters who are still suffering over there. I’ll be back there.”Adolfo Flores and Anh Do, “Family paints different picture of terrorist suspect,” Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/14/local/la-me-1015-al-qaeda-figure-20131015. His Facebook accounts were shut down soon after his arrest.Adolfo Flores and Anh Do, “Family paints different picture of terrorist suspect,” Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/14/local/la-me-1015-al-qaeda-figure-20131015.

In August 2013, Nguyen connected with an undercover FBI agent on Facebook who he thought was an al-Qaeda recruiter.Douglas Ernst, “Man who tried to join al Qaeda through Facebook, assist terror group gets 13-year sentence,” Washington Times, July 1, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/1/man-who-tried-find-al-qaeda-faceook-assist-terror-/. Between August 3 and October 11, he met with the undercover agent, telling him what he had previously done in Syria and saying that he wanted to return to jihad.California man admits to using Facebook, Internet to connect with Al Qaeda,” New York Daily News, December 27, 2013, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-admits-facebook-connect-al-qaeda-article-1.1559775. Nguyen purchased a ticket from Mexico to Pakistan, but as he was about to board the bus that would take him from California to the Mexican airport, FBI agents made their arrest.“California man admits to using Facebook, Internet to connect with Al Qaeda,” New York Daily News, December 27, 2013, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-admits-facebook-connect-al-qaeda-article-1.1559775. Nguyen was discovered in possession of a false passport and a hard drive containing almost 200 weapons training videos.Douglas Ernst, “Man who tried to join al Qaeda through Facebook, assist terror group gets 13-year sentence,” Washington Times, July 1, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/1/man-who-tried-find-al-qaeda-faceook-assist-terror-/.

Nguyen pled guilty and is now serving 13 years in federal prison and an additional 10 years of supervised release for attempting to assist a terrorist organization and lying on a U.S. passport application to aid international terrorism.Douglas Ernst, “Man who tried to join al Qaeda through Facebook, assist terror group gets 13-year sentence,” Washington Times, July 1, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/1/man-who-tried-find-al-qaeda-faceook-assist-terror-/;
“’I’m literally having a blast’: What Californian Muslim convert posted on Facebook from Syria before being arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda,” Daily Mail (London), October 12, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2457191/Im-literally-having-blast-What-Californian-Muslim-convert-posted-Facebook-Syria-arrested-aiding-Al-Qaeda.html.

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