TOLEDO, Ohio – Two cousins from the Chicago area accused of training to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq pleaded guilty to terrorism charges Thursday, federal prosecutors said.
The two were part of a plot organized by three men living in Toledo who were convicted last year of recruiting terrorists and raising money to fund their plans to wage a holy war against U.S. troops, prosecutors said.
The two cousins received training in firearms and counter-surveillance so they could join the insurgency, prosecutors said.
Khaleel Ahmed, 28, of Chicago and Zubair Ahmed, 28, of suburban North Chicago both pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. Messages seeking comment were left with attorneys for both men.
The two men were arrested in February, months after the three men in Ohio were accused of plotting attacks.
Prosecutors said Marwan El-Hindi of Toledo recruited the cousins in 2004 to join his cell in Toledo. They all met at a Muslim convention in Cleveland with a former U.S. military man who worked undercover and helped foil the plot, prosecutors said.
Over the next year, the men talked more about training in explosives, guns and sniper tactics, U.S. Justice Department attorneys said.
During the trial of the three Ohio men, the military veteran who secretly taped conversations with the men testified that they talked several times about the two from Chicago.
According to recordings heard in court, El-Hindi said the two cousins were eager to receive "jihad training."
But he also said the two were naive and shouldn't go anywhere because they thought shooting guns was like playing a video game. "They are like kids," El-Hindi said. "They're like a piece of clay."
At one point during a conversation, the informant asked El-Hindi if he was recruiting for jihad.
"Oh no, I just want to take these two," El-Hindi answered, adding that he wanted to take care of them for their families.
El-Hindi, Mohammad Amawi, and Wassim Mazloum were convicted of conspiring to kill or maim people outside the United States and now face maximum sentences of life in prison.
Prosecutors also said that the cousins had traveled to Egypt in 2004 with plans to kill U.S. troops, but they were stopped and returned to the U.S.
Khaleel Ahmed was born in India and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2004. Zubair Ahmed was born in Chicago and is a U.S. citizen.