Two American Muslims were sentenced Friday to 20 and 15 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in support of a Virginia-based conspiracy to engage in holy war against nations deemed hostile to Islam, including the United States.
The two men, Randall Todd Royer (search), 31, and Ibrahim al-Hamdi (search), 26, were among nine men who either pleaded guilty or were convicted of charges related to their participation in what prosecutors called a "Virginia jihad network (search)." Two others who faced charges were acquitted on all counts.
The group used paintball games played in the woods near Fredericksburg in 2000 and 2001 as military training in preparation for holy war around the globe. Aftert the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, some of the members turned their focus against the United States, traveling to Pakistan in the days after the attacks with the goal of joining the Taliban (search) and fighting U.S. troops.
Royer, a former spokesman for the Muslim American Society (search), was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to 20 years in prison for aiding and abetting use of a firearm in a crime of violence and aiding and abetting the carrying of an explosive during commission of a felony.
Royer, as part of a plea agreement, admitted helping other members of the conspiracy join up a militant Pakistani group called Lashkar-e-Taiba in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Three of the men who received Royer's assistance said they intended to train with Lashkar so they could fight for the Taliban, but several trained with Lashkar, which the U.S. government designated as a terrorist organization in December 2001.
No members of the conspiracy ever actually joined the Taliban.
Al-Hamdi pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and to carrying an explosive in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 15 years.
He admitted training with the Lashkar group in 2000 for the purpose of enhancing his ability to join in holy war in Chechnya and other spots where Muslims were waging jihad.
"Today's sentences demonstrate the severe penalties for aiding terrorist causes," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "We will not allow terrorist groups to exploit America's freedoms to pursue their deadly goals."
Three members of the group who were convicted at trial — Masoud Khan, Seifullah Chapman and Hammad Abdur-Raheem — will be sentenced in June. All three face a potential maximum sentence of life in prison, while Khan and Chapman are subject to mandatory minimum sentences of 90 and 35 years, respectively.