Houston Terror Suspect Admits to Weapons Training in Somalia
Updated: February 8, 2010
Posted: April 26, 2007
The first U.S. citizen to be charged with participating in terrorist activities in Somalia has been sentenced to ten years in prison for receiving training from a Somali-based terrorist organization.
On July 20, 2007, Daniel Joseph Maldonado (a.k.a. Daniel Aljughaifi), a 31-year-old Muslim convert, was sentenced in a Houston federal court to ten years in prison for receiving firearms and explosives training at an Islamic Courts Union (ICU) camp in Somalia. Three months earlier, Maldonado pleaded guilty to receiving training from the ICU, which has worked with Al Qaeda to train recruits to fight for an independent Islamic state in Somalia.
Maldonado was captured by the Kenyan military while trying to flee Somalia in January 2007 and was brought back to the U.S. the following month. According to the affidavit filed against him, Maldonado said he had "no problem" killing Americans or with the September 11 terror attacks.
Maldonado, who grew up in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, lived in Houston for four months in 2005 before moving to Cairo, Egypt. He posted comments about his Islamic journey on his blog and on the Islamic Network forum. By September 2005, he became a moderator on the site, with administrative privileges, and wrote a total of 478 posts. In one post, Maldonado complained about the conviction in an Austrian court of Holocaust denier David Irving, arguing that the world tolerates defamation against Islam, yet "…when it comes to the Jews! Oh, when it comes to the Jews....It's a different story!"
Through the Islamic Network forum, Maldonado became friends with Omar Hammami, an American citizen from Alabama who has since become the public face and voice of the Somali-based Al Shabaab terrorist organization. Maldonado and Hammami, who was also living in Egypt when he joined the forum in April 2006, planned to move their families to Somalia to live in an Islamic state. "Me and Omar talked about going and how it may be a security issue being that we are not Somali and we are bearded Muslims," Maldonado later wrote in a statement provided to federal authorities, "We also talked about possibly joining the jihad if we went."
In late 2006, Maldonado travelled to Somalia and received weapons, explosives and physical fitness training from the ICU, a network of Islamic militant tribes that controlled southern and central Somalia. At the time, one of the courts was led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on an American list of terrorism suspects for his affiliation an Al Qaeda-linked group, and another ICU leader, Adan Hashi Ayro, reportedly trained in Afghanistan.
While in Somalia, Maldonado allegedly called Tarek Mehanna, a U.S. citizen who Maldonado reportedly met at a Massachusetts mosque, and, using code words, urged Mehanna to join in fighting. Maldonado subsequently provided Mehanna, who was arrested in October 2009 for attempting to wage "violent jihad" against America, with detailed instructions on how to get to Somalia to join him.
During their first meeting, Maldonado and Mehanna watched a video showing the plight of the Muslims in Bosnia and Palestine, according to the affidavit filed against Mehanna. In later discussions about suicide bombings, the men expressed approval of the September 11 terrorist attacks and happiness about the death of Americans in Iraq. The indictment against Mehanna further alleges that the men discussed the religious justification for suicide bombing, the killing of civilians and the "glory of dying on the battlefield for Allah."