So when three suspicious foreign men acted like they might be doing reconnaissance on CampÂ Pendleton for a later attack, local attention was aroused. Before showing up at the front gate in two cars, the men made terrorist threats at a gas station and asked directions to the base. Their behavior seems dumb, but violent Muslims sometimes exhibit an odd combination of arrogance and stupidity.
Ex-Marine: Federal Probe Likely In Pendleton Security Alert, KGTV San Diego, April 1, 2011
SAN DIEGO â€” 10News learned Camp Pendleton base officials have essentially closed the case involving three Middle Eastern men who tried to drive onto the base without proper authorization last weekend.
Retired Colonel G.I. Wilson told 10News, â€?It does make you very, very suspicious, and the fact they came back a second time would really put my antenna up.â€?
The three men â€” 40-year-old Afghani Ahmad Rahmani Naeem, 41-year-old Iranian Vahik Petrossian and 27-year-old Iranian Sengekdi Norvik Avanosian â€” 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.
Wilson was impressed by the guardsâ€™ actions in dealing with the three men.
â€?[I] find a lot of reassurance in the fact that people at the gate, the Marines at the front gate, caught this and they were alert and on the job,â€? said Wilson.
Wilson said itâ€™s likely federal investigators are involved now, despite the statement from Camp Pendleton that itâ€™s been determined there is no threat.
â€?When you have these types of events, you have to investigate thoroughly. A simple background check is not enough. You have to send investigators out, knock on doors, find out if thereâ€™s any relationship between the two people, and when you see something suspicious like wires coming out of a steering wheel, that also sets off alarm bells,â€? Wilson said.
Though no weapons were found, Wilson said the car could locate targets just beyond the gate.
â€?There is a large housing area thatâ€™s readily observable and evident. There are also commercial activities. Camp Pendleton is a small city â€¦ it has all the vulnerabilities in all the areas where people concentrate,â€? said Wilson.
He also suggested it could have been a test of security, which the guards and base police passed with flying colors.
â€?This could have been serious, but it could have been a bad case of stupidity. We donâ€™t know. All we can do is follow up and do a thorough investigation,â€? said Wilson
Wilson gave credit to the base commander and his staff for doing a great job of layering security, utilizing technology and basic human skills.
He also said if this were a threat, the people on base deserve to know.
On Thursday, Camp Pendleton base officials issued a statement, saying in part: â€?After further investigation, it was determined that the individuals involved were not a threat to MCB Camp Pendleton or any other military installation in the area. MCB Camp Pendleton officials are not investigating these incidents further.â€?