'I'm literally having a blast': What Californian Muslim convert posted on Facebook from Syria before being arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda
- Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to join Al-Qaeda and lying on a U.S. passport application to aid international terrorism
- He was arrested on Friday trying to board a bus to Mexico
- The Garden Grove man converted to Islam two years ago and went by the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum
- The indictment did not detail the alleged terrorist activity
Convert: Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, who changed his name to Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum when he converted to Islam, has been indicted on two counts of trying to support Al Qaeda and making false statements on his passport
A 24-year-old Muslim convert who had been licensed to work as a security guard has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to join Al-Qaeda and lying on a U.S. passport application to aid international terrorism.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, who also went by the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum after converting to Islam, was arrested on Friday in Santa Ana while waiting to board a bus to Mexico, the FBI said.
Officials said he planned to become a foot soldier for the terrorist group and had spent time in Syria.
A Facebook page with the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, the same identity Nguyen used in his passport, documented a trip to Lebanon last year and a crossing into Syria.
In January, Ghannoum wrote: 'I'm doing well in Syria … having a blast here, and I mean literally.'
The Garden Grove, California, resident was ordered detained on the grounds of danger and risk of flight during a brief federal court appearance in Orange County. He is a U.S. citizen.
The four-page indictment alleges Nguyen attempted to work under the direction of Al-Qaeda, but no details of the alleged terrorism act were provided.
The Orange County Register reported Nguyen went to Syria in December after hearing about the civil war.
'He said that he wanted to protect his brothers,' Nguyen's sister, Minh Ngoc Nguyen, said. 'He would want to help other people.'
Nguyen lived with his parents, two sisters and two brothers in Garden Grove. Another brother lives in Nevada and serves with the Army.
Explosive: A Facebook page with the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, the same identity Nguyen used in his passport, documented certain explosive activities in January
Indicted: Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, was arrested in Santa Ana while waiting to board a bus to Mexico, the FBI said
Minh Ngoc Nguyen said her brother was raised Catholic but began attending mosques as he sought an understanding of God and converted to Islam about two years ago.
His family also said Nguyen spent several months in Lebanon from late last year to the spring of this year.
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'He wanted to view more of the religious things. First-hand experience,' Nguyen's younger brother, 18-year-old Dinh Nguyen, said. 'He was not part of Al-Qaeda.'
He said FBI agents searched the room he shared with his brother, and they confiscated his cellphone and computer.
This is the Garden Grove, California, home of the family of Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen
Supportive: Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen's sister, Minh Nguyen (pictured) said her brother 'wanted to protect his brothers...He would want to help other people.'
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, shown in an artist's sketch at his initial appearance in the United States District Court in Santa Ana
Nguyen's mother, Hieu Nguyen, said at the courthouse that she knew nothing about the case and was surprised by the allegations.
Nguyen's sister said her brother was in Syria to study the Qur'an and help villagers in December.
Ghannoum's Facebook page claims he was helping Syrian freedom fighters in this time.
The user claimed his 'first confirmed kill' in early February and added: 'So pumped to get more!!'
In April, the user posted a picture of a blood-soaked man, 'A Dear Brother of mine,' and described losing five other comrades in a fight to seize an airport.
Investigators do not believe Nguyen was traveling with others, and the FBI said it was not aware of a continuing threat to the public. The investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force was ongoing.
Nguyen was licensed as a security guard and had permits for a baton and firearm from California's Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, according to Russ Heimerich, a state spokesman.
He obtained the license and permits in 2009 and they were set to expire September 30, 2013, though it wasn't known if he tried to renew them.
Officials for the FBI and U.S. attorney's office declined comment. Defense lawyer Amy Karlin also declined comment.
Nguyen was scheduled to return to court October 18.