Federal prosecutors Tuesday unsealed a five-year-old criminal complaint accusing two Yemeni nationals of fighting for al Qaeda and helping Long Island-native Bryant Neal Vinas join the terrorist group in 2008.
Saddiq Al-Abbadi, also known as Sufiyan al-Yemeni, and Ali Alivi, who also goes by the name Issa al-Yemeni, were both charged with conspiracy to murder United States nationals abroad and providing material support to al Qaeda. The federal complaint has been sealed since April 15, 2009.
“There’s no escape from the reach of our law for violent terrorists, especially if they target our military,” Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
The pair was arrested in Saudi Arabia and brought to the US for trial, but the details of their apprehension and extradition were not available. Alvi appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Sunday. Al-Abbadi’s first appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.
Al-Abbadi and Alivi were both members of al Qaeda when they fought U.S. military forces stationed in Afghanistan, according to the court documents. In March 2008, the men traveled to the tribal areas of Pakistan, where they hoped to train and fight with al Qaeda, according to the federal complaint. It was during that time that they met Vinas and helped him join al Qaeda, court documents state.
Vinas, who was raised Roman Catholic in Patchogue, was arrested by Pakistani police in 2008 and brought back to the United States. He has since pleaded guilty to helping the group plan an attack on the Long Island Rail Road. Vinas is one of four Long Islanders federal authorities have linked to al Qaeda: two were arrested before traveling abroad, and another, Samir Khan, was never indicted but he was killed in a drone strike in Yemen.
It has been widely reported that Vinas, who still has yet to be sentenced, has been cooperating with authorities since 2008. The federal complaint is largely built on testimony from an unnamed cooperating witness who traveled to Pakistan in 2007 intending to join al Qaeda but was initially rebuffed by the organization. But Vinas is named in a federal detention letter associated with the case.
In December 2007, the unnamed witness was taken to an al-Qaeda safe house in South Waziristan and vetted for admission, according to court documents. Alvi was also in attendance. An al-Qaeda leader suspected that the witness was a spy and refused his request to join the group.
In March 2008, the federal government’s witness was staying at the same house with both Alvi and Al-Abbadi and learned that they were both members of al Qaeda, according to court documents. Al-Abbadi allegedly boasted about his time on the battlefield to the witness, displaying a scar and playing a video that showed him celebrating along with other fighters after a “successful attack,” the documents state.
The two men and the witness apparently bonded. With the pair’s help, the witness had gained entry into al Qaeda, according to court documents. Vinas is the only American named in court documents who joined al Qaeda.
During this time, Al-Abbadi and Alvi traveled from Pakistan to Afghanistan to conduct attacks against US military personnel, according to the complaint. Al-Abbadi is accused of leading a battle against US forces in Paktya Province in May 2008. A U.S. Army Ranger was killed and several others were wounded in the battle.
Alvi eventually grew dissatisfied with al Qaeda senior leadership and left to join the Taliban. The facts of their arrest are still unclear.