November 2003 News

Jihadis wanting to fight in Kashmir get jail terms

8 November 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent

WASHINGTON: Three members of Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba, accused of a scheme to engage in 'jihad' against Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been sentenced by a US court to prison terms ranging from three to 11 years following guilty pleas in August to conspiracy and weapons charges. US District Judge Leonie M Brinkema in Alexandria yesterday sentenced Vong Ki Kwon, 27, a naturalised US citizen of Fairfax, Khwaja Mahmood Hasan, 27, a Pakistani-born US citizen who lived in Alexandria, and Donald T Surratt, 30, a former US soldier of Suitland. The three men were among 11 named in a 41- count indictment handed up in June in a conspiracy to 'prepare for and engage in violent jihad' against foreign targets. Nine of the 11 were identified as US citizens. Hasan and Kwon could have received life sentences, while Surratt faced up to 15 years. All three have agreed to cooperate with authorities in the Government’s ongoing investigation. U.S. Attorney Paul J Mcnulty said the men were members of an extremist Muslim group Lashkar-e-Toiba, listed by the State department in 2001 as a terrorist organization. He said they 'secretly plotted in this community and perversely planned and travelled to camps in Pakistan' to carry out the scheme. The indictment said the men conspired and trained at shooting ranges and other locations in Maryland and Virginia with AK-47 assault rifles, other military weapons and equipment from early 2000 through May for possible military action in Jammu and Kashmir. Other training, including military tactics, also took place in St Louis and at the Quantico marine corps base in Prince William county. Three of the men, including Surratt, are former U S Military personnel who reportedly assisted in training the others. At least a dozen homes were searched in raids during the arrests and FBI agents confiscated an assortment of weapons, ammunition and high-powered scopes, along with several unidentified documents. Authorities said there was no specific information the men planned any attacks in the United States, although the indictment noted they had 'an intent to serve in armed hostility against the United States' and that one had an internet photo of the FBI headquarters building in Washington. Search warrants in the probe sought 'materials relating to any kind of military-style training, jihad, violence against the United States, support of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and-or any other terrorist group.' They also authorised the seizure of literature concerning Lashkar-e-Toiba. Others indicted and pleading not guilty were Randall T Royer, 30, of Falls Church; Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Hamdi of Alexandria; Masoud Ahmad Khan, 31, of Gaithersburg; Hammad Abdur- Raheem, 35, of Falls Church; Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, 29, of Arlington; Sabri Benkhala, 28; and Seifullah Chapman, 30, also of Alexandria. Another man, Mohammed Aatique, 30, of Norristown, PA., pleaded guilty in September and is awaiting sentencing. Lashkar-e- Toiba, prosecutors said, is the armed wing of the Pakistan-based religious organisation Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad, a Sunni anti-US missionary organisation formed in 1989 and led by Abdul Wahid Kashmiri. All three apologised for supporting what the Government said were terrorist missions abroad. Yong Ki Kwon received the longest sentence,111-2 years, because of what prosecutors and a Federal judge called his larger role in the conspiracy. Khwaja Mahmood Hasan was sentenced to 11 years and three months. Donald T Surratt, described by prosecutors as 'less culpable,' will go to jail for just less than four years. 'In the Government’s view, this is an offense of people who were going to fight against US forces overseas,' Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in court. 'This is a serious offense.' The sentencing was another milestone in the high-profile case that the Justice department has billed as a key step in the war on terrorism. Authorities originally charged 11 men in June with weapons counts and with training with Lashkar-e-Toiba. (PTI)


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