WASHINGTON – Two men were charged Thursday with providing financial support to terrorists and recruiting terror group members, including one person identified by U.S. authorities as alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla (search).
A 10-count grand jury indictment handed up in federal district court in Miami charges Adhan Amin Hassoun (search) and Mohamed Hesham Youssef (search) with providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide support. Hassoun has been in custody on other charges in Florida since June 2003 and Youssef is jailed in Egypt on a terrorism conviction.
The indictment contends Hassoun helped recruit individuals from the United States for groups engaging in Islamic "jihad," or holy war, in countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Chechnya and Kosovo.
Attorney General John Ashcroft (search), who announced the charges at a news conference, said accusations against Hassoun and Youssef include a conversation in September 2000 in which they discussed supporting the travel of a U.S. citizen who had applied to attend a terrorist training camp in the Middle East. The citizen, who Ashcroft did not name, returned to the United States in May 2002.
Two federal law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity identified that person as Padilla, a U.S. citizen and alleged Al Qaeda member accused of plotting attacks in the United States. Padilla is being held in the United States as an enemy combatant.
Prosecutors have said Padilla attended the al Farouq training camp in Afghanistan between September and October 2000 using the name Abdullah al-Espani. Padilla was arrested in May 2002 after returning to Chicago, where he grew up.
The charges say Hassoun wrote a series of checks over several years to a number of organizations, including Muslim charities such as the Holy Land Foundation (search) and Global Relief Foundation (search), that prosecutors say was intended to finance terrorist activities. Holy Land and seven of its leaders have been charged with supporting the Hamas terror organization; Global Relief has been designated as a terrorism financier by the Treasury Department.
"This indictment alleges that an individual living here in the United States, enjoying all the freedoms that our society has to offer, was secretly plotting to support murder and terror being perpetrated by violent jihadists overseas," Ashcroft said.
Hassoun already had been charged with lying to federal agents about his activities, including use of coded language in discussing terrorist plans with Youssef and others. He also is charged with illegal possession of a 9mm pistol.
Hassoun and Youssef each face maximum penalties of 15 years on the material support and conspiracy charges. Hassoun also faces additional prison time on the other charges.
Padilla was arrested for an alleged plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States. The government now says he actually intended to fill apartments with natural gas and blow them up, though it's still unclear if the government will charge him with a crime.
Padilla obtained his U.S. passport in Miami in April 1996, and flew from Miami to Cairo in September 1998, according to federal prosecutors. After nearly 18 months in Egypt, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he met with a man that prosecutors have identified only as "The Recruiter," who helped him later travel to Afghanistan through Yemen.