A federal judge in Phoenix has sentenced a Syrian man to life in prison plus 30 years for his role in designing and building components of deadly improvised bombs during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Rosyln Silver passed sentence on the 41-year-old Ahmed Alahmedalabdaloklah, after a jury found him guilty on four counts: conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to destroy U.S. property with an explosive, conspiring to possess a destructive device for a criminal act, and aiding and abetting those who possessed such a device.
Prosecutors said that roadside bombs like he designed killed more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers, including Ryan Haupt of Phoenix and Damian Lopez Rodriguez of Nogales, and maimed thousands more, like Robert Bartlett of Gilbert.
After a 23-day trial, the same jury acquitted Alahmedalabdaloklah of the most serious charges of conspiring to kill Americans abroad, and providing material support to terrorists.
The U.S. Justice Department says this is the first time it tried a suspected bomb maker from the Iraq conflict in a U.S. court.
“Alahmedalabdaloklah sought to harm American soldiers by conspiring with others to construct and supply improvised explosive device (IED) parts for bombs that were used in Iraq. He will now serve the rest of his life in prison,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers, in a prepared DOJ statement. “The National Security Division will continue to bring to justice those who seek to harm American servicemen and women who bravely risk their lives in defense of our nation.”
Alahmedalabdaloklah was expert in designing circuit boards and coded communications signals that enabled IEDs to explode upon command. Devices like those killed 1,721 U.S. soldiers, 43 of them from Arizona. They were the deadliest weapon U.S. forces faced.
Alahmedalabdaloklah has filed notice he intends to appeal.
If that appeal fails, a federal prison will be the last stop on an odyssey that began in a small workshop in central Baghdad in 2005. That was when American GIs kicked down a door on Omar Street and found what the government later said was one of the largest troves of bomb-making equipment they had uncovered during the entire conflict.
They found circuit designs, specialized communications equipment, diagrams, training manuals, and more. They also found fingerprints belonging to Alahmedalabdaloklah. It was the start of a manhunt that spanned four continents and six years.
After he fled to China to set up an international electronics export company, Turkish police arrested him at Istanbul’s international airport in 2011. He languished in a Turkish prison, where he went on hunger strike, before being extradited to the United States three years later.
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He was tried in Phoenix because he bought components from a Chandler company, which had no knowledge of his work.
U.S. prosecutors said Alahmedalabdaloklah was in league with a band of Sunni and Saddam Hussein loyalists called the 1920 Revolution Brigades. The 1920 Brigades claimed responsibility for 230 IED attacks on U.S. forces.
Alahmedalabdaloklah declined twice to make a statement in court last week, the Associated Press reported. One of his attorneys, Gregory Bartolomei, said a life sentence wasn't warranted, the AP noted.
During trial, another defense attorney told jurors Alahmedalabdaloklah had fled the murderous regime in Syria in 1977 and was trying to make a living for his young family in a war zone as a second-class refugee.