Wednesday, June 04, 2008

American Al Qaeda Cut His Jihadi Teeth in Bosnia

A U.S.-born man who trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and fought in Bosnia in the 1990s pleaded guilty on Tuesday to plotting to bomb targets in the United States and Europe, the Justice Department said.

Christopher Paul, 44, entered his plea in U.S. district court in Columbus, Ohio and he agreed to serve 20 years in prison under terms of the deal.

Paul was born in Ohio as Paul Kenyatta Laws and converted to Islam while in college, the Columbus Dispatch reported. He grew a beard and addressed some friends in Arabic. New acquaintances were surprised to learn he was American.

Paul, known also by a string of aliases including Abdul Malek Kenyatta, was arrested in 2007 in Ohio on charges of conspiring to aid terrorists, conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and providing material support to terrorists.

He pleaded guilty to the second count and also acknowledged a three-page fact summary detailing his involvement with al Qaeda.

Paul trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in basic battle techniques, then joined the group and received advanced training in rappelling, explosives and military history.

In a statement of facts read during the hearing, Paul admitted that he traveled to Pakistan in the early 1990s to join the mujahedeen (Islamic fighters) and was trained by Al-Qaeda to fight in Afghanistan.

Upon his return to Ohio, Paul began recruiting "local individuals with extremist intentions in order to establish a jihadist group in Ohio," the US Justice Department said in a press release.

He used various passports and false identities to travel to the Balkans and fought in conflict zones such as Bosnia from 1993 through 1995.

Authorities searching Paul's home in Columbus found a master list of "terrorist contacts and bomb-making information" that he had created while in the Balkans, the summary said.

It said al Qaeda members in Europe in 1997 asked him to form a jihad group, which he trained around Columbus. He went to Germany in 1999 to meet members of a Islamic fundamentalist cell. Asked to provide explosives training, he agreed to help the group, which also intended to attack within the United States, the summary said.

From March 31, 1999 until January 31, 2000, Paul made 44 calls to an Islamic fundamentalist co-conspirator in Europe, who was arrested in 2003 and later convicted of a terrorist conspiracy, the statement said.

"Today's guilty plea brings an end to the long, dangerous career of Christopher Paul (who) ... conspired with others to target Americans both at home and abroad," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Rowan.

"His conviction demonstrates our continuing resolve to protect the American public against terrorism."

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