The wife of a Virginia man who allegedly attempted to travel to Somalia to join the terrorist group Al Shabaab has pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal authorities.
Proscovia Kampire Nzabanita, 26, a Ugandan woman living in Virginia, pleaded guilty to making a false statement about her husband's case to federal authorities on November 8, 2010. She was charged with this offense on October 18, the same day her husband Zachary Chesser was charged with communicating threats and soliciting crimes of violence. Chesser was previously charged with providing material support to Al Shabaab in July.
According to the plea deal, Nzabanita lied to authorities about her husband's plan to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabaab in July. She further admitted that they previously planned to travel to Somalia together in November 2009, but her mother withheld her passport from her. The plea agreement requires that Nzabanita relinquish her legal status and leave the United States within 120 days.
Prior to his arrest, Chesser distributed a wide range of terrorist propaganda online and was the focus of national attention after he threatened the creators of South Park for satirizing issues surrounding the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. Like her husband, Nzabanita has an extensive online footprint that dates back as early as December 2008 – before they were married – when she posted comments on Anwar al-Awlaki's now-defunct blog. Not only did she use Awlaki's blog to explore issues surrounding how to be a woman and still fulfill the obligation of "jihad," but she also communicated with Chesser about various related issues.
In January 2009, Chesser responded to one of Nzabanita's post about how a woman should participate in the movement. "If our community in the West had more sisters like you subhanallah we would be blessed mash'allah. I always thought if I made Hijra I would find a wife later, because of a lack of sympathy toward Al-Mujahideen, but perhaps there are more here than I though [sic]," he said, foreshadowing the fact that she would soon become his wife.
Nzabanita also posted messages to Awlaki's blog encouraging Muslims to participate in holy war: "muslimoon [Muslims] get it together!" she wrote in December 2008. "Its pretty clear muslimoon, anyone who thinks jhd [jihad] is not fard [mandatory] is stil sleeping [sic]."
After she married Chesser in early 2009, her commentary focused more on encouraging women to support their husbands' efforts to fight with the mujahideen. She also provided advice for women whose husbands died as "shuhada" [martyrs]. In February 2010, she posted a link on her Facebook profile to a video her husband posted on YouTube titled "Advice from the wife of a martyr in sha'a Allah." In response to the video, Nzabanita wrote. "…i see these sisters living their life in happiness no debts/ bills to pay and e.t.c… may Allah awj make us among the shuhada."
Nzabanita also helped spread Chesser's online materials, including his materials about South Park, which she reposted on various social networking sites and forums. In addition, she posted her own commentary on the controversy, including one post on Facebook saying "may Allah awj humiliate them THE SOUTH PARK CREATURES..."
Like Chesser, Nzabanita used a variety of social networking sites and Islamic message boards to distribute terrorist propaganda and communicate with other like-minded women. On her YouTube page, she posted that she is currently in school at the "university of al qaeda" and her mission was to "bring back the khilafa," or an Islamic Caliphate. She also used social networking sites to organize meetings at her home with other women in the Virginia area to discuss Islam.