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Iraqi Refugee Identified As Terror Suspect Arrested in Houston

Gov. Greg Abbott renewed his call for better vetting of refugees after an Iraqi man was arrested in Houston for alleged connections to the Islamic State.

Gov. Greg Abbott is shown in November 2015 proposing reforms against "sanctuary cities" that he wants Texas lawmakers to consider in the 2017 legislative session.

Federal agents have arrested a 24-year-old Iraqi man who immigrated to Houston four years ago and charged him as a terror suspect allegedly aligned with the Islamic State, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston.

In a three-count indictment, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, a Palestinian born in Iraq, was charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Moskowitz of Homeland Investigations (HSI) in Houston made the announcement.

The Jan. 6 indictment was unsealed Thursday night. Al Hardan will face a federal magistrate Friday at 10 a.m. in Houston. 

Al Hardan entered the United States as a refugee on or about Nov. 2, 2009, and was granted legal permanent residence status on or about Aug. 22, 2011. He is one of three suspects arrested nationwide. 

The indictment states Al Hardan lied to immigration authorities about weapons training he had received, had contact with the Islamic State and provided support to it. 

The news of the arrests first surfaced in California where another of the three was arrested. The third man was arrested in Milwaukee, according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

Calls for increased scrutiny of potential links between refugees in the country and terrorist organizations has heightened since two ISIS supporters gunned down 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. 

“I applaud the FBI for today’s arrest of this dangerous subject," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott"I once again urge the President to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans.”

The California suspect, identified as Aws Mohamed Younis Al-Jayab, was charged with lying to immigration authorities about his ties to the Islamic State and travel to Syria. He is scheduled to appear in federal court there on Friday. 

Last month, Texas filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration attempting to stop the placement of Syrian refugees. A temporary restraining order was also filed to block their entry into the Lone Star State, but it was later withdrawn.

Speaking during an impromptu news conference while campaigning in Goldfield, Iowa, presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the arrests "underscore how utterly indefensible" Obama's plan to allow more refugees into the country is and called on congressional leadership to address the issue by considering a number of his proposals, including a bill that would ban refugees from countries with terrorist strongholds.

Cruz also called for a "retroactive assessment" of refugees that have already been let into the United States. He said the government should especially focus on those from countries with "high concentrations of radical Islamic terrorism."

Cruz thanked law enforcement for their work in the arrests but warned they could portend more danger if Congress doesn't act.

"[The suspects'] apprehension raises the immediate question: Who else is there?" Cruz said. "What are they planning next? And what can we do to prevent the next terrorist attack before yet more innocent life is taken?"

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

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