Dozens of terrorist bombers, including some who may have maimed or killed American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, may be living in the United States as war refugees, FBI agents suspect, ABC News reports
Hundreds of the agency's bomb experts are combing through the remains of 100,000 roadside bombs detonated in the war zones to see whether they are the work of "refugees" allowed into the United by mistake.
The investigation was launched after the arrest in 2009 of two al-Qaida terrorists who were living in Bowling Green, Ky., and admitted in court that they had targeted American troops when they were in Iraq.
The bureau has assigned specialists to an around-the-clock mission to check its huge collection of remnants of improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, to try to find whether fingerprints on the bombs match refugees who were allowed into the country.
"We are currently supporting dozens of current counterterrorism investigations like that," FBI agent Gregory Carl, director of the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), said in an interview that is scheduled to air Wednesday night on ABC News' "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline."
House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said he was fearful that these immigrant bombers could now strike within the country's borders.
"These are trained terrorists in the art of bomb-making that are inside the United States, and quite frankly, from a homeland security perspective that really concerns me," he said.
The Kentucky probe led to the State Department halting the Iraqi refugee program for six months in 2011, resulting in only 10,000 Iraqis entering the country that year compared to double the figure the previous year, according to State Department records.
Federal officials point out that the 70,000 Iraqi war refugees in the United States are hard-working, law-abiding citizens.
According to ABC News, the FBI started an investigation in 2009 into Iraqi Waad Ramadan Alwan, 32, after intelligence information came to light. He had been allowed into the United States after claiming that he was in danger of being persecuted in his own country.
The FBI discovered that his fingerprints were on a cordless phone base that American troops had unearthed in Bayji, Iraq, in 2005. The phone base was wired to an unexploded IED buried next to a road. The probe found that Alwan had been arrested in Iraq in 2006 and confessed on video that he was an insurgent, the FBI said.
After entering Syria as a refugee, he passed the U.S. refugee screening program before it was overhauled two years ago. He was allowed to settle in Bowling Green, which is near the Army's Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. He held a job for a short time, then moved into public housing and received public assistance, ABC New learned.
The FBI launched a sting operation with an undercover agent, offering Alwan the chance to export heavy arms to al-Qaida in Iraq. To help with the shipment, Alwan contacted a refugee relative, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 26, who also lived in Bowling Green, even though he'd been detained during the war by Iraqi officials.
The FBI taped Alwan boasting that he'd killed American soldiers in Iraq with snipers and had built dozens of IEDs.
"He said that he had them 'for lunch and dinner,'" said FBI Louisville Supervisory Special Agent Tim Beam, "meaning that he had killed them."
Alwan even demonstrated his bomb-making ability by drawing IED designs.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard said that the United States government is constantly expanding its procedure for vetting refugees and "today the vetting process considers a far broader range of information than it did in past years."
In a statement, he added, "Our procedures continue to check applicants' names and fingerprints against records of individuals known to be security threats, including the terrorist watch list, or of law enforcement concern."
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