- Associated Press - Sunday, December 23, 2012

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The terrorism case against an Alabama man accused of planning to wage violent jihad in Africa may hinge on just how well he knew a man on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist list.

Federal prosecutors portrayed Randy Wilson as an Islamic radical who wanted to reunite with Omar Hammami, an American who also grew up in Alabama but has since become one of the most well-known jihadists in Somalia. Mr. Wilson and another American who lived in Alabama for the last year, Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair, are accused of plotting to leave the country to join Islamic radicals fighting in North Africa.

The two men were arrested separately about two weeks ago in Georgia. Mr. Abukhdair was taken into custody at a bus station; Mr. Wilson was arrested as he was about to board a flight to Morocco.

Mr. Wilson’s attorney has described his client as a devout Muslim who was taking his family to Mauritania to study Islam, not wage jihad. Public defender Domingo Soto also said Mr. Wilson didn’t live with Mr. Hammami, 28, about a decade ago, as the FBI has said, and the attorney questioned how well the two knew each other.

FBI agent Tim Green confirmed in federal court earlier this month that the information in the charging affidavit that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Hammami were roommates was incorrect and he wasn’t sure where it came from.

It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Abukhdair has an attorney yet.

Mr. Wilson, 25, has a wife and two young children. He was known around his neighborhood in Mobile, along the Alabama coast, for his big yard sales. He was friendly and outgoing, neighbors said.

Court documents, interviews with acquaintances and a sworn statement by an FBI investigator paint a picture of Mr. Wilson’s troubled childhood.

Debra Lynn Weaver and Randy Lamar Wilson married in Mobile in 1986 and had Randy Jr. nine months later. Mr. Wilson’s father was arrested on drug charges in the first of a string of scrapes with the law, and his mother filed for divorce four months later, when the child was 1.

Mr. Wilson’s mother married an Egyptian man when Mr. Wilson was 5. She converted to Islam with the marriage, and her son eventually became Muslim, too.

Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, remembered first meeting Mr. Wilson when he was attending an Islamic school.

“I knew him as a Muslim as a young boy,” Mr. Taufique said. “He went by Randy and Rasheed.”

Mr. Soto said Mr. Wilson has never been in trouble. While attending a Muslim school in Birmingham, he was offered prestigious scholarships to study abroad at places including Saudi Arabia, Mr. Soto said.

Mr. Hammami was the president of the Muslim Student Association at the University of South Alabama, the FBI said.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he was quoted in a campus newspaper talking about the attacks.

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