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Terror suspect's group gained few recruits, prosecutors say

Associated Press
Published November 24, 2005

WASHINGTON - Jose Padilla was recruited into an Islamic terrorist support cell that sought money and fighters for violent struggles abroad, the government says in its indictment. However, in nine years the group raised less than $100,000 and recruited just a handful of people, including Padilla, according to federal prosecutors.

Held as a suspect in a "dirty bomb" plot for more than three years without charges, Padilla at one point in 2000 was headed to Chechnya, where rebels in the mostly Muslim region have been fighting the Russian government, the prosecutors say. Padilla was one of at least two American converts to Islam who agreed to fight overseas, they say.

Those details come from an FBI agent's affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint against two other men who have been charged in the same indictment: Kassem Daher, a Lebanese who has lived in Canada, and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, a Jordanian and U.S. citizen who was a former public school official in Detroit and Washington.

Five people have been charged in the alleged conspiracy to kill, kidnap and injure people abroad and provide material support to terrorists. The others purportedly in the cell are Adham Amin Hassoun, a Lebanese-born Palestinian who lived in Broward County, and Mohammed Hesham Youssef, an Egyptian who also lived in Broward County.

Hassoun and Jayyousi have denied the charges. Daher is believed to be in Lebanon and Youssef is in an Egyptian prison for an unrelated terrorism conviction.

The indictment was unsealed Tuesday in Miami and makes no reference to any specific terrorist act or killing.

Top Justice Department officials have described Padilla (pronounced puh-DILL-uh) as an al-Qaida-trained terrorist who plotted terror attacks in the United States. He remained in a Navy brig in South Carolina on Wednesday, awaiting transfer to Justice Department custody and a trip to a federal jail in Miami.

But the alleged plots and al-Qaida ties are not part of the indictment. In fact, despite the description of the group as a North American support cell, its achievements were rather modest, according to the government.

Hassoun, who worked as a computer programmer, wrote checks totaling $53,000 between 1994 and May 2002 to charities and individuals with ties to terrorism, the indictment says.

While the indictment gives no precise figure, it mentions promises and discussions of another $20,000.

The inclusion of the word "cell" in the latest indictment is inflammatory and inaccurate, Hassoun's lawyers said Wednesday.

"All of a sudden this word has surfaced to try to describe the appearance of some subversive terrorist activities. It certainly is not factually based," said Ken Swartz, one of the lawyers representing Hassoun.

The money raised was sent to Muslim charities doing humanitarian work in war-torn regions with significant Muslim populations, including Bosnia, Chechnya and Kosovo, Swartz said.

Some of those organizations, including the Global Relief Foundation, have since been designated by the government as terrorism financiers.

[Last modified November 24, 2005, 00:19:08]

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