Three men accused of supporting a group that allegedly planned to fight alongside a Pakistani terrorist group were sentenced on conspiracy and weapons charges by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on November 7, 2003.
Donald Surratt, of Maryland, formerly a U.S. Marine Corps instructor, received a nearly four year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy and gun charges in connection with a group that prosecutors called a "Virginia jihad network." Khwaja Mahmood Hasan and Yong Ki Kwon, both of Fairfax, Virginia, were sentenced to over eleven years in federal prison. They were members of a group that visited a terrorist training camp in Pakistan after September 11, 2001. All three pleaded guilty on August 25, 2003.
The sentences handed down by the District Court are the first since a federal grand jury charged 11 men with conspiracy to fight with the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, which is designated as a foreign terrorist group by the U.S. government. Tayyaba has focused its terrorist activity on removing India from the disputed region of Kashmir, located on the border with Pakistan.
U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty described the defendants as "American citizens" who "allegedly met, plotted and recruited for violent jihad." Nine of the eleven defendants are U.S. citizens. According to the initial indictment, which was released in June, the men purchased weapons and ammunition and trained with them at local firing ranges. They also trained by gathering for paintball games in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.
On September 22, 2003, a fourth defendant, Muhammed Aatique, of Norristown, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to helping other defendants "in preparing for and beginning a military expedition to be carried out from the United States against India," according to the plea agreement.
The seven other defendants were indicted on additional charges in September. Two of the defendants, Ismail Royer and Masoud Khan, face charges of conspiracy to wage war against the U.S. and conspiracy to provide material support to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
The other men facing charges, including violations of the Neutrality Act, are Seifullah Chapman, Hammad Abdur-Raheem, Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, Sabri Benkhala and Ibrahim al-Hamdi, the son of a Yemini diplomat, who has already pleaded guilty to possession of a semi-automatic weapon.