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Convicted terrorist who tried to bomb Israeli bus became US citizen in 2008

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Office in Georgia. (Gulbenk/Released)
April 25, 2019

A convicted terrorist who attempted to bomb a bus in Israel in 1988 and has held his U.S. citizenship for more than a decade is now awaiting sentencing on Friday after being charged with illegally obtaining his citizenship.

Vallmoe Shqaire, 51, was charged in September, but his conviction in 1988 should have barred him from entering the United States, and should certainly have prevented him from becoming an American citizen, CNN revealed on Thursday.

Shqaire, a Palestinian-born Jordanian, carried out a terror attack in the name of a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) cell. The United States considered the PLO a terrorist group at the time, CNN reported, citing federal court records.

Shqaire was convicted and served time in Israeli prison, but would later enter the U.S. and eventually take the oath of allegiance, on Nov. 6, 2008.

Questions have arisen as to why Shqaire was allowed into America in the first place, and also why authorities have taken nearly 10 years to charge him, CNN pointed out.

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Federal authorities have reportedly known since 2010 that Shqaire had committed a terrorist act and have had fingerprint evidence linking him to the incident since early 2016, court records show, CNN reported.

According to court records obtained by CNN, Shqaire had rifle and grenade training, and he also learned how to build bombs, which he later did – building a pipe bomb with an accomplice and placing it along an Israeli bus route in 1991. The pipe bomb detonated but no one was injured.

At the time, Shqaire was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Israel; the sentence was later reduced to seven years, and he was released after serving just four years.

Shqaire came to the U.S. in 1999, where he married a U.S. citizen in order to get a green card, according to records. They later divorced and he married a second woman in 2002 and obtained status as a legal permanent resident.

The immigration officer in charge of processing Shqaire should have obtained the paperwork to back his statements, as he failed to mention his past conviction during the interview process, CNN reported.

His application was approved in 2008.

In 2010, terror investigators had Shqaire on their radar, and in 2011, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Los Angeles was investigating him as a “subject of interest” regarding repeated money transfers, according to records. He was then charged in 2011 with credit card fraud in connection with grand theft auto and spent four months in jail at the time, according to records, and was placed on a 5-year probation.

This past September, Shqaire was charged with illegally obtaining his citizenship “by intentionally withholding his criminal record and past associations,” CNN reported.

Prosecutors wrote, “By concealing his violent, terrorist conduct, defendant circumvented the procedures our immigration system depends upon,” CNN said.

Shqaire lives in the Los Angeles area and has been let free on bail.