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A Garden Grove man who used the Internet and Facebook to connect with al-Qaida pleaded guilty Friday to a federal terrorism charge after admitting he attempted to assist al-Qaida by providing weapons training, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove unexpectedly entered the plea before U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter, who scheduled sentencing for March 21, prosecutors said in a statement.
Nguyen had confessed to federal agents after an undercover FBI agent posing as a recruiter for the terrorist group unmasked him.
He said that he planned to offer himself as a trainer of some 30 al-Qaida forces to ambush troops in Syria, where he had already spent five months fighting with rebels.
Nguyen’s admission was contained in a plea agreement filed in federal court, according to a U.S. attorney’s press release issued after the plea was entered and accepted.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Nguyen admitted that approximately one year ago he traveled to Syria where he joined opposition forces and allegedly fought against the Assad regime. Nguyen returned to the U.S., where he told associates that he had offered to train al-Qaida forces in Syria but was turned down.
On Oct. 1, Nguyen purchased a ticket for travel from Mexico to Pakistan and FBI agents arrested him on Oct. 11 as he was about to board a bus from Santa Ana to Mexico.

Nguyen faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison.

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