Israel denied entry two years ago to members of a North Carolina family that includes three men accused of plotting to execute terror attacks in foreign countries, an official said Wednesday.
Daniel Boyd, 39, spent three years traveling to the Middle East, secretly buying guns, and leading a group of men planning to kidnap, kill and maim people abroad, according to charges in an indictment released Monday. His family's travels caught the attention of authorities in Israel two years ago, when they denied members of his family entry to the country, an Israeli security official told The Associated Press.
Boyd was- including two sons - accused of being the ringleader of the group involved in three years of nefarious international travel, gun buys and military-style training trips. Authorities claim the group, including 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. If convicted, the men could face life in prison.
Boyd's wife, Sabrina, told a Raleigh newspaper that he and one of his sons, who is also charged in the North Carolina indictment, were denied entry to Israel in 2007 and detained for two days, but she denied a malevolent motive for their trip.
An Israeli security official confirmed that members of the Boyd family were denied entry to Israel in 2007. He declined to say why they were stopped or provide further details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not officially made public.
Israeli police and the Interior Ministry, the office in charge of immigration, would not comment.
The U.S. indictment said Boyd and the two sons who were charged - Zakariya, 20, and Dylan, 22 - 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."
Sabrina Boyd urged the public not to rush to judgment.
"We have the right to justice, and we believe that justice will prevail," she said in a statement. "We are decent people who care about other human beings."
In an interview with the News & Observer of Raleigh, Boyd said her husband and sons' trips abroad were pilgrimages, also denying allegations that a 2006 trip was for nefarious purposes. She told the newspaper on Tuesday that her husband took another son named Noah, who's not named in the indictment, to see Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem that year.
"The point of a pilgrimage is to see the Al-Aksa mosque, the Dome of the Rock, to hear the call to prayer and to make a prayer," she said.
In 2007, Daniel and Zakariya Boyd were denied entry to Israel at the airport in Tel Aviv, detained for two days, then flown to France, she said. The newspaper didn't say whether Israeli authorities gave the men a reason for denying them entry.
Prosecutors said Boyd received terrorist training years ago in Pakistan and brought the teachings back to North Carolina, recruiting followers willing to die as martyrs waging jihad - the Arabic word for holy war.
Frustrated by Raleigh-area mosques that he saw as too moderate, Boyd started breaking away this year to hold prayers in his home, prosecutors said. In the last two months, he took two group members to private property in north-central North Carolina to practice military tactics and use weapons.
"It's clear from the indictment that the overt acts in the conspiracy were escalating," U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding said.
But the suspects do not appear to be connected to any larger terror group or any plot against U.S. targets, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reported.
Boyd's wife told the newspaper she knew nothing about the training site cited by prosecutors, and she said the family had firearms because they enjoyed hunting and shooting.
Boyd's neighbors also defended the drywall contractor.
"If he's a terrorist, he's the nicest terrorist I ever met in my life. I don't think he is," said Charles Casale, 46, a neighbor in Willow Spring.
Twenty-year-old Jeremy Kuhn, said the family seemed closer and more loving than any of the other nearby households.
"If it turns out they were terrorists, I will be the most shocked person in the world," he said.
The other four men arrested range in age from 21 to 33. Only one is not a U.S. citizen, but he is a legal resident.
An attorney who met with one of the defendants, Ziyad Yaghi, 21, said Yaghi was disappointed.
"Our concern is that people are rushing to a judgment and there's no evidence that anyone's been shown," attorney Robert Nunley said.
Public defenders assigned to Boyd did not return messages seeking comment, and there were no attorneys for the other men listed in court records. They are expected to appear in court Thursday for a detention hearing, facing charges of providing material support to terrorism; conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad, and firearms counts.
Authorities believe the eighth suspect is in Pakistan, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. A second law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the suspect was Jude Kenan Mohammad, 20. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the investigation.
Authorities believe Boyd's roots in terrorism run deep. When he was in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 through 1992, he had military-style training in terrorist camps and fought the Soviets, who were ending their occupation of Afghanistan, according to the indictment.