Tuesday, February 21, 2006

CLEVELAND - Three Muslim men from the Middle East were charged Tuesday with plotting terrorist attacks against U.S. and coalition troops i

CLEVELAND - Three Muslim men from the Middle East were charged Tuesday with plotting terrorist attacks against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and other countries.

Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, is accused of threatening in conversations to kill or injure Bush. He also is charged with distributing information about making and using bombs.

The others are Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 42, a U.S. citizen born in Jordan; and Wassim I. Mazloum, 24, who came to the United States from Lebanon in 2000.[snip]

El-Hindi is accused of trying to get a U.S. citizen with a military background to travel with him in 2004 to the Middle East as part of a plot to establish a terrorism training center. The indictment identifies the military person only as "the trainer."

The Justice Department said the trainer was working on behalf of the government.

This is what we have to be worried about in the future:

Mazloum operated a car business in Toledo with his brother. The indictment accuses him of offering to use his dealership as a cover for traveling to and from Iraq so that he could learn how to build small explosives using household materials.

I think this story is not quite right. More likely this man was planning to use the cars at his car lot and any attached garage in order to make one or many car bombs. If it happens there, it can happen here.

3 Charged With Planning Attacks in Iraq - Yahoo! News

Rueters has more:

"It was part of the conspiracy that one or more conspirators would recruit others to train for violent jihad against the United States and its allies in Iraq, and elsewhere, and would propose potential training sites for use in providing ongoing firearms, hand-to-hand combat, explosives and other paramilitary training to prospective recruits," the indictment said.

The men were arrested over the weekend and indicted in the U.S. District Court in Ohio.

Toledo has a fairly substantial Muslim population.

They worked with a U.S. citizen identified in the indictment only as "the Trainer." The indictment said the Trainer, who was not charged in the case, had a U.S. military background and was recruited by el-Hindi in 2002 to help provide security and bodyguard training.

U.S. Attorney Greg White said information about the three men came from the community. He said the Trainer was one source of the information.

In a Toledo Blade article about a radio host that said we weren't at war with "extremism" we were at war with "Islam", a Toledo community leader was quoted as saying:

Mr. Hammos denied that moderate Muslims would harbor terrorists.

"Even if somebody attends my mosque and, God forbid he's planning something against my country, I would be the first one to tell on him," he said.

Mr. Hammos said Muslim officials met recently with Department of Homeland Security officials, as well as law enforcement officials in Lucas and Wood counties and Cleveland, "to express some concerns about the area and the safety."

The Toledo Blade article was written October 2005.

Reuters continues:

As part of the conspiracy, the men researched and solicited potential funding sources for jihad training, the indictment said.

According to the AP, that "research" included attempting to get federal funding and grants, probably for religious training or education. What does not seem to be clear is whether these men had contacts in the Middle East that pushed them to take action, if they were part of a wider organization or movement or if they were individuals that simply congregated together, decided together to act and then made contacts in the Middle East to get info and coordinate personnel or travel. Left unsaid is whether they actually sent young men to the ME to fight jihad or simply "conspired" to do it. If an infiltrator was inside the group early enough, it may be that a number of young men went east and were scooped up by a sting operating from the other end.

Information on how to prepare for attacks and money were high on the list of items they were searching for:

Amawi was charged with downloading a video, "Martyrdom Operation Vest Preparation," on how to make a suicide bomb vest. He was also charged with two counts of making verbal threats against President George W. Bush.

The Toledo Blade has more about the local situation and other efforts the men made to participate in or support jihad:

The indictment spells out that the men began plotting their training in 2004. In August, Mr. Amawi and “the trainer” flew to Jordan with the alleged intent of delivering five laptop computers to “mujadieen ‘brothers.’ ”

State records show Mr. Mazloum registered two car dealerships — City Auto on North Reynolds Road and Ram Auto on Monroe Street.

Toledo is also the city where a charity, KindHearts, was recently shut down for providing funds to Hamas, the Palestinian organization that is on the US terrorist list. Though investigators say that the investigations are separate, according to the indictment against the three conspirators they had considered setting up a phony "not for profit" organization in order to collect and funnel money.

It's very likely that this operation was brought to an abrupt end due to the NSA surveillance program being outed in the NYT. According to deputy director of the FBI, Joe Pistle, "enhanced surveillance" was part of the operation. Considering that the investigation efforts appear to have gone on for over six months with the man already delivering "laptops" to the "mujihadeen brothers", which would have been plenty to take him and the others in for material support, it seems that investigators were trying to discover the other connections. The issue with warrantless wire taps may have forced them to roll up the investigation earlier than planned.

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