Helena-West Helena man pleads guilty in terror case

Arkansan from Yemen aided Al-Qaida, indictment says

File Photo

A Yemeni citizen living in Arkansas pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to providing support and resources to the terrorist organization Al-Qaida.

Bilal Al-Rayanni, who was living in Helena-West Helena, pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Al-Rayanni, also known as Bilal Kassim Alawdi, was originally indicted on allegations of providing a false name while applying for a passport. Later, a superseding indictment was filed alleging that Al-Rayanni had provided support and material to Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as Ansar al-Shari'a.

As a part of the plea agreement, the government dropped two counts of false statement in application for passport against Al-Rayanni.

Al-Rayanni told federal investigators that his father illegally purchased a U.S. visa from a man named "Kassim Alawdi" and used that name to obtain a passport for him in 1992 and to renew it in 2002, 2008 and 2019.

According to an indictment, Al-Rayanni traveled to Yemen for three months in 2014 and provided support and material to Al-Qaida, knowing the group was engaged in terrorism.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was designated as a foreign terrorist organization at the time, and it remains designated as such.

Al-Rayanni faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.