U.S. Marshals Service via The Courier-Journal, Associated Press
FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, an Iraqi living as a refugee in Bowling Green, Ky., is shown. Alawan, who has professed his innocence to terrorism-related charges of trying to funnel rifles, missiles and cash to al-Qaida operatives in his home country was scheduled to appear in federal court Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 in Bowling Green, Ky., in a change-of-plea hearing.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — An Iraqi man who had claimed he was innocent of terrorism-related charges did an abrupt about-face Friday, pleading guilty to trying to funnel weapons and cash to al-Qaida operatives in his home country.

Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, appeared in federal court in this south-central Kentucky college town and pleaded guilty to conspiring to attack American soldiers in Iraq and to use a weapon of mass destruction and to attempting to provide material support to terrorists.

Alwan was arrested in May in Bowling Green and had previously pleaded not guilty to charges in a 23-count indictment that also named fellow Iraqi Mohanad Shareef Hammadi.

Alwan's attorney declined comment after the hearing.

"Today in open court, Waad Alwan admitted to engaging in terrorist activities both here in the United States and in Iraq," U.S. Attorney David J. Hale said in a statement. "He acknowledged he had built and placed numerous improvised explosive devices (IEDs) aimed at killing and injuring American soldiers in Iraq, and he admitted that he tried to send numerous weapons from Kentucky to Iraq to be used against American soldiers."

Hale said the joint efforts of federal and local law enforcement had thwarted "the ongoing intentions of an experienced terrorist."

"The guilty plea today sends a strong message to anyone who would attempt similar crimes that they will face the same determined law enforcement and prosecution efforts," he said.