- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

Federal authorities said they had "neutralized a suspected terrorist cell within our borders" in announcing the indictment yesterday of six persons in a conspiracy to join al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban forces fighting against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Named in indictments handed up in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., five of the terrorist suspects are U.S. citizens one a former U.S. Army reservist. Four were in custody yesterday, and two are fugitives and remain overseas. All six are former Portland residents.
"Today is a day of justice for the citizens, the soldiers and law enforcement officers who defend our nation and our values, and defend them each and every day," Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a Justice Department press conference.
"It is a day both of victory and a day of resolve, of well-deserved thanks for a job well done, coupled with a rededication to the job that lies ahead," he said.
One of the conspirator suspects, identified as Jeffrey Leon Battle, 32, joined the Army Reserve to get training in tactics and weapons obtaining an administrative discharge in January while in Bangladesh and intended to use his Army training against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Mr. Ashcroft said.
Also indicted were Patrice Lumumba Ford, 31; Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, 24; Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, 22; Habis Abdullah al Saoub, 37, a Jordanian; and October Martinique Lewis, 25, Mr. Battle's ex-wife.
The five men are charged with conspiracy to levy war against the United States, conspiracy to provide material support to foreign terrorists, conspiracy to contribute services to the al Qaeda network and the former Taliban regime, and possession of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence. If convicted on all four counts, they face life in prison.
Mrs. Lewis is accused of wiring cash to her ex-husband to aid in the conspiracy.
Mr. Ashcroft said the indictments were issued on what he called a "defining day in America's war against terrorism."
In addition to the Oregon indictments yesterday, Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges, and shoe-bomber Richard C. Reid pleaded guilty to trying to kill 194 persons on a commercial jetliner, admitting in open court that he was an al Qaeda terrorist.
"Over one year ago, we pledged to expend every effort and devote every available resource to intercept terrorists and defend our nation. And in the words of President Bush, we will not relent until justice is done and our nation is secure. The president was right, and we will continue to work to achieve these objectives," Mr. Ashcroft said.
The Oregon indictment said that after the September 11 attacks on America, Mr. Battle and the other men acquired various firearms and engaged in weapons and physical training in preparation to join al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
It said they purchased airline tickets to Hong Kong with the intent of traveling to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan by way of China and Pakistan, but that Mr. Battle told his ex-wife on Nov. 2 that the group had encountered difficulties crossing the border of China into Afghanistan.
The indictment said that on eight occasions, Mrs. Lewis wired $2,800 to Mr. Battle knowing that it was to be used to support his attempt to reach Afghanistan to fight with Taliban and al Qaeda forces. It said the men were unable to enter Pakistan and that three of them Mr. Battle, Mr. Ford and Muhammad Bilal returned to the United States in late 2001 and early 2002.
Mr. Battle, Mr. Ford and Mrs. Lewis are in custody in Portland. Muhammad Bilal was arrested in Detroit, where he was ordered held yesterday without bond after a brief court hearing pending his extradition to Oregon to face the charges.
"Today's case is a textbook example of the central role that cooperation with local, state and federal enforcement officials plays in the prevention of terrorist attacks," Mr. Ashcroft said.
He said that in December 2001, Portland authorities were contacted by Skamania County, Wash., Sheriff Charles Bryan, who recognized one of the defendants from news reports of an Oregon criminal case with possible terrorist links.
Mr. Ashcroft said one of Sheriff Bryan's deputies, Mark Mercer, had come upon the defendant among a group of people shooting weapons while trespassing on private land. The information provided by Sheriff Bryan and Deputy Mercer "helped lead Oregon authorities to the individuals arrested today," Mr. Ashcroft said.
The attorney general noted that yesterday's indictments followed the capture last month in Buffalo, N.Y., of six persons charged with aiding terrorism. With the Oregon arrests, he said the government has charged more than 17 persons since Aug. 28 in the terrorism investigation.

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