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Arkansas man charged with helping al-Qaida

Posted at 6:23 PM, Aug 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-09 21:53:40-04

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Yemeni national living in Arkansas was charged with providing support to a terrorist organization, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

Bilal al-Rayanni was charged Thursday with supporting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula between October and December of 2014 while he was in Yemen.

The 28-year-old was initially arrested June 27 and charged July 11 with making a false statement on a passport application in May. According to the original complaint, he allegedly used the name Bilal Kassim Alawdi, which he had been using on passport documentation since he was a small child.

In an interview the day before he was arrested, al-Rayanni told State Department and FBI agents that his father had purchased a U.S. visa from a Yemeni man whose name was Kassem Alawdi. His father then used that visa in 1992 to obtain a U.S. passport for al-Rayani under the name Bilal Kassim Alawdi. He said he didn't learn his true name until he was between 10 and 12, but has used the false name to obtain and renew passports in 2002 and 2008, as well as the most recent attempt to renew his passport in May.

The Justice Department said al-Rayanni "provided and attempted to provide material support and resources, in the form of personnel (including himself) and services" to the terrorist organization, but did not elaborate. A spokeswoman said the department opened an investigation because of a citizen report.

Al-Rayanni's lawyer could not be reached for comment.

The Justice Department said al-Rayanni lived in Arkansas before and after he traveled to Yemen in 2014.

Al-Rayanni is a resident of Helena-West Helena, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Little Rock. He's been in federal custody since the June arrest and his arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

If found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison for providing support to a terrorist organization and up to 15 years for lying on a passport application. Each crime also carries a fine of up to $250,000.