The U.S. screening process for foreign refugees has once again failed to stop a criminal from entering the country, as indicated by the case of Tchalim Koboya Lidawo of Togo.
Lidawo was in the U.S. only nine days when he was arrested in Virginia and charged with two counts of attempted rape and one count of abduction with force related to an incident on Dec. 4, 2014.
Lidawo pleaded no contest to the charges May 8 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Just nine days after the West African man was settled into his apartment near Leesburg in northern Virginia, he accosted a woman who lives in the same complex.
He told police he watched the woman taking her trash out and then attacked her at the dumpster. He dragged her into the nearby woods, where a struggle ensued, officials told WUSA-TV 9, a CBS affiliate in Virginia.
“The victim fell down, and Lidawo climbed on top of her,” according to WUSA’s report, citing the commonwealth attorney’s office.
A passerby heard the woman’s screams and approached, causing Lidawo to get up and run further into the woods, according to the report. The victim provided police with a description of Lidawo, leading to his arrest.
He was sentenced to 10 years with an additional five years of suspended time, according to officials. He must also pay a $5,000 fine.
Lidawo is the latest in a long line of refugees the government has brought in from overseas who have run afoul of the law.
Hundreds of former refugees have come to the U.S. and ended up being charged with providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations or other criminal acts.
The country with the worst record is Somalia. So many Somalis have have been arrested or sought by authorities that U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Andrew Luger, concluded last month that the state “has a terror recruitment problem” among its growing Somali-American community. The community is about 50,000 strong in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area, made up of Somali refugees and their sons and daughters.
Luger made the admission after six Somali men from Minnesota were arrested April 4 and charged with trying to make repeated attempts to leave the country and join the ranks of ISIS fighters in Syria.
The U.S. State Department has resettled 3 million foreign refugees into communities across the U.S. since 1975. It insists the refugees are the “most rigorously scrutinized” of all immigrants. But the program has changed from its early days. While the first refugees in the 1970s and early 1980s tended to come from Southeast Asia and other peaceful nations, more in recent years, since the early 1990s, have come from countries in the Middle East and Africa where Islamic-inspired civil war rages.
The list of those refugees running into trouble once they get to the U.S. keeps growing.
Here are just a few of the recent cases:
One of the two shooters in last week’s terrorist attack on a free-speech event in Garland, Texas, Elton Simpson, was reportedly radicalized over the Internet by former Somali refugee Mohammad Hassan. The radical Islamist had lived in Minnesota before traveling to the Middle East to join ISIS, but he continues to recruit new ISIS fighters in America, largely through social media. Hassan used the Twitter handle “misky.”
On Jan. 29, the FBI announced that its newest “most wanted terrorist” was Liban Haji Mohamed, born in Somalia and transplanted in the U.S. as a refugee. He was working as a cab driver in the Washington, D.C., area until he left the country to fight for al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliate in Somalia that recently slaughtered 147 Christians at a university in Kenya and was also responsible for the killing of more than 60 Christians at the Westgate Mall in Kenya in 2013. Mohamed’s U.S. passport does not expire until May 20, 2018, so he could re-enter the country at any time. He is known not only as a jihadist but a recruiter of other jihadists.
- In June 2014, the FBI stopped an 18-year-old Somali man from boarding a plane in Minneapolis because they believe his destination was Syria and the ISIS battlefield. The teen had obtained a security clearance to wash planes at the airport.
- Two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were arrested in 2011 and charged with sending material support to al-Qaida in Iraq.
- In February, WND reported that Qayed Murtaza Shareef, 39, the founder of Irvine-based Adaptive Media, a publicly traded company that helps clients with digital and video advertising, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of trying to lure young boys into sexually explicit conversations over the Internet. Shareef came to the U.S. 28 years ago as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
- In May 2013, 31-year-old refugee Fazliddin Kurbanov from Uzbekistan was arrested on terrorism charges in Boise, Idaho, WND reported. The FBI alleges he had traveled from his home in Boise to train Islamic recruits in Utah in bomb making. He allegedly planned to blow up a military base. His case has not yet gone to trial.
- The Boston Marathon bombers, the Tsarnaev brothers, entered the country as asylum seekers from Chechnya.
- Since 2007, the FBI confirms that at least 48 Somalis have left the U.S. to fight for al-Shabab and ISIS. They hold U.S. passports and could return at any time.
- Omar Muhammad Kalmio, who came to Minnesota as a boy refugee, was charged with four murders in 2011 in North Dakota, allegedly shooting to death a 19-year-old woman, her brother, mother and the mother’s boyfriend.
- Ibrahim Muhammad Abdullahi, 26, was charged in August 2014 with murder in the shooting death of Jeffrey Willingham in St. Paul, Minnesota, KMSP-TV Fox 9 reported. He had been released from jail just months earlier from serving a sentence for beating up a shuttle bus driver with a baseball bat in St. Paul.
A 23-year-old Somali refugee living in Columbus, Ohio, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, was arrested April 16, 2015 and charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS terrorists in Syria, WBNS-10 TV reported. The Department of Justice said “this case is unusual in that he actually went to Syria and returned to conduct attacks. Most of these ‘aspiring jihadists’ don’t leave the country.” Another Somali in the Columbus area had been arrested on terrorist charges in 2011.
- Three residents of New York City, two from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan, were arrested in February 2015 and charged with conspiring to support ISIS in Syria, Fox News reported. The men were identified as Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Uzbekistan; Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Kazakhstan; and Abror Habibov, 30, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Uzbekistan.
‘Back door to jihadists’ remains open
The next big wave of high-risk refugees is coming from Syria, which is bogged down in a five-year civil war among warring Islamic factions. So far, only about 800 have entered the U.S., and 92 percent of them have been Muslim.
Michael Steinbach, the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit, admitted in a February hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee that the FBI is incapable of vetting refugees from Syria. He said there are no reliable records available to the U.S. in a “failed state” like Syria.
Yet the U.S. State Department, under the authority of the Refugee Act of 1980, continues to admit 70,000 refugees per year into the U.S., roughly half of them from terror-supporting countries like Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.
ISIS has stated openly on social media that it plans to send jihadists to Western countries posing as refugees. And the FBI now admits that hundreds, if not more than 1,000, ISIS fighters may already be in the United States. How many of them may have entered as refugees or been recruited by refugees is unknown. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, wrote a letter to President Obama in January imploring him not to let the Syrian refugee program become a “back door to jihadists,” but Congress has not taken any formal action to stem the tide of foreign refugees coming from terror-supporting countries.
Earlier this year, Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson warned Somalia-based al-Shabab is encouraging “independent actors” to carry out attacks on shopping malls in Western countries, with the Mall of America in Minnesota among the specific targets, but he failed to mention that the U.S. continues to import about 800 new refugees from Somalia every month, not to mention the new Syrian refugee program that is just now ramping up. The U.N. has about 10,000 Syrians in its pipeline destined for the United States.
Almost all refugees entering the U.S. are hand selected by the United Nations high commissioner on refugees.
As a native of Togo, Lidawo could be removed from the United States when he is released from prison in 10 years. Refugees are placed on a fast track to U.S. citizenship often within five years. But those convicted of felonies are unlikely to obtain that status.