Two cousins were arrested Wednesday on federal charges of conspiring to wage holy war against Americans overseas, including U.S. military forces in Iraq.
Zubair A. Ahmed, 27, of suburban North Chicago, and Khaleel Ahmed, 26, of Chicago, were indicted by a grand jury in Cleveland. The indictment also brought additional charges against three other men already named in the case.
The cousins, both American citizens, appeared briefly in Chicago before U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown, who ordered them sent to Ohio for arraignment. Prosecutors asked her to order them held in custody and sent to Ohio as federal prisoners.
Defense attorneys asked for bail, and a hearing was set for Monday. Lawyers Gerald Collins and Brian Sieve said they knew little about their clients and had no comment.
The indictment claims that, between June 2004 and February 2006, the cousins and the other three men — Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 27, and Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 42, both formerly of Toledo, and Wassim I. Mazloum, 22, formerly of Sylvania, Ohio — conspired to “kill or maim persons in locations outside of the United States, to including U.S. armed forces personnel serving in Iraq.”
The conspiracy included finding fresh recruits to commit terrorism and seeking out sites for training in firearms, hand-to-hand combat and the use of explosives, the charges say. The men are accused of agreeing to raise funds for “jihad training” and downloading Internet information on improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
A figure described in the indictment only as the Trainer — a U.S. citizen with a military background — met with the cousins in July 2004 and discussed sniper tactics, counter-surveillance techniques and the use of heavy machine guns.
The three Ohio men, who are in federal custody, were charged in the initial indictment with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. All three pleaded not guilty. Amawi was also charged with verbally threatening the president and with unlawful distribution of a video about suicide bomber vests.
The new indictment charged Amawi with distributing information, downloaded from the Internet, about explosive chemicals and charged El-Hindi with distributing information about explosives and making false statements to officials.
Maximum penalty: Life in prison
The five men face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted of conspiring to kill Americans overseas, according to federal prosecutors.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Cleveland said a separate indictment was returned charging Bilal Mazloum, 22, of Sylvania, Ohio, brother of Wassim I. Mazloum, with making a false statement to federal agents.
In addition, El-Hindi and Ashraf Zaim, 39, of Ottawa Hills, Ohio, are charged in a separate, seven-count indictment with conspiring to commit theft of public funds, making false statements and wire fraud in connection with a $40,000 federal grant they obtained to operate clinics for low-income taxpayers.
The government contends that no clinics were ever operated.