Syrian-born US citizen charged with smuggling to militants

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Syrian-born U.S. citizen has been charged with smuggling rifle scopes, night-vision goggles and other military-style gear from the United States to Islamic militants in his home country.

According to an indictment unsealed Friday, Amin al-Baroudi personally brought the gear to Syria and arranged other shipments between 2011 and 2013. The goods went to the insurgent group Ahrar el-Sham, which aims to establish an Islamic state in Syria and fights alongside al-Qaida's official branch there, federal prosecutors said.

In February 2013, according to the indictment, the 50-year-old man boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Turkey with 14 pieces of checked luggage weighing more than 600 pounds total. He brought the goods across the border to Syria and returned to Los Angeles the next month with only two checked bags, prosecutors said.

Al-Baroudi, a former resident of Irvine, California, was arrested Thursday at Washington Dulles International Airport, court documents show. His attorney, Anthony Capozzolo, said in court Monday that al-Baroudi had been living in Saudi Arabia before returning to the United States.

Capozzolo did not explain what al-Baroudi was doing in Saudia Arabia, beyond mentioning that he was treated for a heart condition there, or detail the circumstances of his client's return trip. He declined to comment after the hearing. A judge ordered al-Baroudi detained pending further court proceedings. Al-Baroudi, who has a thick gray beard, wore a green prison jumpsuit and did not speak in court.

He faces four charges related to violations of U.S. sanctions against Syria and Commerce Department restrictions on exports there. Although he is not accused of shipping weapons, the night-vision goggles, scopes, bulletproof vests and other items he's accused of smuggling are banned from export to Syria because while they are designed for civilians, they can be used for military purposes.

According to the indictment, al-Baroudi told an unnamed conspirator that he had a good relationship with Ahrar al-Sham, and he persisted with his plans despite being warned that the group was "al-Qaida less 25 percent." He said he planned to bring $30,000 worth of material and train people there how to use it, prosecutors said.

In one personal document, al-Baroudi boasted of having sent hundreds of rifle scopes to Syria, prosecutors said.

"Proven to be real good in our environment," he wrote, according to the indictment. "People loved them and always asking for more. Capable to transfer any decent rifle to sniper rifle."


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