Swede Charged in Oregon Terror Camp Plot
NEW YORK – A Lebanese-born Swede has been charged in a plot to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, prosecutors said.
A criminal complaint charging Oussama Kassir with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists was unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
The case relates to an indictment in Manhattan already charging Mustafa Kamel Mustafa and Haroon Aswat. Aswat and Mustafa, the radical London cleric also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, are being detained in England while awaiting extradition to the United States.
Kassir, 39, was arrested Sunday in the Czech Republic after a warrant was filed with Interpol, U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia said Tuesday. He remains detained in Prague as the United States pursues his extradition.
The complaint alleges that Kassir and others conspired to establish a training camp for holy war, or jihad, in Bly, Ore. According to the complaint, Kassir and others wanted to set up the camp to teach military-style methods so a community of Muslims could move to Afghanistan to fight or receive further training there.
Authorities in Oregon have said the camp never materialized beyond a dozen people taking target practice and was abandoned for unknown reasons.
The complaint refers to a letter faxed from one alleged conspirator to another saying that the Bly property was in a "pro-militia and firearms state" that "looks just like Afghanistan" and that the group was "stockpiling weapons and ammunition."
The complaint said that on Nov. 26, 1999, Kassir and another conspirator traveled from London to New York and then to Seattle and Bly to help with the training camp. Bly is an unincorporated town of a few hundred residents, 50 miles east of Klamath Falls.
Prosecutors said Kassir complained to a witness at Bly that there were only a few men available to train at the camp and that he was not going to waste his time with such a small number of men. Kassir also allegedly complained that the facilities and supplies were inadequate.
The government also said that a witness saw Kassir in possession of a compact disc with information about improvising poisons.
Kassir was detained Sunday at Prague's Ruzyne international airport and had been flying from Stockholm to Beirut, Prague police said.
"Supporters of terrorism must know that they should not feel safe in trying to hide overseas," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said in a statement. "We will work to bring these individuals to justice, however long it takes."
Kassir was born in Lebanon and moved to Sweden in 1984, becoming a Swedish citizen in 1989. He spent several months in prison in 1998 for assaulting a police officer and drug possession.
A Swedish court jailed Kassir for 10 months two years ago for illegal weapons possession.
Aswat was arrested in Zambia in July in connection with the deadly July 7 London subway bombings.
Mustafa has previously denied any involvement in violence and says he is only a spokesman for political causes. Mustafa's lawyers have argued that he will not receive a fair hearing in the United States because President Bush has prejudiced any trial by publicly calling him a terrorism supporter. They also say some American evidence against the preacher may have been obtained from tortured witnesses.
Mustafa has called the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks a Jewish plot and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a war on Islam. In 2003, the Charity Commission barred al-Masri from preaching at his London mosque, which has been linked to several terrorist suspects.