An Ohio man accused of joining Al Qaeda in the early 1990s has pleaded guilty to planning terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe.
On June 3, 2008, Christopher Paul, 44, pleaded guilty in U.S. district court in Columbus, Ohio, to one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction in terrorist attacks. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide support to terrorists as part of a plea deal.
"Today's guilty plea brings an end to the long, dangerous career of Christopher Paul, an Ohio native who joined al Qaeda in the early 1990s, fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia and conspired with others to target Americans both at home and abroad," said Patrick Rowan, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
Paul faces a 20 year sentence, according to the agreement. He also agreed to affirm a three-page summary detailing his alleged involvement in Al Qaeda.
Paul was arrested by FBI agents outside of his Columbus apartment on April 11, 2007, after a four-year investigation, which spanned eight different countries on three continents, according to the FBI. Prior to his arrest, Paul taught martial arts at a Columbus mosque.
Paul allegedly plotted to target resorts in Europe and U.S. military bases overseas between April 1999 and January 2000, according to the indictment. During that time, Paul traveled to Germany to train co-conspirators to use explosives and sent a wire transfer of $1760 from the U.S. to an alleged co-conspirator in Germany, prosecutors allege.
Paul's alleged ties to Al Qaeda date back to the early 1990s when he traveled to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and later joined Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Paul was also accused of conducting training at Burr Oak State Park in Glouster, Ohio, in 1998 with several co-conspirators, the indictment states.
Paul, who converted to Islam in 1989, is the third Ohioan in five years to plead guilty to terrorist acts. According to court records, Paul is linked to Nuradin Abdi, a Somali man arrested in 2003 for a plot to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall. Abdi, who was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2007, listed Paul as a personal reference on a government employment application. Items seized from Paul's North Side apartment, including a laser range finder and a night vision scope, will be used as evidence against Abdi.
In addition to the laser range finder and night vision scope, authorities found a fax machine that contained names, phone numbers and contact information for key Al Qaeda leadership and associates during a search of Paul's residence. Paul allegedly also stored, among other things, a book on improvised land mines at his fathers' home.
Paul's former roommate, Iyman Faris, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for providing material support and resources to Al Qaeda in 2003. Faris admitted that he had plotted to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and a train in Washington, D.C. In March 2003, Faris told government agents that he, Paul and Abdi discussed blowing up a Columbus-area shopping mall.