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Published: Friday, 1/16/2009

2 men plead guilty in local terror case

BLADE STAFF

Two Chicago men pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo to charges that they provided material support to terrorists and aimed to travel abroad in their quest to murder or maim U.S. military forces in Iraq or Afghanistan.

As a result of a binding agreement that led to the pleas, Zubair Ahmed, 29, could be sentenced to 10 to 10 1/2 years in federal prison, and Khaleel Ahmed, 28, could be sentenced to just under eight years to about 9 1/2 years in prison. They face a maximum fine of $250,000 each.

The men, who are cousins, pleaded guilty before

U.S. District Judge James G. Carr.

The actions yesterday supersede earlier charges to which they pleaded not guilty in December, 2007. They were arrested Feb. 21, 2007.

They had been slated to go on trial Feb. 9 and faced life in prison on the earlier charges.

William J. Edwards, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said: "These guilty pleas are testament to the hard work and dedication of all the federal, state, and local law enforcement officials who have spent years investigating this case and to the tireless efforts and perseverance of an extremely talented team of federal prosecutors who, with their law enforcement partners, keep this country safe from terrorists."

The charges against the Ahmeds were related to the cases involving Marwan El-Hindi, Mohammad Amawi, and Wassim Mazloum, who were found guilty in June by a federal jury.

Those men were convicted of conspiring to kill and maim people outside the United States and conspiring to provide material support. El-Hindi and Amawi also were convicted of dissemination of information about explosives.

Federal prosecutors said that the criminal conspiracy involving the Ahmeds had begun by April 1, 2004, and continued until they were arrested.

When the men traveled to Cairo in May, 2004, their intent was to engage "in acts that would result in the murder or maiming of U.S. military forces in Iraq or Afghanistan," authorities said in a statement.

They returned to the United States around July 4, 2004, and discussed training in counter-surveillance techniques and sniper rifles with a person in Cleveland.

The Ahmeds disguised their plans by communicating with each other in code words and in a foreign language, and that was part of the conspiracy, authorities said.

The men researched firearms purchases, visited a firing range, and sought instruction in gunsmithing. They also collected and distributed videos of attacks on U.S. military forces overseas, manuals on military tactics, and military manuals on weaponry.

"[The] guilty pleas should send a strong message to individuals who would use this country as a platform to plot attacks against U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan," Matthew Olsen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement. "This case also underscores the need for continued vigilance in identifying and dismantling extremist plots that develop within our nation."



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