SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego man has been arrested after admitting to federal agents that he fought alongside militant Islamic fighters in his native Syria, and Facebook postings and photographs indicate he worked for a Sharia court known for meting out cruel punishment, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.
Mohamad Saeed, a U.S. citizen, has been charged with two counts of making false statements involving international terrorism and is being held without bail at a federal prison in San Diego.
Saeed could not be reached for comment nor could his newly appointed court attorney.
A friend who attended Saeed’s first appearance in court Thursday said the 24-year-old went to Syria to get his mother and siblings out of the country in the midst of civil war and bring them back to San Diego.
“The U.S. government, they just want to make a sacrificial lamb,” Abed Keddo, a family friend and president of the San Diego chapter of the Syrian American Council. “He is the sacrificial lamb. … Somebody needs a promotion.”
Keddo said Saeed has cooperated all along with officials, and had been home for nearly a month. He was arrested Wednesday at his home in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Bernardo.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Parmley said Saeed admitted to FBI agents on March 25 while interviewed at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, that he engaged in fighting in Syria.
That came after he denied participating in combat in Syria to federal officials who interviewed him March 10 at the U.S. embassy in Turkey, according to the complaint. Prosecutors released photos of him holding an AK-47 allegedly in Syria.
“He admitted to agents that he participated in attacks against the Syrian regime,” Parmley said outside the courthouse.
Parmley would not say why Saeed is not being charged with fighting for a terror organization, even though the complaint states that he acknowledged doing so to agents during interviews.
The court records included photographs and Facebook postings indicating he worked for a Sharia court in Syria that imposed an extreme interpretation of Muslim law.
Parmley would not respond to questions as to why Saeed was allowed to return to the U.S. or what caused him to be arrested now, nearly a month after he returned.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Parmley said.
Officials say there is no evidence Saeed had any connection to two men of Somali descent arrested Sunday in San Diego and charged with attempting to join the Islamic State group in Syria. Four others in Minnesota were arrested on similar charges.