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Feds rest in case of 3 charged with Iraq plot

Federal prosecutors wrapped up their case Friday against three Ohio men accused of plotting to kill American soldiers in Iraq.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The aunt of a man accused of plotting to kill American soldiers testified Friday that he said he was learning how to shoot guns for his own protection, but another defense witness said the defendant told him he was going to the range just for fun.

Prosecutors allege that the real reason was for Wassim Mazloum to be ready to fight U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Mazloum, Mohammad Amawi and Marwan El-Hindi are charged with conspiring to kill or maim people outside the United States.

A government informant, Darren Griffin, has testified that he trained recruits for the plot after one of the defendants sought him out. The defense alleges that Griffin made up the case against the men so that he would keep getting paid as an informant.

Federal prosecutors wrapped up their case Friday against the three Ohio men, who face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

Mazloum began his defense first. His aunt, Nailam Elkhechen, said Mazloum showed her one of the paper targets he shot at the range. She asked him why he was going there.

He was planning to return to Lebanon, where he was born and lived until he was 19, and he was worried about civil unrest and fighting there, she testified. He told her that he wanted to be ready to defend himself, she said.

Hussein Smidi, who grew up with Mazloum in Lebanon and now lives in Toledo, said the two talked about the trips to the shooting range. "He said it was for fun," Smidi testified.

Griffin, a former Army Special Forces soldier, says he gained the trust of the defendants by posing as a former soldier who grew disenchanted with U.S. foreign policy. He recorded the defendants at their homes, when they ate together and when they practiced shooting guns.

At one point, Griffin said they needed to have a goal when they gathered to practice shooting at a gun range.

"We should have a goal," Mazloum replied, according to a recording made by Griffin. "It's not just going for fun."

Defense attorneys say there is no other evidence of telephone conversations or e-mails regarding the alleged plot and that the only conversations involved Griffin.

Amawi and El-Hindi are U.S. citizens, and Mazloum came to the U.S. legally from Lebanon. El-Hindi was born in Jordan, and Amawi was born in the U.S. but also has Jordanian citizenship.