Thursday, March 31, 2011

Possible Jihadi Probe of California Marine Base?

Officials with the United States Marine Corps said they have stepped up security procedures after a suspicious incident involving three Middle Eastern men took place at Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego last weekend.
SAN DIEGO -- One of the nation's largest military bases is reportedly under tighter security after three Middle Eastern men tried to enter without proper authorization. 10News learned the three men -- 40-year-old Afghani Ahmad Rahmani Naeem, 41-year-old Iranian Vahik Petrossian and 27-year-old Iranian Sengekdi Norvik Avanosian -- attempted to get into Camp Pendleton last weekend under what was considered suspicious circumstances.

According to a Be On the Lookout (BOLO) alert issued to high-ranking Camp Pendleton officials, someone reported hearing hateful comments and terrorist threats from three men at a gas station in Oceanside Saturday.

Investigators at Camp Pendleton said the men asked the attendant for directions on how to get to Camp Pendleton before they left the gas station. According to the alert, shortly after midnight Sunday, a rented silver Toyota Corolla driven by Naeem attempted to enter Camp Pendleton through the main gate.

As it was being searched, Petrossian and Avanosian drove up in a black Mercedes, but were told to wait. Instead, they continued past the gate and onto the base. Following a short pursuit, the Mercedes was stopped and searched. No weapons or contraband were found in the Mercedes, but base security noticed the air bag in the steering wheel of the Mercedes had been pulled out and re-attached with duct tape and had wires hanging free, the alert said.

According to the alert, Naaem told base security he was lost and was trying to go to Glendale. When interviewed, Petrossian and Avanosian said they were lost and trying to go to Glendale.

The three men claimed not to know each other, the alert said. Naaem, Petrossian and Avanosian were photographed and released after questioning, and a warning about the trio was posted to law enforcement. However, later that morning about 8:30 a.m., Naeem returned in the Toyota and tried to get on the base again, saying he made a mistake and was trying to enter Interstate 5, the alert said. After his vehicle was searched, Naeem was issued a letter of debarment from the base and escorted to the freeway.
[Petrossian and Avanosnian may very well be Armenian surnames, but keep in mind there is a sizable ethnic Armenian population in the northwestern corner of Iran around Tabriz, not to mention the two men could just as easily be travelling under an alias- NANESB!]

Investigators at Camp Pendleton also said that a criminal background check on the three men turned up nothing. At a cursory glance, this would appear to be some sort of probe to gauge the security at Camp Pendleton (however poorly executed)- one vehicle to distract/occupy the guards while the second one would make their move on targets further into the base.

The incident comes a little over a week after the US Border Patrol arrested a van full of illegal immigrants who were wearing Marine uniforms. A Border Patrol agent who had previously served with the USMC grew suspicious while working at a checkpoint outside of Pine Valley, CA (some 40 miles east of San Diego) when the van full of men were unfamiliar with the Marine Corps' 'Ooo-Rah!' salutation or the Marine Corps birthday.

Also worth mentioning is that about 15 miles north of Camp Pendleton is Edison International's [NYSE: EIX] San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, so there would be an abundance of potential targets out there for anybody interested in causing mayhem.

[Hat tip: The Jawa Report]

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