Six Men Indicted On Charges Of Pursuing Terrorist ActivityBy Douglas Farah and Tom Jackman
THE WASHINGTON POST -- Authorities in two cities Wednesday charged a total of six men with conspiring to support international terrorism, calling one group in the Detroit area a “sleeper operational combat cell” of radical Muslims that was helping to plot attacks in the United States, Turkey and Jordan.
In an indictment of five Detroit men handed up by a federal grand jury, prosecutors alleged that four suspects “operated as a covert underground support unit for terrorist attacks.” The cell, part of an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, was responsible for procuring false passports, Social Security numbers and other documents so their “brothers” could enter the United States.
The indictment says the men were specifically tasked with buying weapons and finding security breaches at Detroit Metropolitan Airport to “directly access airlines.” Two of the suspects worked in the kitchen of an airline catering firm at the airport during the summer of 2001.
Seized in a Sept. 17 raid on the Detroit apartment where three of the men lived was a videotape “that appears to depict surveillance” of U.S. landmarks, including Disneyland and the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. Several of the men have been in custody ever since, but authorities Wednesday alleged the extent of the plot for the first time.
An FBI spokeswoman said that the indictment represents the first time that anyone has been publicly accused of being part of an active “sleeper cell” in the United States.
Authorities have made several other arrests since the Sept. 11 attacks of people they accuse of cooperating with terror groups, including American citizen Jose Padilla, who they allege was part of a plot to detonate a radioactive bomb in the United States. But the Detroit indictment describes some of the most extensive efforts to date in the United States to aid the al-Qaeda network.
In an unrelated indictment handed up Wednesday in Seattle, prosecutors charged 36-year-old James Ujaama with attempting to set up an al-Qaeda training camp at a farm in Bly, Ore., where he and others hoped to prepare future terrorists for “global violent jihad.”
According to the indictment, Ujaama and others traveled in October, 1999 from Seattle to Bly, where they took firearms practice. After visiting the property, Ujaama faxed a proposal to Abu Hamza al-Masri, a militant Muslim cleric in London, describing the location’s benefits, including its availability as a safehouse location and suitability for weapons storage, the indictment alleges.
Ujaama is also accused of designing web sites for al-Masri advocating violent jihad against America. Al-Masri has been formally designated a terrorist by the U.S. government and linked to such incidents as the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors in an attack that the U.S. government blames on al-Qaeda. But al Masri has not been charged.
The two-count indictment alleges Ujaama provided “training, facilities, computer services, safehouses and personnel” to al-Qaeda as part of a conspiracy.
Ujaama, a Denver native who is being held in Alexandria, Va., as a material witness, issued a statement Tuesday night saying he is “innocent of any wrongdoing and ... fully prepared to face my accusers and defend myself in a court of law.”