PORTLAND, Ore. – Two brothers who were among seven people accused of aiding terrorists pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to help Al Qaeda (search) and the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan.
Ahmed Bilal, 25, and his brother, Muhammad Bilal, 23, appeared before U.S. District Judge Robert Jones to formally enter their pleas. Jones had announced the plea agreement Wednesday.
The Portland brothers also pleaded guilty to firearms charges in exchange for having the main charge of conspiracy to levy war against the United States dismissed.
In the plea deal, Ahmed Bilal (search) agreed to a prison term of 10 to 14 years, while his younger brother agreed to eight to 14 years. Jones did not set a sentencing date.
The brothers had been accused of traveling to China with four other men shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in a failed attempt to enter Afghanistan and fight with the Taliban (search).
In the plea agreement, the brothers admitted they "were prepared to take up arms and die as martyrs if necessary to defend the Taliban government in Afghanistan."
The agreement also noted the brothers began training in summer 2001, in advance of the September attack, "in order to prepare themselves to fight a violent jihad in Afghanistan or in another location at some point in the future."
The agreement also said another of the seven defendants, Habis al-Saoub, was chosen as "the 'Emir' or leader of the group because of his past experience as a mujahid fighter against the Russian army in Afghanistan."
Al-Saoub has been a fugitive since the charges were first filed last year.
"Their initial plan was to get to Peshawar, Pakistan, through any route possible. At one point, defendant al-Saoub told them that once they got to their destinations, the group would be split up and they would be assigned to different locations," the plea agreement said.
The deal came less than a week after Attorney General John Ashcroft (search) asked Jones to prevent the Portland defendants from viewing evidence used to obtain secret warrants that allowed the FBI to intercept conversations and bug the home of at least one of the seven defendants.
Ashcroft cited national security concerns. The defense said it wanted to review the evidence before deciding whether to challenge the warrants on constitutional grounds.
One other Portland defendant has pleaded guilty, and the remaining three pleaded innocent. A pretrial hearing is set for Oct. 1.