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Southern California man pleads guilty in plan to help al Qaeda

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Southern California man pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge that he tried to help al Qaeda by seeking to travel to Pakistan to train members of the group.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, California, was arrested in October on his way to Mexico at a bus stop in the nearby town of Santa Ana, the FBI said.

Nguyen, who went by the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles to one count of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a statement.

He admitted that, about a year ago, he traveled to Syria where he joined opposition forces fighting against President Bashar al-Assad and claimed he made a "confirmed kill," the U.S. Attorney's Office stated.

Between August 3 and October 11, Nguyen met a man he believed was an al Qaeda recruiter but who was actually working with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Those meetings resulted in a plan for Nguyen to visit Pakistan with the goal of training 30 al Qaeda fighters for several weeks for guerilla attacks on so-called "coalition forces," which comprises U.S. forces and allies in Afghanistan, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Nguyen had bought a plane ticket to travel from Mexico to Peshawar, Pakistan. In his possession, he had a false passport and a computer hard drive with over 180 training videos on shooting firearms, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Nguyen, who has been in federal custody since his arrest, faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison when he returns to court on March 21.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Gunna Dickson)

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