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California man pleads guilty to fighting in Syria

Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam) once operated in both Iraq and Syria; its Iraqi faction later merged with the Islamic State group, though some of its Syrian fighters rejected IS
AFP/File
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Chicago (AFP)

A California man who came to the US from Syria as a refugee and later returned there to fight with an extremist group pleaded guilty on Wednesday to terrorism-related charges.

Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, 25, admitted that he flew from Chicago to Turkey in November 2013 and then entered Syria where he joined and fought with Ansar al-Islam, which is designated as a terrorist organization, the Department of Justice said in a statement after the guilty plea in Chicago.

Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam) once operated in both Iraq and Syria. Its Iraqi faction later merged with the Islamic State group, though some of its Syrian fighters rejected IS.

Jayab faces up to 15 years in prison for his plea to a charge of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and up to eight years for a second guilty plea, providing a false statement to federal agents.

When he returned to the United States in January 2014 Jayab did not declare his travel to Turkey and Syria, the Department of Justice said. In a later interview with federal agents he denied supporting terrorist groups.

At the time of Jayab's arrest, US Attorney Benjamin Wagner stressed that "while (Jayab) represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country."

Jayab, an Iraqi-born Palestinian, came to the United States from Syria as a refugee in 2012, US officials said at the time of his arrest.

He will be sentenced on April 26 next year.

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