- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

The latest three of 11 men accused of plotting holy war in Virginia will be held in U.S. custody pending a bail hearing Thursday, a federal magistrate in Alexandria said yesterday.

The three, captured recently in Saudi Arabia, are named in a 41-count federal indictment accusing them of conspiring to “prepare for and engage in violent jihad” against foreign targets in Kashmir, the Philippines and Chechnya.

The men also are charged with illegal weapons possession and violations of the Neutrality Act, a federal law banning U.S. citizens from leaving the country to attack other countries with which the United States is at peace.

Eight others were named in the indictment, which was handed up last month by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Three of them have been released on bond and five remain in custody. All await trial in the fall.

Federal prosecutors said the men were hatching war plans they intended to carry out by traveling to camps in Pakistan. The men are accused of association with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that is fighting to drive India from Kashmir.

The disputed territory lies between largely Hindu India and largely Muslim Pakistan in the Himalayan mountain range of South Asia.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means “army of the righteous,” is the armed wing of the Pakistan-based religious organization Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad. The group has conducted numerous terrorist operations against Indian troops and civilian targets in Kashmir since 1993.

The indictment charges the men with training with AK-47 assault rifles at various shooting ranges in Maryland and Virginia. It also said they trained with paintball guns from early 2000 through May.

Although the men were not charged with planning attacks on the United States, the indictment said they had “an intent to serve in armed hostility against the United States.”

An attorney for one of the men called the case “shaky at best.”

Muslim-rights advocates also have raised questions about the State Department’s actions.

“I think that if you look into the dictionary next to the phrase ‘selective enforcement,’ I think this case leaps off the page,” said Stanley L. Cohen, a civil rights lawyer representing one of the suspects, Randall Todd Royer, 30, of Falls Church.

Mr. Cohen said the government is stretching the law by charging his client with violating the Neutrality Act, which has “seldom, if ever, been used.” He cited the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s as a historical example of Americans fighting in foreign country toward which the United States was neutral.

Mr. Royer was among the eight arrested last month. The seven others are Yemeni national Ibrahim Ahmed al-Hamdi of Alexandria; Masoud Ahmad Khan, 31, of Gaithersburg; naturalized U.S. citizen Yong Ki Kwon, 27, of Fairfax; Pakistani national Mohammed Aatique, 30, of Norristown, Pa.; Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 35, of Falls Church; Donald Thomas Surratt, 30, of Suitland; and Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, 29, of Arlington.

The latest three are Khwaja Mahmood Hasan, 27, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen who once lived in Alexandria; Sabri Benkhala, 28; and Seifullah Chapman, 30, also of Alexandria. All three waived their rights yesterday to a court-appointed public defender.

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