Video: 4 suspected of al-Qaida ties

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/8/2005 8:47:45 PM ET 2005-06-09T00:47:45

A terrorism investigation in this quiet farming town has led to the arrests of a father and son who said he trained at an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan for potential attacks on U.S. hospitals and supermarkets, authorities said.

Federal investigators believe a number of people committed to al-Qaida have been operating in and around Lodi, a wine-growing region about 30 miles south of Sacramento, FBI Agent Keith Slotter said Wednesday. He would not elaborate.

Slotter added that investigators did not have information about any specific plans for an attack, and the father and son were charged only with lying to federal agents about the son’s training at the al-Qaida camp. Two local Muslim leaders also have been arrested on immigration violations.

The son, Hamid Hayat, was interviewed by the FBI on Friday and at first denied any link to terrorist camps. But the next day he was given a polygraph test and admitted he attended the camp in 2003 and 2004, according to an affidavit by FBI Agent Pedro Aguilar. The Sacramento Bee reported his age as 22; the Los Angeles Times said he is 23.

President’s face on targets
Hayat said photos of President Bush and other American political figures were pasted onto targets during weapons training, the affidavit said. At the end of training, participants were given the opportunity to choose the nation where their attacks would be carried out.

“Hamid advised that he specifically requested to come to the United States to carry out his jihadi mission,” according to an affidavit released through the Justice Department in Washington. “Potential targets for attack included hospitals and large food stores.”

Video: Terrorist plot or witch hunt? The father, Umer Hayat, lied about his son’s involvement and money he sent for the son’s training, the affidavit said.

A cousin of the younger Hayat, Usama Ismail, said he was in Pakistan with his relative and that Hayat never had terrorist training. He said his cousin went to Pakistan to marry and “never got into politics. All he talked about was cricket.”

“We were always together,” said Ismail, who lives down the street from the Hayats in a modest, blue-collar neighborhood. “He never went anywhere. He was always in the village.”

The father’s attorney, Johnny Griffin III, who called the allegations “shocking,” stressed that his client “is charged with nothing more than lying to an agent.” Neighbors described the elder Hayat as a nice man who sold ice cream during summer months from a van.

The younger Hayat’s attorney was not in court; a message left with the lawyer was not immediately returned.

In Washington, President Bush said he had been briefed on the matter.

“I was very impressed by the use of intelligence and the follow-up,” Bush said. “And that’s what the Americans need to know, that when we find any hint about any possible wrongdoing or a possible cell, that we’ll follow up — by the way, honoring the civil liberties of those to whom we follow up.”

Two others held
One law enforcement official told the Times that "these guys have been on the radar for awhile," adding that "this case has more to it than just these two guys."

In fact, two other men, Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammed Adil Khan, were being held on immigration violations after meeting separately with Umer Hayat on Saturday, the Bee reported. All four men live in Lodi, about 35 miles south of Sacramento.

Umer Hayat wore a concealed FBI listening device for the meetings, one source told the Bee, an account confirmed by some of his relatives.

Khan is an imam at the Lodi mosque, and Ahmed is a religious leader affiliated with an Islamic center in Sacramento, the Bee and Times reported.

Camp allegedly run by family friend
Umer Hayat was charged in the complaint with lying about his son’s involvement and his own financing of the terrorist camp, which the affidavit said was run by a close friend of Umer Hayat's father.

A female cousin of Hamid Hayat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Times that "the charges are totally false."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Nowinski denied a bail request for the elder Hayat, saying he was “a flight risk and a danger to the community.”

“He just returned from Pakistan where he built a new home and contributed financial assistance to an al-Qaida-sponsored program training his son and others to kill Americans whenever and wherever they can be found,” the Bee quoted Nowinski as saying.

Hamid Hayat’s attorney was not present for the court hearing, and Nowinski set a bail hearing for him on Friday.

Son on 'no fly' list
Hamid Hayat's name was on the U.S. “no fly” list of suspected extremists, the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee reported, and on returning from Pakistan on May 29 his flight was diverted to Japan, where he was questioned. He was allowed to continue on, and was then questioned in Sacramento by FBI agents.

The affidavit says Umer Hayat gave up denying that he knew of the terrorist training when he was shown a videotape of his son's confession.

FBI agents raided the Hayat home on Tuesday, family members told the Times. They seized videocassettes, photographs, fax machines, prayer books and other items.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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