Americans Arrested for Plotting ‘Violent Jihad’ Abroad

Published on July 29, 2009, The New York Times

Category: Islamic Terror in Kosovo

By Robert Mackey

Federal agents arrested seven men in North Carolina on Monday and charged them with plotting to wage “violent jihad” outside the United States, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court in Raleigh, N.C. The full text of the indictment is embedded below.

The government charged Daniel Boyd, a 39-year-old American who traveled to Afghanistan two decades ago to fight the Soviet-backed government, with recruiting six young men, including two of his sons, to take part in a conspiracy “to advance violent jihad, including supporting and participating in terrorist activities abroad and committing acts of murder, kidnapping or maiming persons abroad.”

According to the indictment, members of the group practiced military tactics and the use of weapons in rural North Carolina, and traveled to Gaza, Israel, Jordan and Kosovo hoping “to engage in violent jihad.” The indictment also claims that an eighth member of the group, who is still at large, traveled to Pakistan for the same purpose.

A North Carolina newspaper, The News & Observer, reported on Monday night: “The charges are related to allegations that they helped raise money and provide training for terrorism operations in Tel Aviv, Israel.” The newspaper added “Federal officials will not say where the men are being held.”

The Justice Department identified two of the suspects as Mr. Boyd’s sons Zakariya Boyd, 20 and Dylan Boyd, 22. The others are Anes Subasic, 33; Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 22; Ziyad Yaghi, 21 and Hysen Sherifi, 24. All are American citizens except Mr. Sherifi, who is a native of Kosovo but a permanent legal resident of the United States. The Associated Press reports that “no attorneys for the men were listed in court records.” Mr. Boyd’s mother told The A.P. that she knew nothing about the case but that it “certainly sounds weird.” The father of Mr. Hassan declined to comment and family members of the other me were unable to be reached on Tuesday.

The Justice Department’s summary of the charges lays out several apparently unsuccessful efforts by members of the group to take part in attacks in other countries:

Among other acts, the indictment alleges that Daniel Boyd traveled to Gaza in March 2006 and attempted to enter Palestine in order to introduce his son to individuals who also believed that violent jihad was a personal religious obligation. Later, in October 2006, defendant Ziyad Yaghi allegedly departed the United States for Jordan to engage in violent jihad.

In June 2007, Daniel Boyd and several other defendants departed the United States for Israel in an effort to engage in violent jihad, but ultimately returned to the United States after failing in their efforts. According to the indictment, after his return to the United States, Daniel Boyd made false statements twice to federal officials about who he had planned to meet on his trip to Israel.

In February 2008, Daniel Boyd allegedly solicited money to fund the travel of additional individuals overseas to engage in violent jihad and in March 2008, discussed with Anes Subasic preparations to send two individuals abroad for this purpose. He allegedly accepted $500 in cash from defendant Hysen Sherifi to be used to help fund jihad overseas and later showed Sherifi how to operate an AK-47 assault weapon.

According to The News & Observer, one of Mr. Boyd’s neighbors, Charles Casale, said he was shocked by the arrest: “If he’s a terrorist, he’s the nicest terrorist I’ve ever met in my life.” The newspaper also reported:

To neighbors and friends, Daniel Boyd was a father who stopped his work at noon each day for prayer. Dylan Boyd, Daniel’s son, was a college student at N.C. State University who until last year worked as a clinical services technician at WakeMed Raleigh Campus. Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan was a newlywed; his father owns a Raleigh car dealership. [...]

A spokesman at the Islamic Center in Raleigh said he did not know the suspects; an estimated 1,200 people attend Friday services at the center. Hassan and Yaghi both attended Al-Iman School, which shares space with the Raleigh mosque, according to former teacher Samar Hindi. Most recently, Daniel Boyd had been attending Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman, a mosque in Durham.

David Kris, an assistant Attorney General, described Daniel Boyd as “a veteran of terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan who, over the past three years, has conspired with others in this country to recruit and help young men travel overseas in order to kill.”

Mr. Boyd’s history, as sketched out in the indictment, illustrates how complicated the American government’s relationship has been with Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan over time. Two decades ago, Mr. Boyd was reportedly a member of an Afghan-led faction that was then allied with the United States in the struggle against the Soviet-backed government.

According to The Associated Press:

In 1991, Boyd and his brother were convicted of bank robbery in Pakistan — accused of carrying identification showing they belonged to the radical Afghan guerrilla group, Hezb-e-Islami, or Party of Islam. They were each sentenced to have a foot and a hand cut off for the robbery, but the sentenced was later overturned.

The wives of the men told The Associated Press in an interview at the time they were glad the truth about their husbands had finally become known. The wives said the couples had U.S. roots but the United States was a country of “kafirs” — Arabic for heathens.

Hezb-e-Islami, or the Islamic Party, led by the Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was one of a number groups that the United States supplied with weapons during the time Mr. Boyd was in the region. The group still exists and is still led by Mr. Hekmatyar, but it is now allied with the Taliban against American-led forces in Afghanistan. Last month, my colleague Adam Ellick reported that Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan “is largely controlled by the Islamic Party.”

In an interview with The New York Times in 1988, Mr. Hekmatyar, described then as a “major recipient of covert American military assistance, whose aim is a ‘pure’ Islamic state,” complained, in English, that “there are people in America who are against our jihad.” In what might now be seen as a sign that the American alliance with Afghan holy warriors was inherently problematic, Mr. Hekmatyar told The Times in 1988 that he knew there were “people who support our struggle because they are against the Russians, not as an Islamic struggle.” He also explained that he had refused to accompany other leaders of the Islamic resistance who traveled to Washington to meet President Ronald Reagan in 1986, because “I was afraid America would compromise with Gorbachev over Afghanistan.”

While the shifting alliances in Afghanistan seem to have no relationship to the recent plots that Mr. Boyd was charged with facilitating, there was an interesting coincidence of timing. On Monday, the same day he was charged, The Guardian reported that Mr. Hekmatyar “has reportedly been approached with a deal by western intelligence agencies,” hoping to draw the Islamic Party back into a de facto alliance with the United States.

The A.P. reports that during Mr. Boyd’s trial in 1991, he accused the court of being insufficiently Islamic:

In 1991 in Pakistan, Daniel Boyd and his older brother denied they were guilty of stealing $3,200 from the bank. When the sentence was imposed, Boyd shouted: “This isn’t an Islamic court. It’s a court of infidels!”

When the brothers were arrested, they were accused of carrying identification showing they belonged to the radical Afghan guerrilla group, Hezb-e-Islami, or Party of Islam. They had become the first foreigners to be convicted and sentenced by special Islamic courts set up by the conservative federal government to impose speedy trials for so-called “heinous” crimes.

About a month later, when the brothers’ convictions were overturned, Daniel Boyd said, “The truth has finally come out.”

During Mr. Boyd’s trial in Pakistan, his wife, Sabrina, who is also American, was present, as were the two sons who were arrested with their father on Monday. At the time Zakariya was three and his brother Dylan, also known as Mohammed, was five.

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