Two Chicago cousins received lengthy prison sentences from an Ohio federal judge Monday, after pleading guilty to providing material support to terrorists. Zubair and Khaleel Ahmed wanted to wage violent jihad against U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and traveled to Egypt in 2004 to try to make that happen.
Court documents reference Zubair and Khaleel Ahmed as "recruits" of Marwan El-Hindi. El-Hindi was sentenced in October 2009 in a separate, but related, case to 13 years in prison in a conspiracy to kill or maim persons outside the United States, including U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.
The Ahmeds' May 2004 trip to Cairo was done without the knowledge of their friends and family. They wanted to make contact with "mujahideen" for training before going to fight American troops. When Zubair Ahmed's father learned about it, he paid El Hindi and El Hindi's brother to go to Cairo to intercept the men.
The Ahmed cousins then went to a convention in Cleveland that July. There, El-Hindi introduced them to a government informant, identified in court documents as Darren Griffin or "the Trainer," Griffin posed as a former Special Forces soldier and "openly extremist convert to Islam." He taught Zubair and Khaleel how to use firearms and advised them on the type of weapon to use for their initial training exercises. Zubair Ahmed expressed his desire to learn to use a .50-calber machine gun.
Court documents further show that Zubair and Khaleel collected and distributed jihadist videos of attacks on U.S. military forces overseas, as well as military manuals on tactics and weapons training.
In trying to get to the war zone, the men communicated with Syed Haris Ahmed in Atlanta about meeting in Pakistan in order to try to carry out violent jihad against American troops in Afghanistan. The three used code words to discuss their jihadist plans. The term "third" was code for violent jihad and was repeatedly used in communications throughout the conspiracy. Syed Ahmed was sentenced to 13 years for providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist group, and attending Lashkar training camps.
In this case, Zubair Ahmed was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while Khaleel received an eight-year prison term.
The sentences were applauded by Steven M. Dettlebach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, who said: "These sentences send a strong message that we will aggressively go after those who would do harm to our servicemen and servicewomen."