updated 3/4/2004 4:20:13 PM ET 2004-03-04T21:20:13

Three U.S. Muslims accused of undergoing paramilitary training in hope of joining up with the Taliban government of Afghanistan were convicted Thursday of conspiring to support terrorism.

Prosecutors said the three men were part of a "Virginia jihad network" that used paintball games in 2000 and 2001 to train for holy war around the globe. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the group allegedly focused efforts on defending the Taliban.

Masoud Khan, 34, of Gaithersburg, Md., was found guilty of the most serious charges, including conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to contribute services to the Taliban.

Seifullah Chapman, 31, of Alexandria, and Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 35, of Falls Church, Va., were also convicted on conspiracy counts.

“These convictions are a stark reminder that terrorist organizations are active in the United States,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said. “We will not allow terrorist groups to exploit America’s freedoms for their murderous goals. We will not stand by as United States citizens support terrorist causes.”

Prosecutors said that Khan traveled to Pakistan just days after the Sept. 11 attacks to train with a terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba and that he planned to use his training alongside the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

Khan did not testify during the four-week trial, but his lawyers said their Pakistani-born client never intended to join the Taliban. They said he went to Pakistan to handle legal matters related to his father’s death.

As for Chapman, he testified that he simply wanted the opportunity for a grueling physical challenge in the rugged Pakistani mountains.

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