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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) -- An Iraqi man who pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges in Bowling Green has been sentenced to life in prison.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell sentenced 25-year-old Mohanad Shareef Hammadi on Tuesday, hours after 30-year-old co-defendant Waad Ramadan Alwan received a lesser sentence for his cooperation with prosecutors after his arrest in May 2011. Alwan could have received up to life in prison.
Hammadi's sentencing grew contentious at times as prosecutors accused him of changing his story in an effort to secure less prison time. Hammadi testified during the hearing, speaking of growing up poor in Iraq and saying life was no longer normal after the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Hammadi and Alwan pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to send weapons, cash and explosives to al-Qaida in Iraq.
The two men had faced charges of trying to send a variety of weapons, including rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and Stinger missile systems, along with other explosives and cash to the terrorist organization in Iraq.
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Below is how the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office described the men's crimes in a news release issued after the sentencing Jan. 29:
Alwan, whose fingerprints were found on an unexploded IED found in Iraq, pleaded guilty earlier in the case on December 16, 2011, to all counts of a 23-count federal indictment. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill U.S. nationals abroad; conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. nationals abroad; distributing information on the manufacture and use of IEDs; attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to AQI; and conspiring to transfer, possess, and export Stinger missiles.
Hammadi pleaded guilty on August 21, 2012, to a 12-count superseding indictment. Charges against him included attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to AQI; conspiring to transfer, possess, and export Stinger missiles; and making a false statement in an immigration application. At today's sentencing, at the request of the United States, Alwan received a reduced sentence due to his cooperation with federal law enforcement. The United States asked for no reduction of Hammadi's sentence.
According to information presented by the United States in connection with today's sentencings, Hammadi and Alwan both admitted, in FBI interviews that followed waiver of their Miranda rights, to participation in the purported material support operations in Kentucky, and both provided the FBI details of their prior involvement in insurgent activities while living in Iraq. Both men believed their activities in Kentucky were supporting AQI. Alwan admitted participating in IED attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and Hammadi admitted to participating in 10 to 11 IED attacks as well as shooting at a U.S. soldier in an observation tower.
Court documents filed in this case reveal that the Bowling Green Resident Agency of the FBI's Louisville Division initiated an investigation of Alwan in which they used a confidential human source (CHS). The CHS met with Alwan and recorded their meetings and conversations beginning in August 2010. The CHS represented to Alwan that he was working with a group to ship money and weapons to Mujahadeen in Iraq. From September 2010 through May 2011, Alwan participated in 10 separate operations to send weapons and money that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq. Between October 2010 and January 2011, Alwan drew diagrams of multiple types of IEDs and instructed the CHS how to make them. In January 2011, Alwan recruited Hammadi, a fellow Iraqi national living in Bowling Green, to assist in these material support operations. Beginning in January 2011 and continuing until his arrest in late May 2011, Hammadi participated with Alwan in helping load money and weapons that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq.
Documents filed by the United States describe in detail the material support activities of the men in Bowling Green. Without Hammadi present, Alwan loaded money and weapons he believed were being sent to Iraq on five occasions from September 2010 through February 2011, handling five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five machine guns, two sniper rifles, two cases of C4 explosive, and what he believed to be $375,000. After Hammadi joined Alwan in January 2011, the two men loaded money and weapons together on five occasions from January to May 2011. Together, on these five occasions, they loaded five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five machine guns, five cases of C4 explosive, two sniper rifles, one box of 12 hand grenades, two Stinger surface-to-air missile launchers, and what they believed to be a total of $565,000. Alwan and Hammadi were recorded by video during these operations.
In speaking with the CHS, Alwan spoke of his efforts to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, stating "lunch and dinner would be an American." Hammadi told the CHS that he had experience in Iraq with "Strelas" (a Russian-made, portable, shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile launcher) and discussed shipping "Strelas" in future operations.
According to the charging documents, Hammadi entered the United States in July 2009, and, after first residing in Las Vegas, moved to Bowling Green. Hammadi and Alwan were arrested on May 25, 2011, in Bowling Green on criminal complaints. Both defendants were closely monitored by federal law enforcement authorities in the months leading up to their arrests. Neither was charged with plotting attacks within the United States. All the weapons, including Stinger missiles, had been rendered inert before being handled by Hammadi and Alwan. The weapons and money handled by the men in the United States were never provided to AQI but instead were carefully controlled by law enforcement as part of the undercover operation.