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HomeworldFBI arrests Palestinian asylum seeker in guns case, shooting ranges

FBI arrests Palestinian asylum seeker in guns case, shooting ranges

Houston: A Palestinian asylum-seeker has been arrested in the US state of Texas after he posted videos on TikTok, firing an AR-15-style rifle.

The FBI confirmed on Friday that it had arrested a Jordanian citizen, seeking asylum in the United States, on federal gun charges following a months-long multi-agency investigation into social media videos involving firearms and shooting ranges in the Houston area.

Sohaib Abuayyash, 20, was arrested on Thursday after the FBI reviewed videos on his social media, including an August 11 recording that apparently showed him firing a rifle and semi-automatic pistols at a range in Houston.

The video, which was originally posted to the popular social media platform, allegedly showed Abuayyash firing 15 rounds from the semi-automatic rifle and then firing from two handguns, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed in Texas.

In an affidavit filed on Thursday, an FBI agent wrote that Abuayyash “has been in direct contact with others who share a radical mindset, has been conducting physical training, and has trained with weapons to possibly commit an attack’.

According to the affidavit, Abuayyash came to the US in 2019 after applying for a tourist visa in Jerusalem and indicating he was a Palestinian citizen.

Abuayyash overstayed the visa and applied for asylum in 2020, which is still pending, the court records state.

He was granted employment authorisation in August 2023, which is due to expire in two years.

His immigration status did not allow him to use or possess weapons, according to the affidavit.

In addition to the video posted to his social media, federal investigators also determined Abuayyash visited another gun range in Saddle River Spring Texas with two other people who were identified in the court documents as “AJ” and “MD”.

The FBI agents reviewed surveillance footage from the September 17 range session that showed Abuayyash firing nine rounds from a black handgun with optics that AJ had bought a week prior, according to the affidavit.

Abuayyash faces one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by an alien who has been admitted to the US under a nonimmigrant visa.

He was ordered to be held in jail at his initial appearance in federal court in Houston on Friday and has a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

(Published 22 October 2023, 05:13 IST)

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