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Terror Indictments For U.S. 'Sleepers'

Federal grand juries charged six men with conspiring to support Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network Wednesday as the government escalated its efforts to stifle the flow of money and assistance from U.S. soil to overseas terrorist groups.

In Seattle, American citizen and Muslim activist James Ujaama was accused in a two-count indictment of trying to set up a "jihad (holy war) training camp" on the West Coast and providing support and resources to al Qaeda.

The indictment accused him of leading discussions about creating poison to use on the public and firebombing vehicles. Ujaama has repeatedly denied any ties to terrorism.

Separately, four men who had been in the United States since at least 2000 were charged in Detroit with operating a "covert underground support unit" and a "sleeper operational combat cell" for a radical Islamic movement allied with al Qaeda. A fifth man whose full name isn't known by the government was also named in the indictment.

The Detroit men were charged with conspiring to provide services and tangible items to individuals in the United States and abroad to assist them in engaging and promoting violent attacks in Jordan, Turkey and the United States.

Their targets allegedly included a U.S. airbase in Turkey and a hospital in Amman, Jordan, and according to the court papers, the defendants were looking for security breaches at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport to get access to planes.

The Detroit suspects also allegedly had videotapes of Disneyland and Las Vegas, although there is no allegation that either were targeted, reports CBS News Correspondent James Stewart.

"The object of the conspiracy was, among other things, to cause economic harm to U.S. businesses," the indictment charged.

Both indictments used a law barring people living in the United States from providing "material support and resources" to terrorist groups.

U.S. officials said Wednesday they expected several more such indictments in coming months as the FBI, Customs Service and other federal agencies attempt to block money and operational support from the United States from reaching terror groups overseas.

"The evidence that is being developed suggests that America has been a piggy bank for certain terror organizations to the tune of tens of millions of dollars," said a senior law enforcement official directly involved in the investigation.

Agents believe they have uncovered a broad effort by U.S. residents — many who are citizens or legal residents — to use credit card thefts, illegal cigarette sales, diverted charitable funds and cash smuggled in airline luggage to enrich anti-American and anti-Israeli terror groups, the officials said.

"The material support for terrorism has to be regarded as serious as terrorism itself," said Charles Mandigo, the FBI's top agent in Seattle where Ujama was investigated.

One law enforcement official said agents also recently began investigating possible terrorist funding schemes that employ the Internet or defrauding of federal aid programs. That official said evidence so far indicates the anti-Israel groups Hamas and Hezbollah receive far more support from U.S. soil than al Qaeda.

The indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Detroit named Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, Youssef Hmimssa, Farouk Ali-Haimoud and a man only known by the first name Abdella. Koubriti, Hannan, Hmimssa and Ali-Haimoud have been in and out of custody since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Abdella remains at large.

The indictment charged the men with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists and conspiracy to engage in fraud and misuse of visas and identification documents.

Hmimssa was named at the top of the indictment, where the charges were listed, but was not further mentioned in the indictment. U.S. officials offered no immediate explanation, although legal experts said it probably signaled that the details of Hmimssa's indictment are sealed by a court.

The indictment said the men used a "coded form of communication" to speak about terrorist plans and were "involved in plans to obtain weaponry to benefit operatives overseas."

"Their planning involved specific violent attacks, including ones that targeted an American air base in Incerlik, Turkey, and a hospital in Amman, Jordan," the indictment said, citing plans found in a daybook planner.

Four of the men have been in custody for months since a raid on a Detroit apartment shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The indictment suggested the men were involved with an Islamic extremist movement known as Salafiyya, which became associated with al Qaeda.

The indictment said the men were taking actions to "engage in or support holy war or global jihad" and that three of them had discussed in June 2001 that "Islam permitted the killing of innocent civilians."

It said the men checked Detroit's airport for gaps in security and that a federal raid on an apartment some of the men shared recovered a videotape that "appears to depict surveillance of such U.S. landmarks as Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and the MGM Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas."

Hannan's attorney, James Thomas, said he could not comment on the indictment, citing a gag order. Messages left with the attorneys for three of the other men fully identified in the indictment were not immediately returned.

Ujaama's indictment in Seattle came weeks after he was first arrested in Denver and held as a material witness in the terrorism investigation. He has maintained his innocence, and his lawyers has pressed prosecutors to either charge him or release him.

"If there's anything positive to come out of this, it renders some certainty to his situation," attorney Daniel Sears said Wednesday. "He can go about the business of defending himself against these allegations and hopefully justice will be served."

Ujaama was charged with conspiracy to provide material support and resources for al Qaeda and with using, carrying, possessing and discharging firearms during a crime.

The indictment contends Ujaama, a Muslim who was born James Ernest Thompson, led a conspiracy to set up a training camp in Bly, Ore.

In October and November 1999, at meetings with co-conspirators there and in Seattle, the indictment alleged, Ujaama led discussions about the need "for further training, in order to be able to attend violent jihad-training camps in Afghanistan, the commission of armed robbery, the building of underground bunkers to hide ammunition and weapons, the creation of poisonous materials for public consumption, and the firebombing of vehicles."

"In or about October 1999, after visiting the property in Bly, Ore., Ujaama proposed ... the establishment of a jihad training camp on the Bly property," it says.

In a written statement Tuesday, Ujaama accused the government of conducting a witch hunt.

"Should it be the policy of this government to convict innocent people before any hearing or before any trial?" Ujaama asked. "My constitutional rights, my civil liberties and my future have been grossly violated in a bid to seek political gain, not justice or truth."

Ujaama's community work won him praise in his hometown. He once was given a key to the city of Seattle. And in Washington state, lawmakers declared June 10, 1994, James Ujaama Day.

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