(CNSNews.com) – An Iraqi refugee arrested in California Wednesday is accused of murdering a man in Anbar province on behalf of ISIS – less than three weeks after U.S. officials in Turkey approved his application for asylum in the United States.
Omar Ameen, 45, was arrested at an apartment in Sacramento by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
According to extradition documents filed in federal court, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials in Turkey approved his application for refugee status on June 5, 2014.
“Ameen did not immigrate directly to the United States following the approval of his application, but instead is alleged to have returned to Iraq to commit the murder that is the subject of this extradition request.”
Seventeen days later after receiving approval to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee, Ameen and a group of fellow ISIS fighters entered the town of Rawah on June 22 – one day after it fell to the Sunni jihadists – and attacked an Iraqi police officer, the documents state.
A Baghdad court that has issued an extradition request and warrant for his arrest alleges that Ameen murdered the officer, Ihsan Abdulhafiz Jasim, shooting him in the chest while he was lying on the ground.
ISIS claimed responsibility in a social media posting, saying that “the criminal Ihsan [Abdulhafiz] has been eliminated at the hands of the Mujahidin.”
Ameen, who is alleged to have been a member of ISIS or its precursor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) since 2004, returned to Turkey at same point after the killing, and then on November 4, 2014 arrived in the U.S. as a refugee. He settled in Sacramento and later applied for a green card.
According to the documents, his terror activities were not restricted to the murder of the policeman. They say Ameen also planted IEDs and “is alleged to have participated in acts ranging from transportation of mujahidin, to soliciting funds at the marketplace on behalf of AQI, to robbing supply trucks and kidnapping drivers on behalf of AQI.”
On multiple occasions, both in Turkey and in the U.S. after his arrival, Ameen made false declarations to U.S. officials, the documents say. Among them:
--“When asked under oath at his refugee interview by a USCIS officer in Turkey ‘Have you ever interacted with, had involvement with, or known any members of … Al Qaeda in Iraq … the Islamic State of Iraq or any other armed group or militia?’ Ameen answered ‘no.’”
--“When asked in his written sworn statement in support of his refugee application ‘Have you ever engaged in … any other form of terrorist activity?’ Ameen answered ‘no.’”
--“When asked in his written sworn statement in support of his refugee application ‘Have you ever been a … member of a terrorist organization or a member of a group which endorses terrorist activity?’ Ameen answered ‘no.’”
“Ameen’s negative answers cut off a line of questioning relevant to his admissibility to the United States,” the document states.
Around 18 months after arriving in the U.S., Ameen applied to adjust his status. Under oath, he affirmed that the answers he had given in his earlier refugee application were true, it says.
‘He lied about his background and the circumstances of his departure’
According to State Department data, on November 4 2014, the day Ameen arrived in the U.S., a total of 230 Iraqi refugees were admitted.
In defending security procedures, Obama administration officials described the process of screening refugees, during an application that took an average of 18-24 months, as “rigorous and exhaustive”
In Ameen’s case, the court documents say he began his application for refugee status in Turkey, “in or around April 2012,” so the process for him took 26 months.
During that 26-month period, he evidently traveled back to Iraq a number of times. In a May 2014 interview with a USCIS officer he confirmed having traveled to and from Iraq “many times” since arriving in Turkey, according to the court documents.
(They say Ameen’s passport reflected no departures from Turkey after his arrival there in April 2012, but also note the “the porous nature of the Iraq-Syria-Turkey borders” during the period in question.)
In support of his application for refugee status, Ameen claimed his brother had been kidnapped in 2012 by Shi’a militia, and that his father had been killed in 2010 for cooperating with U.S. forces in Iraq.
The court documents, however, raise questions about both claims. They cite official Iraqi records indicating that Ameen’s brother was confirmed to be in Iraqi government custody after the date of the alleged kidnapping, and say that Ameen’s father – who was also allegedly an AQI member – had according to a death certificate in fact died of natural causes.
“Ameen’s claim that his father was killed due to his possible assistance to military forces is a fiction, and his refugee application was approved in part on the basis of this false claim,” the documents state.
“Ameen concealed his true identity as a member of AQI and ISIS to immigrate to the United States. He lied about his background and the circumstances of his departure from Iraq in order to evade detection, seeking to blend into the flow of legitimate refugees fleeing the conflict zone.”
Ameen is now being held in custody as a flight risk and as a danger to the community, with the next hearing of the extradition case set for Monday.
The offense of which he is accused (felony murder using the method “organized killing by an armed group”) carries the death penalty in Iraq.