Other charges the men face include plotting to bomb government facilities and conspiracy to kill Americans.
Since the September 11 2001 attacks, the US government has stepped up surveillance efforts to catch both domestic and foreign militants, but has repeatedly warned that such groups continue to pose a threat.
The authorities said Sohiel Omar Kabir (34) travelled to Afghanistan where he planned to introduce the other suspects to his al-Qaeda contacts. Kabir is a naturalised US citizen who was born in Afghanistan.
Also arrested were Ralph Deleon (23) of Ontario, California; Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales (21) of Upland; and Arifeen David Gojali (21) of Riverside.
If convicted, the men face up to 15 years in prison.
The FBI said in its complaint that Kabir introduced Deleon and Santana to radical Islamic teachings in 2010, including those of al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a US drone.
Willing to kill
In one conversation with an FBI confidential source, Santana and Deleon discussed their preferred roles when it came to carrying out attacks.
Santana stated that he had experience with firearms and that he wanted to become a sniper, while Deleon said he wanted to be on the front line but that his second choice was handling explosives.
Both men also indicated they were willing to kill people they perceived to be enemies.
Deleon is a lawful permanent resident alien who was born in the Philippines, and Santana is a lawful permanent resident who was born in Mexico and has applied to become a US citizen, according to the FBI.
In September 2012, Deleon and Santana recruited Gojali, a US citizen, and the three men planned to travel overseas for training and to carry out attacks.
Santana and Deleon were taken into federal custody following their hearing in a US district court in Riverside, California, on Monday afternoon. Gojali's hearing will be continued on November 26. Kabir is in custody in Afghanistan, the FBI said. – Reuters