Oussama Kassir, a Lebanese-born Swedish citizen wanted in the U.S. on charges of plotting to set up a jihad training camp, was extradited Sept. 25 from the Czech Republic.
Kassir was arrested on Dec. 11, 2005, in Prague by Czech officials while flying from Stockholm to Beirut. The arrest was based on a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court that alleged Kassir conspired with Mustafa Kamel Mustafa (a/k/a Abu Hamza al-Masri), Haroon Rashid Aswat, and others, to establish a jihad training camp in Bly, Oregon. The camp was to provide Muslims with military-style training to fight jihad or to receive further jihad training in Afghanistan.
Al-Masri, a Muslim cleric who preached at the Finsbury Park in north London, was sentenced by a UK court to seven years in prison in Feb. 2006 for stirring up racial hate and inciting followers to kill non-Muslims.
Aswat, a British-born citizen of Indian descent is alleged to have masterminded the July 7 London bombings. Aswat, believed to be an al Qaeda operative, was arrested in Zambia in July 2005 and deported to Britain.
Both al-Masri and Aswat face extradition to the US on charges relating to setting up the training camp and providing aid to al Qaeda. Al-Masri is further charged with conspiracy relating to hostage taking in Yemen, facilitating violent jihad in Afghanistan, and supplying services to the Taliban.
According to a new indictment returned by a federal grand jury in New York on Sept. 25,
Al-Masri sent Kassir and Aswat to the US in late 1999 to set up the training camp in Oregon. In remarks at a news conference announcing Kassir's extradition, Michael Garcia, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleged that Kassir discussed hijacking trucks and killing the drivers to raise money to support the camp.
Kassir and Aswat left the US after spending two months in Oregon. Kassir allegedly complained that there were only a handful of men available to train and he was not going to waste his time on such a small number of individuals, a Department of Justice news release said.
The training camp was eventually abandoned.
Kassir, who is believed to have undertaken jihad training in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Lebanon, is also accused of setting up terrorist websites offering bomb and poison-making tips as well as information on the use of firearms. Kassir allegedly posted manuals such as "The Mujahideen Explosives Handbook" and "The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook" on the websites.
An alleged bin Laden supporter, Kassir bragged to a Seattle newspaper in Sept. 2002, "I love al Qaeda" and "I love Osama bin Laden." Kassir however denied that during his arraignment Sept. 25 at Manhattan Federal Court.
"I have nothing to do with al Qaeda," Kassir said.
He pleaded not guilty to all counts. He repeatedly spoke out during his arraignment, blurting out "Why does he lie?" as a federal prosecutor discussed the case. U.S. District Judge John Keenan told Kassir to keep quiet.
"You're in America now, in an American courtroom," the judge said. "You have to abide by American rules."
Kassir faces life imprisonment if convicted on all counts.