Gafaar Al-Wazer

Gafaar Al-Wazer

A foreign-born Mount Aloysius student accused of lying about his ties to an anti-American militia abruptly withdrew his U.S. residency application last month and then attempted to schedule a visit to the White House, according to federal prosecutors.

It was part of a series of moves that prompted U.S. terrorism officials to deem Gafaar Ebrahim al-Wazer an "imminent threat" against the nation he'd been permitted to reside in as a student since 2014 – resulting in federal charges last month, court documents show.

"His online activities raise acute concerns regarding his present and future intentions in the United States, the land of his enemy," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson S.T. Thayer Jr. wrote, noting that al-Wazer has been photographed alongside members of the Houthi movement while holding an AK-47 and tagged in Facebook images denouncing America.

Prosecutors offered that information in a 30-page motion to the court to keep al-Wazer detained in prison, describing him as a flight risk and community "danger."

Al-Wazer was arrested at his Altoona home Nov. 7 and charged with making false statements to federal authorities about his ties to the Yemeni militia group, which has been fighting for years to permanently overthrow the country's government.

Court documents show U.S. Homeland Security and FBI officials had been keeping tabs on al-Wazer since 2016, saying the young man was photographed holding an AK-47 at military-style training camps and tagged in posts calling for "Death to America."

It led at least two interviews with federal investigators – but no criminal action against him until last month.

In the latest court filing within the U.S. District Court's Eastern District of Pennsylvania, federal prosecutors said they were compelled to act last month after al-Wazer criticized America in a letter to immigration authorities and then tried to schedule a White House tour.

According to court documents filed by the U.S. Attorneys Office, al-Wazer abruptly withdrew his Temporary Protected Status residency application, while adding that if the United States is not supporting peace in his country, "how is it going to help me when I am in its homeland."

In the same letter, he described Saudi prince and Houthi adversary Mohammed bin Salman as a "war criminal" and said the U.S government's support for him has resulted in the deaths of many friends and family members.

"I am not in need to you, I have Allah with me," he allegedly wrote.

U.S. Secret Service agents informed investigators that al-Wazer applied online for a White House tour on Nov. 6. The request was denied the day prior, according to court documents.

Al-Wazer, identified in court filings as the member of a prominent Yemeni family, has been permitted to live in the country on government visas as a college student. Since 2014, he attended Drexel and more recently, Mount Aloysius, where he was named on the dean's list three times, press releases show.

Mount Aloysius College officials issued a one-paragraph statement about Al-Wazer's criminal charges, saying they were notified about the arrest and that they were cooperating with the investigation.

Al-Wazer is now being represented by Philadelphia area attorney Peter J. Thompson, court records show.

Other records, including two court orders filed over the past two weeks, were under seal by a U.S. District Court judge in Philadelphia, where al-Wazer was transferred last month and remains detained.

The case is being handled in the U.S. District Court's eastern district in Pennsylvania.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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