The U.S. attorney’s office said Friday that a Lebanese man who claimed he knew terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and had been a guerrilla in Afghanistan and Chechnya had been charged in an investigation.
According to a criminal complaint, the man, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, who came to Minnesota in 2001, was charged with lying about his role in sending radio and communications equipment to Pakistan and elsewhere and lying about his role in helping another person illegally obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license.
Elzahabi is being held in New York, but he was being charged in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, the U.S. attorney’s office said. The office would not comment further.
The complaint said Elzahabi told authorities that he was a Lebanese national who came to the United States in 1984 on a student visa and obtained permanent legal status after paying a woman in Houston to marry him.
He told authorities that he traveled to Afghanistan around 1988 after attending a religious conference in the Midwest and attended a jihad military camp and fought in Afghanistan in 1988 and 1989, the complaint said.
While in Afghanistan, he claimed, he met al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaida associate believed to have directed recent attacks in Iraq.
Elzahabi said he traveled to Afghanistan again in 1991 and remained there until 1995, when he returned to the United States for medical care.
He said he then moved to New York and opened an axle repair shop. He also lived in Boston.
Elzahabi claims that he also fought in Chechnya from 1999 to 2001 and came to Minnesota in 2001, the complaint said.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Minneapolis, said Paul McCabe, a spokesman for the FBI.