- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Paintball guns and light armor are inadequate equipment for training soldiers to fight in combat with deadly weapons, a defense witness said yesterday in the trial of four Muslims charged with conspiracy and preparing to fight the United States.

“They are very different,” said Jessica Sparks, editor of Paintball magazine and the defense’s first witness.

She also told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria that paintball guns are only accurate to about 50 feet, compared with military rifles accurate at more than 100 yards.

The federal government contends that four Washington-area Muslim men used paintball games in Northern Virginia during 2000 and 2001 to learn battle tactics in preparation for fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

To show that paintball is more mainstream than covert, Ms. Sparks also said the equipment is available at most sporting-goods stores and at big retailers such as Wal-Mart.

She also identified photographs of two U.S. judges engaged in paintball games.

Ms. Sparks was called to testify in the middle of the prosecution’s case.

Prosecuting attorneys yesterday called Kwaja Mahmood Hasan, a 27-year-old associate of the men on trial. He testified about traveling with three other paintball players to Pakistan after the September 11 attacks to train with Lashkar-e-Taiba in preparation for an anticipated invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S. military.

Hasan, a graduate of Marymount University in Arlington, is one of six defendants who pleaded guilty in agreements with the prosecution. He said he hopes his testimony will reduce his sentence of 11 years in prison.

On trial are Masoud Ahmad Khan, 32, of Gaithersburg; Seifullah Chapman, 30, of Alexandria; Hammad Abdur-Raheem, and Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, no relation. Mr. Khan remains in jail and has appeared in court wearing green jailhouse coveralls. The others are free on bail.

Hasan yesterday said he was urged to go to Pakistan during a meeting Sept. 16, 2001. The urging came from Ali al-Timini, 39, an Islamic scholar and an official for the Center for Islamic Information and Education in Falls Church, he said.

During the meeting, American taxpayers were identified as “legitimate targets” and it was predicted that U.S. forces would retaliate with an attack on Afghanistan, Hasan testified.

“At that moment, I was happy,” said Hasan, who decided to travel to Pakistan, where he was born. However, Hasan said he renounced his anti-American stance when he returned from five weeks’ training in Pakistan.

The training with AK-47 rifles, handguns and rocket-propelled grenades reportedly took place on the top of a remote Ibn Masood mountain. Other Muslims training there were Mr. Khan and Yong Ki Kwan, 28, of Fairfax, Hasan said.

The trainees once hid for three or four hours on a mountainside while Pakistani intelligence officers searched the training camp for “foreigners,” Hasan said.

Hasan said he returned to America after he heard U.S. forces had nearly defeated the Taliban and leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had ceased calling for Muslims to aid Afghanistan.

“We started hearing reports from the BBC that the war was coming to a quick end,” Hasan testified, recalling his time at the mountaintop camp.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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