- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A suspected plot targeting military facilities, synagogues and other Los Angeles-area sites has highlighted what analysts say is a growing terrorist threat: homegrown American militants operating with little or no help from Islamic extremists abroad.

Four suspects were charged Wednesday with conspiring to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism. Named in the federal indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29.

All but Mr. Samana, a Pakistani national, are American-born Muslim converts. Counterterrorism officials have found no evidence directly connecting the group — described as the cell of a California prison gang of radical Muslims — to al Qaeda or other foreign terror networks.

Law-enforcement officials and terrorism analysts said the case could represent one of the first Islamic terrorism probes involving U.S. natives without those connections.

The plot’s suspected mastermind is James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, authorities said. Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned there for a previous robbery conviction.

Self-made groups in the United States can be more difficult to root out because they are smaller and have fewer financial resources to track, analysts said.

Since the September 11, 2001, terror strikes, an international dragnet has broken up training camps, disrupted finances and sent terrorist leaders underground, making it all the more difficult for al Qaeda to mount attacks.

Yet despite tougher border control, a radical ideology shared by the terrorist network continues to seep into the United States through propaganda distributed via the Internet, books, pamphlets, DVDs and the media — a “passive recruiting strategy,” according to terrorism analysts.

That’s helped transform al Qaeda into a movement with disciples acting without funding, expertise or guidance of foreign handlers.

“Al Qaeda can’t get their militants to the places they want to hit, so they rely on an ideology to gain converts who do it for them,” said professor Brian Levin, a terrorism researcher at California State University at San Bernardino.

In the Southern California case, prosecutors say cell members largely supported themselves.

Messrs. Washington, Patterson and Samana are accused of robbing gas stations to finance their plans to target military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al airport counter in the Los Angeles area. Mr. Patterson purchased a .223-caliber rifle. Mr. Samana underwent “firearms training and physical training” at a local park, according to the indictment.

They even conducted Internet research on potential targets and Jewish holidays — dates they planned the assaults to “maximize the number of casualties,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Samana’s attorney, Timothy Lannen, described his client in a statement saying “he did not intend at any time to commit violence against anyone.”

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