FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
DEFENDANTS CONVICTED IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA ‘JIHAD’ TRIAL
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty of the Eastern District of Virginia announced today the conviction of three men in the so-called Virginia Jihad case, on charges including conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to provide material support to the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia handed down the convictions against Masoud Khan, Hammad Abdur-Raheem and Seifullah Chapman. Khan was convicted of eight charges: conspiracy to levy war against the United States; conspiracy; providing support to the Taliban; conspiracy to provide support to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET); firearms conspiracy; and three counts of use of firearms in connection with a crime of violence. Hammad Abdur-Raheem was convicted three counts: conspiring to provide material support to LET, conspiracy and firearms conspiracy. Chapman was found guilty on five counts: conspiring to provide material support to LET, conspiracy, firearms conspiracy, possession of firearms in connection with a crime of violence and use of a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.
The defendants face sentences of up to life in prison. Sentencing for Khan and Abdur-Raheem is scheduled for June 4, 2004. Chapman is to be sentenced on June 11, 2004.
“These convictions are a stark reminder that terrorist organizations are active in the United States,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft. “We will not allow terrorist groups to exploit America’s freedoms for their murderous goals. We will not stand by as United States citizens support terrorist causes.”
“This case is a significant step forward in securing our community and our country,” said U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty of the Eastern District of Virginia.
The defendants convicted today were associates of a violent Islamic extremist group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), which operates in Pakistan and Kashmir, and which has ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network. Lashkar-e-Taiba, or “Army of the Pure,” was founded in the mid-1980s to wage violent jihad in Afghanistan and India, and has espoused waging violent jihad against the United States, Britain, Russia and Israel. The LET was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in December 2001.
A total of 11 defendants had been charged in indictments relating to the Virginia Jihad case, including the 3 convicted today. Court documents entered as part of guilty pleas and evidence presented during the trial show that defendants Randall Royer and Ibrahim Al-Hamdi recruited the other men from the Washington, D.C. suburban area to train as mujahideen with the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. This training for violent jihad entailed training in the United States, and then at LET camps in Pakistan. As part of their preparation to undertake violent jihad, the organizers and recruits purchased weapons, including AK-47-style rifles, to develop familiarity and skills with the weapons used by mujahideen around the world. Over the next two years, the group trained at firing ranges in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and seven of the defendants traveled to Pakistan.
After the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, members of the Virginia Jihad network gathered in Northern Virginia and were told that it was time for them to engage in violent jihad. Within a week of the 9/11 attacks, four of the defendants traveled to Pakistan and joined LET operations there.
Six other defendants had pleaded guilty to charges prior to today’s verdicts:
- Khwaja Mahmood Hasan was sentenced to 135 months in prison for conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, and use of a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.
- Yong Ki Kwon was sentenced to 138 months in jail for conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, use of a firearm in connection with a crime of violence, and transferring a firearm for use in a crime of violence.
- Mohanned Aatique was sentenced to 126 months in jail for commencing an expedition against a friendly nation, and use and discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
- Donald Thomas Surratt received a sentence of 46 months in jail for conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, and transporting a firearm in interstate commerce with reason to know a felony would be committed with it.
- Al-Hamdi and Royer are scheduled to be sentenced April 9, 2004 on charges of using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony.
One other alleged member of the group, Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, was acquitted earlier this month. The trial of another defendant, Sabri Benkhala, begins on March 8, 2004.