- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

FBI agents in California have arrested a father and son on charges of lying to federal agents about the son’s training at an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan, where would-be terrorists pasted photos of high-ranking U.S. political figures, including President Bush, on targets to learn to kill Americans.

Hamid Hayat, 23, and his father, Umer Hayat, 45, both U.S. citizens and residents of Lodi, Calif., were taken into custody over the weekend by FBI agents in Sacramento, Calif., after interviews and a polygraph examination.

An FBI affidavit said Hamid Hayat admitted attending an al Qaeda training camp in 2003 and 2004, and the trainees were being taught to target “hospitals and large food stores” in the United States.

The arrests, along with the related detention of two Muslim leaders in Lodi on immigration violations, are part of an ongoing FBI investigation into a possible network of al Qaeda supporters seeking to establish a cell operation in the Lodi area — about 40 miles south of Sacramento, law-enforcement authorities said.

The authorities also have confirmed that Islamic radicals are being trained at terrorist camps in Pakistan as part of a conspiracy to send hundreds of operatives to “sleeper cells” in the United States. They said dozens of Islamic extremists already have been routed through Europe and Asia to Muslim communities in this country, based on secret intelligence data and information from terrorists and others detained by U.S. authorities.

Numerous records, computer documents and other items were seized in a search of the Hayat residence and from the homes of the two Islamic leaders, identified as Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammed Adil Khan, imams at the Farooqia Islamic Center in Lodi.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Dean Boyd said Mr. Khan and Mr. Ahmed face a hearing on “administrative immigration violations, for violating their religious worker visas.” No date has yet been set.

Authorities yesterday declined to comment on what items had been seized by agents or why.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski denied a bail request for Umer Hayat, a native of Pakistan, saying he was a flight risk and a danger to the community. Umer Hayat’s attorney, Johnny Griffin III, called the accusations “shocking,” noting that his client “is charged with nothing more than lying to an agent.”

Hamid Hayat’s attorney was not in court. A bail hearing in his case was set for tomorrow.

During FBI interviews on Friday, Hamid Hayat — who was born in California — initially denied any involvement in the terrorist training, the affidavit said, saying he “would never be involved with anything related to terrorism.” He changed his story after a polygraph examination.

“Camp attendees were given the opportunity to choose the country in which to carry out their jihadi mission including the United States, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir and other countries,” said FBI Agent Pedro T. Aguilar in the affidavit. “Hamid advised that he specifically requested to come to the United States to carry out his jihadi mission.”

The elder Hayat was arrested on charges of lying about his son’s involvement in the camp when initially questioned by the FBI and about money he sent for the training. Both are being held at the Sacramento County Jail.

Al Qaeda sleeper cells, according to the FBI and other federal authorities, are financed in part by millions of dollars solicited by an extensive network of bogus charities and foundations and the cell members use Muslim communities as cover and places to raise cash and recruit sympathizers.

The September 2002 arrest of seven members of a terrorist cell in Lackawanna, N.Y., just south of Buffalo, N.Y., was a first major clue to their existence. Since then, federal authorities have disrupted more than 150 terrorist cells and threats from Lackawanna to Portland, Ore., incapacitating more than 3,000 known operatives.

Mr. Bush was briefed on the Lodi arrests and said during an interview on Fox News the government was following up leads in the case.

“The best way to protect America is to keep on the offense and bust up these terrorist networks overseas by doing two things: one, committing our troops and intelligence services to the task, and also spreading freedom,” he said.

The FBI affidavit said agents in Sacramento learned Hamid Hayat was attempting to re-enter the United States on a flight from South Korea, scheduled to arrive May 29 at San Francisco International Airport. It said that while in flight, agents determined Hamid Hayat was on the “no fly” list and the aircraft was diverted to Japan for refueling.

While in Japan, according to the affidavit, Hamid Hayat was interviewed by an FBI agent and denied having any connection to terrorism or terrorist activities, but — based on his statements — approval was given to downgrade him from the “no fly” list to the “selectee list,” so he could continue his planned travel to the United States.

There was no information yesterday why Hamid Hayat was on the “no fly” list, whether agents were on the plane from South Korea or the diverted flight from Japan, or whether authorities allowed him to continue to the United States so he could be arrested. U.S. immigration records show he left the U.S. in April 2003 for Islamabad, Pakistan.

The affidavit said Umer Hayat was shown a videotape of his son’s confession and then confirmed the younger Hayat had attended a training camp in Pakistan, he had paid for his flight and provided him with an allowance of $100 a month.

According to the affidavit, Umer Hayat said his son was first interested in attending a training camp during his teenage years, being influenced by a classmate at a religious school he attended in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It said Umer Hayat said his son also was influenced by an uncle who fought with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

The affidavit said the religious school was operated by Hamid Hayat’s grandfather, and Umer Hayat’s father-in-law, Qazi Saeed Ur Rehman, who sends students to training camps in Pakistan. After completing the school, the affidavit said Hamid Hayat went to the Tamal training camp near Rawalpindi, Pakistan, run by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, long suspected of running terrorist training camps.

Rehman is believed to be Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a Hezbi mujahedeen, who vowed revenge against the United States in 1998 after U.S. cruise missiles hit a training camp he operated in Pakistan in an attempt to kill al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

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