FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, JANUARY 16, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
TWO DEFENDANTS IN VIRGINIA JIHAD CASE PLEAD GUILTY TO WEAPONS CHARGES, WILL COOPERATE WITH ONGOING INVESTIGATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty of the Eastern District of Virginia announced today that two defendants have pleaded guilty to weapons and explosives charges stemming from the investigation into a militant jihadist network in Northern Virginia that allegedly planned to train at terrorist camps abroad.
Randall Royer and Ibrahim Al-Hamdi entered their guilty pleas today before the Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema at U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia. Under the terms of their plea agreements, both Royer and Al-Hamdi are required to cooperate fully with the government in the prosecution of other individuals associated with the Virginia jihad network.
Royer, 30, pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information, charging him with using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and with carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Royer faces a total mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Al-Hamdi, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment charging possession of a firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence, and one count of a criminal information charging carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Al-Hamdi faces a total mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
“Our success in the war on terrorism depends on our ability to gain the cooperation of those who have information about the global terrorist network,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft. “Today’s pleas accomplish that goal and provide tough sentences for those who would join with and support our terrorist enemies.”
“The defendants have now admitted their guilt to serious crimes in furtherance of an international criminal conspiracy that carry a penalty of 20 and 15 years in prison,” stated U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty. “This is an important step forward in our continuing efforts to protect America.”
In his plea agreement, Royer admitted to aiding and abetting co-defendant Masoud Khan, Yong Ki Kwon, Muhammed Aatique, and Khwaja Mahmoud Hasan in gaining entry to a terrorist terrorist training camp in Pakistan operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba where they trained in the use of various weapons, including semi-automatic pistols. Royer also admitted to helping co-defendant Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Hamdi gain entry to the Lashkar-e-Taiba camp, where Al-Hamdi received training in the use of a rocket-propelled grenade in furtherance of a conspiracy to conduct military operations against India.
Royer acknowledged that he committed his efforts to help other jihadists gain entry to the Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp following a meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, at which an unindicted conspirator said that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, would be used as an excuse to trigger a global war against Islam, and that the time had come for them to go abroad and, if possible, join the mujahideen. Two other individuals attending that meeting, Yong Kwon and Khwaja Hasan, who previously pled guilty, stated that a purpose in going to the Lashkar-e-Taiba camp was to obtain military training for the purpose engaging in jihad elsewhere, including Afghanistan.
Al-Hamdi pleaded guilty to Count 20 of the government’s superseding indictment, charging him with possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and to a one-count criminal information charging him with carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. In his plea agreement, Al-Hamdi admitted to possessing a Saiga.308 caliber rifle with a telescopic sight and various ammunition, including tracer rounds, for the purpose of enhancing his ability to train for jihad in Chechnya, Kashmir, or other places outside of the United States. Al-Hamdi also admitted to carrying a rocket-propelled grenade in furtherance of a conspiracy to undertake a military operation against India.
The pleas by Royer and Al-Hamdi follow guilty pleas in the case in August and September 2003 by Donald Surratt, Muhammed Aatique, Yong Ki Kwon, and Khwaja Mahmoud Hasan, who were members of the same jihad network in Northern Virginia. Defendants Seifullah Chapman, Masoud Khan, Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, and Hammad Abdur-Raheem are scheduled to go on trial on Feb. 2, 2004. Defendant Sabri Benkhala, another alleged member of the jihad network, is scheduled to go on trial on March 2, 2004.
This case is being investigated by agents of the Washington Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Gordon D. Kromberg and David H. Laufman, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney John T. Gibbs are prosecuting the case for the United States.