Federal agent says Iraqi refugee wanted to bomb Texas malls
HOUSTON – An Iraqi refugee who is facing charges he tried to help the Islamic State group wanted to set off bombs at two Houston malls and was learning to make electronic transmitters that could be used to detonate explosive devices, a federal agent testified Wednesday.
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, who came to Houston from Iraq in 2009, was indicted last week on three charges, including attempting to provide support to a designated terrorist organization. He pleaded not guilty to all three charges during a court appearance on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes denied granting Al Hardan a bond, ruling that there would be a serious risk that the Iraqi refugee would flee if released from federal custody.
Hughes made his decision after listening to testimony from Homeland Security Special Agent Herman Wittliff, who said that in addition to Al Hardan wanting to set off bombs at the two Houston malls, including the popular Galleria mall, the Iraqi man was also learning how to make electronic transmitters that could be used to detonate improvised explosive devices. Al Hardan wanted use cellphones — a collection of which were found in his apartment — to detonate the transmitters, Wittliff said.