Islamic militant charged by feds
Federal prosecutors in New York have charged a Swedish Islamic militant with conspiring to support terrorism by traveling from London to...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Federal prosecutors in New York have charged a Swedish Islamic militant with conspiring to support terrorism by traveling from London to Bly, Ore., in 1999 to help set up a jihad training camp.
Oussama Kassir, believed to be 39, was arrested Sunday in the Czech Republic capital of Prague on a warrant filed by U.S. prosecutors.
He is the third man arrested on charges related to the Bly camp. The government has relied significantly on information provided by James Ujaama, a Seattle man who lived in London for several years and became a confidant of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, considered one of al-Qaida's leading supporters in western Europe.
Megan Gaffney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, said prosecutors will seek Kassir's extradition.
Kassir, an unemployed engineer, told The Seattle Times in September 2002 that he was a "supporter" of Osama bin Laden: "I love al-Qaida ... I love Osama bin Laden.
"I am against President Bush because he killed too many Muslims," he said at the time, in a telephone interview from Stockholm. "I hate him to death."
Ujaama found the rural property in Bly and then sought help from Abu Hamza to set up the camp. Abu Hamza responded by sending Kassir — who once bragged he was one of bin Laden's bodyguards — and Haroon Aswat from London to Seattle. The pair lived for several weeks at a Central District mosque before traveling to Oregon.
Both Abu Hamza and Aswat have been charged in connection with the Bly camp. Both are in custody in London. Aswat's name was brought up by London authorities as a possible suspect in the subway bombings in England in July, although he has not been charged with those crimes. Abu Hamza also has been charged by British authorities with conspiring to kill citizens there.
Ujaama had been indicted on charges of conspiracy to support international terrorism, but pled guilty to a lesser charge for providing money and other materials to the Taliban government in Afghanistan. He served two years in federal prison and now lives in Seattle.
According to witnesses at the Bly camp, Kassir was a tall, bearded Swede of Lebanese descent who said he had fought the Russians in Afghanistan. The sources, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said Kassir arrived in Oregon with his wife and two young children. He let a young girl at the ranch playfully braid his beard, according to sources there. But at other times, he discoursed on techniques for slitting throats with a knife.
The complaint alleges that Kassir had trained for jihad, or holy war, in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Lebanon.
According to the complaint, Kassir and Aswat traveled from London to New York and then took a Greyhound bus to Seattle. There, they met up with Ujaama and several other men.
One of those men was Semi Osman, who was the imam at the now-defunct Dar-us-Salaam Mosque in the Central District. Osman and his family moved to a small plot of land in Bly, and the men followed.
The complaint states that Kassir spent nearly two months in Bly, and it quotes unidentified witnesses saying he trained others to use firearms, set up perimeter patrols on the property and was "in possession of at least one compact disc about improving poisons."
But Kassir also was critical of the Bly plan and its facilities, which consisted mostly of run-down trailers. He complained to Ujaama that he was not impressed by the turnout at Bly. Ujaama is identified only as "Cooperating Witness No. 1" in the complaint, but his identity is clear based on information in previous complaints and earlier Seattle Times reports.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706
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