A Maryland teenager of Pakistani origin pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Mohammad Hassan Khalid, 18, was charged in October along with Algerian-born Ali Charaf Damache, aka "The blackflag" in connection with a scheme to support, recruit, and coordinate a terrorist cell to wage violent jihad in Europe.
"Today's plea, which involved a radicalized teen in Maryland who connected with like-minded individuals around the globe via the Internet, underscores the evolving nature of violent extremism today," Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a Justice Department press release.
Court records show that Khalid and Damache conspired with Colleen R. LaRose (also known as "Jihad Jane"), Jamie Paulin Ramirez, and others to develop "a violent jihad organization … divided into a planning team, a research team, an action team, a recruitment team, and a finance team, some of whom would travel to South Asia for explosives training and return to Europe to wage violent jihad."
LaRose pleaded guilty in February 2011 to plotting to kill a Swedish cartoonist and to recruiting people to wage terrorist attacks. She faces up to life in prison. Ramirez pleaded guilty the following month to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
In addition to recruiting jihadist online, Khalid and others also solicited funds for terrorists and recruited women who could use Western passports to travel to Europe in support of their jihadi objectives.
In a July 2009 electronic communication Damache suggested to Khalid that their group train "either with AQIM [Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb] or ISI [Islamic State of Iraq]" in their efforts to become "a professional organized team." Damache further instructed Khalid to recruit online "some brothers that can travel freely … with eu passports …. [A]nd i also need some sisters too." He also told Khalid that "sister fatima [Colleen LaRose] will be in charge of other sister care … [W] e have already organized everything for her…. [W]e are will[ing] to die in order to protect her no matter what the risk is."
According to the plea memorandum, Khalid sought money online to support terrorism on behalf of LaRose. He then helped delete her online posts espousing jihad after the FBI interviewed her. Khalid also sent an electronic questionnaire to a woman asking her about her beliefs and intentions about violent jihad. He forwarded the questionnaire to LaRose and asked her to confirm if her "brothers" are "REAL mujahids."
Khalid faces a maximum 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Damache is being held in Ireland where he is being prosecuted on a separate, unrelated charge.