Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan has been sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for plotting to bomb Texas malls. Hardan swore an oath to Islamic State terrorists, lied on a passport application and stockpiled materials to make remote detonators at his apartment in West Houston.
Hardan says he never actually planned to build the bombs. "I am not a bombmaker," he told a federal judge. "I have no experience with electronics." U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes explained that it was his intent and not his skill set that earned him the 16-year sentence. Judge Hughes said the sentence was for "what you planned and attempted to do, however inept you may have been at executing that plan."
The judge also added, "Clumsy bombmakers, stupid planners have killed a lot of people." Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Imperato asked the court to hand Hardan a 20-year sentence based on previous sentences given to other U.S. defendants convicted of making plans to join ISIS overseas.
Hardan's defense attorney asked the judge to stay within sentencing guidelines for the crimes the 25-year-old Palestinian committed. Hardan became a legal permanent resident in Houston and Dallas where he took care of his ailing parents, wife, and child but even his attorney acknowledged "he made some very bad decisions."
The would-be bomber was ultimately caught as a result of various conversations he had with FBI informants. He also trained with a fully automatic AK-47 at a remote location outside of Houston. Hardan is one of three Houston-area men and eight defendants statewide that have been charged with plans to support ISIS.
Seamus Hughes, an expert on ISIS cases at George Washington University's Program on Extremism, says that nearly 90 defendants have pleaded guilty and received an average prison sentence of 13.5 years. Court documents reveal there were years of planning beginning in 2013 with online communication with Al-Jayab, an Al-Nusra recruit in Sacramento.
Hardan even posted on social media, "I want to blow myself up. I want to travel with the Mujahidin. I want to travel to be with those who are against America. I am against America." In 2014, the FBI introduced an informant who communicated with Hardan 17 times. The pair discussed Hardan's plans to go overseas and to engage in terrorism before eventually signing an oath of allegiance to ISIS.
Hardan's sentence includes 16 years in federal prison followed by lifetime supervision if immigration authorities allow him to stay in the country.
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