WASHINGTON – An American once accused of trying to set up a terror training camp in Oregon is being questioned about a man sought in the London bombings, U.S. officials said Friday.
James Ujaama (search), a Muslim convert from Seattle, was charged in 2002 with trying to set up a terrorist training camp for Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri (search). He pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for cooperating with terrorism investigations until 2013.
Three federal law enforcement officials said Ujaama is being questioned about Haroon Rashid Aswat (search), who also was implicated in the 1999 plan to establish a training camp in Bly, Ore. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
British authorities are looking into whether Aswat had been in close contact with the bombers just before the July 7 attacks. They have asked Pakistan to search for Aswat.
The officials did not say whether Ujaama has provided any useful information on Aswat, and Ujaama's lawyer, Peter Offenbecher, declined to comment.
Federal officials have said Ujaama's help was crucial in last year's indictment of al-Masri on charges that included trying to establish the Oregon camp. Al-Masri, formerly the head preacher at London's Finsbury Park mosque, also faces British charges of incitement to murder. He is being held in England.
Aswat is one of two al-Masri associates who are referred to but not named or charged in the 2002 indictment of Ujaama by a federal grand jury in Seattle, officials said. The other is Oussama Kassir (search), a Lebanese-born Swede, who was convicted of weapons violations in Sweden in 2003.
Aswat and Kassir traveled to the high desert area of Oregon in 1999 to check out property Ujaama identified as suitable for a training camp because it was on terrain comparable to Afghanistan's and could be used to store guns, ammunition and bunkers, the indictment said.
As emissaries of al-Masri, they flew to New York on an Air India flight, then traveled to Bly via Seattle, the indictment said.
Aswat and Kassir "inspected the proposed jihad training camp at the Bly property ... and they and others participated in firearms training and viewed a video recording on the subject of improvised poisons" in November and December 1999, it said.
The following February, the men lived in Seattle where they "expounded the writings and teachings" of al-Masri, the indictment said.