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Two US men admit planning terrorist killings abroad

04 march 2011, 14:14
0
Courtroom sketch by AFP
Courtroom sketch by AFP
Two Americans pleaded guilty Thursday to planning to join a terror network in Somalia and kill civilians as part of an effort to establish "Islamic law through violence," AFP qoutes the US Justice Department as saying.

Mohamed Hamoud Alessa, 21 and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, known as "Omar," 24, were arrested last June at John F Kennedy International Airport as they planned to fly out of the United States to Egypt and then travel on to Somalia to join the Shebab extremist group and murder "non-Muslims" and apostates.

They pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, to one count of conspiring to murder people outside the United States on behalf of a designated foreign terrorist organization, US Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement.

"Through covert recordings and their admissions today, Alessa's and Almonte's own words confirm they took steps down a deadly path," Fishman said.

"The defendants planned and trained for a mission that began in their New Jersey neighborhoods and would end with the murder of innocent civilians."

The pair engaged in games of "paintball" and computerized combat simulation to hone their skills, acquired night-vision optics, and pooled thousands of dollars for the trip, according to the statement.

"They also admitted that as part of their plan, Alessa and Almonte had traveled to Jordan in February 2007 and while there, inquired about opportunities to meet with groups committed to establishing Islamic law through violence," the Justice Department said.

The men aimed to join up with the Shebab in Somalia, where the group was engaged in deadly attacks, including on members of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and African Union soldiers.

But should their plan fail, they were clearly willing to launch attacks in the United States, according to the charge sheet.

"We'll start doing killing here, if I can't do it over there," Alessa told Almonte in November 2009, the charge sheet stated.

"My soul can not rest until I shed blood," he said, in one of several conversations recorded by an undercover agent.

"I wanna, like, be the world's known terrorist... I swear to God."

Alessa was born in the United States, and Almonte is a naturalized American born in the Dominican Republic. The Justice Department said they were from the New Jersey towns of North Bergen and Elmwood Park.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, but with the defendants' guilty pleas, the government agreed to request a sentence of 15 to 30 years. Sentencing is June 20.

Almonte's attorney, James Patton, said the date could be pushed back as lawyers and the court analyze the tapes made during the investigation.

"There will most likely be psychiatric analysis relating to susceptibility of young people to the situation, being influenced by suggestion," he added.

Dozens of young Americans from immigrant families, particularly Somali families, are believed to have left the United States since 2007 to fight for Islamist militia in Somalia, the Justice Department has said.

Many were recruited at a mosque in the US city of Minneapolis, where a vibrant Somali community exists, to fight in Somalia's bitter civil war, and officials say several have died in the fighting.

By Michael Mathes

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