Alleged jihadist known as friendly store owner

Image: Terror suspects
These undated photos show from left: Daniel Patrick Boyd, Hysen Sherifi, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan and Ziyad Yaghi. Authorities claim the group, including three others and an eighth suspect believed to be in Pakistan, were gearing up for a "violent jihad," though prosecutors haven't detailed any specific targets or timeframe. AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

When someone in the Raleigh area needed a sheep or goat slaughtered according to Islamic law, Daniel Boyd was the man to see.

"You find everything from halal meat and snacks to soft back prints of the Holy Quran in both English and Arabic," read a notice on the Web for Boyd's Blackstone Market in nearby Garner. There was even a place to worship in the back.

Bosnian native Jasmin Smajic said he was drawn to the store by the halal goods. Instead he found a friend.

"He would always ask people, his friends, if he can do a service for you," says Smajic, 23, a student at North Carolina State University. "He would basically ask people if they needed any kind of help with anything ... whether that be advice, whether you're struggling with money, need your faucet fixed — whatever it is. He was always very helpful."

So, like many hereabouts, Smajic was shocked this week when federal officials accused Boyd of wanting to go abroad and slaughter in the name of Islam.

‘Sword of God’ nickname
A federal indictment unsealed this week says Boyd, 39, is a radicalized Muslim convert who went by the nickname Saifullah — "Sword of God" — and was putting together a team of extremists to wage "violent jihad" overseas. He was arrested Monday along with two of his sons — Zakariya, 20, and Dylan, 22 — and four other men.

The indictment charges that Boyd and his sons traveled to Israel in July 2007 to meet with two of the other defendants but returned home "having failed in their attempt at violent jihad."

But the man described in the 14-page indictment is not the Daniel Patrick Boyd whom friends and neighbors in and around the Raleigh suburb of Willow Spring knew: the devoted Muslim who fasted during the holy month of Ramadan and prayed toward Mecca five times a day; the son of a Marine whose pickup was emblazoned with a "Support our Troops" bumper sticker; the friendly drywall contractor who waved at neighbors, and chatted about gardening and fishing.

"If he's a terrorist, he's the nicest terrorist I ever met in my life," said Willow Spring land surveyor Charles Casale, who helped his neighbor plant a vegetable garden. "I don't think he is."

Certainly, the white, fair-haired, American-born father does not fit the comic book stereotype of an Islamist terrorist bent on holy war. And that, authorities say, is what makes people like Boyd so dangerous. When federal officials went to arrest him and the others Monday, they deployed more than 100 agents, including four SWAT teams and a hostage-rescue team.

"Each of the men were considered armed and dangerous," Amy Thoreson, a spokeswoman with the FBI in Charlotte, said Wednesday.

Concerns about a trend
Hours after the arrests, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent an internal bulletin to law enforcement officials around the country saying the case marks a worrisome trend of would-be terrorists who go overseas for training or indoctrination, come back to the United States, and may spend years quietly waiting to put their skills to use.

Boyd's wife, Sabrina, has said the trip was innocent and denies that her husband or sons were involved in any terrorist activity. But it would not be the first time Boyd had gone overseas to wage war in the name of Islam.

His journey toward becoming a Muslim, which would lead to a Pakistan jail cell, started years earlier.

He grew up in poverty, the youngest of five children born to Thornton and Patricia Boyd. The father was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, and the family moved almost every year. The parents separated in 1974, and the mother later said in an interview with People Magazine that she and the children were sometimes reduced to gathering leaves to make into soup in the living room fireplace because the electricity had been shut off.

Thornton and Patricia divorced in 1977, when Daniel was 7, and Thornton Boyd died in 2005.

Patricia Boyd married William Saddler, a Washington, D.C.-area lawyer and American Muslim whom she once described as "intellectual and deep and decent."

It was from there that Daniel Boyd developed his interest in becoming a Muslim. Raised Episcopalian, he converted to Islam at age 17. After graduating from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., where he was once a defensive lineman in football, he married his girlfriend, Sabrina, who converted to Islam just hours before their wedding, according to a 1991 Washington Post story at the time of his arrest in Pakistan.

Daniel worked construction to support his family, but Islam's requirement to do "good works" led him overseas, his mother told People.

‘I wept and wailed’
According to the mother, Boyd moved to Peshawar, Pakistan, in October 1989, sponsored by a Muslim relief group. His brother Charles joined him later.

"I wept and wailed, and I probably kicked a few walls," Patricia Saddler told People. "But they told me they could practice their charity and their Islam over there. And I was happy for them."

She said at the time that Daniel Boyd was working as a mechanic helping refugees from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Charles Boyd worked as an engineer.

Not long after, the pair made international headlines.

In June 1991, the manager of the United Bank in Hayatabad, an outlying section of Peshawar, reported to police that two men, one with "a golden beard" and the other with "a beak-like nose," robbed his establishment of $3,200, opening fire with pistols as they fled, according to a police report. The Boyd brothers were arrested.

The men allegedly were carrying cards identifying them as members of the Afghan militant group Hezb-e-Islami.

According to court records, the case against the brothers hinged heavily on witness accounts, money, a pistol and bullets discovered during searches, and a disputed confession by Daniel Boyd. But Boyd claimed that he was being set up by a bank employee who had made inappropriate advances toward his wife and had tried to pilfer money from the family.

While in custody, the men prayed five times daily and received frequent visits from their wives, who dressed in all-encompassing veils in line with strict interpretations of the religion, a retired jail official recalled. The pair worked in the jail factory making carpets and chairs.

Sentenced to amputations
In September 1991, they were convicted and sentenced to have their right hands and left feet amputated, the first foreigners to be convicted and sentenced by special Islamic courts established to handle so-called "heinous" crimes, news reports said.

As the sentence was imposed, Daniel Boyd shouted, "This isn't an Islamic court. It's a court of infidels!"

Despite the verdicts, Sabrina Boyd declared her continued faith in Islam. She called the United States a land of "kafirs" — Arabic for infidels.

"We became Muslims because it is the purest religion," she said at the time. "We would forever remain Muslims despite our present difficulties."

The sentences were never carried out.

A former CIA official stationed in Pakistan at the time said the agency intervened and quickly persuaded the Pakistani intelligence service to help free the Boyd brothers. The former official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the incident.

Boyd has since told people that he and his brother had trained at military camps and had joined the mujahedeen in the fight against the Soviets. But the CIA official said he had no such information at the time of the arrests.

Blended back into American society
Upon his return, Boyd essentially blended back into American society, raising a family that would eventually include five children — sons Dylan, Zakariya, Luqman and Noah and daughter Maryam.

In January 1999, Boyd was living on an old farm in Raleigh and working as a self-employed "metal framer" making about $30,000 a year when he filed bankruptcy proceedings. He reported assets of $17,350 and liabilities of nearly $47,000 — including an $8,000 debt to the Internal Revenue Service.

In July 2004, the Boyds formed Saxum Walls & Ceilings Inc., with Sabrina Boyd listed as the registered agent. Two years later, the family purchased a 1,772-square-foot home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Willow Spring, a rural community just south of Raleigh.

Then, in April 2007, tragedy struck.

His son, Luqman "Luke" Izzudeen Boyd, 16, died after reportedly running off the road at 75 mph in a 55-mph zone. Police say the high school junior overcorrected, ran into a ditch and flipped the car several times.

Later that year, Daniel Boyd opened the Blackstone Market. Business partner Abdenasser Zouhri of Morrisville says he met Boyd at a Durham mosque and was impressed by his apparent devotion to Islam.

"He was a person of good moral character," Zouhri told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "He never caused any trouble when he came Fridays. His family was good. People would invite them to their homes."

A different brand of Islam?
Zouhri says Boyd told him he fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, but he did not brag or tell extravagant war stories.

"He was the kind of guy who did not show off," says Zouhri, who says the pair closed the store last year because of the recession. "And Islam is against that."

But federal officials say Boyd appears already to have adopted a different brand of Islam.

According to prosecutors, Boyd stopped attending the services of the more moderate mosques in the Raleigh area and began holding Friday prayers in his home. The indictment says he began stockpiling weapons and conducted military-style training at a rural site near the Virginia border.

Sabrina Boyd, 41, did not respond to requests this week to speak with the AP. But she told The News & Observer of Raleigh that her men are "completely innocent." Wearing a garb that revealed only her hands and brown eyes, she said the family's trips to the Middle East were to give her sons exposure to Arabic culture. As for the weapons, she said, the family was simply exercising "their constitutional right to bear arms."

Smajic says he knew there were guns around the house, but saw nothing sinister in it. He could not believe reports that Boyd and the others, several of whom Smajic calls friends, were planning suicide attacks.

"He was probably one of the best people I've ever known, if not THE best person I've ever known," he says. "I can't see into his heart. I'm only human. I'm not omniscient. But as far as I know they would never want to hurt anybody."

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