Ohio Man Charged With Joining al-Qaida

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 8:55 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ A federal grand jury indicted an Ohio man on charges of joining al-Qaida and conspiring to bomb European tourist resorts and U.S. government facilities and military bases overseas, officials announced Thursday.

Christopher Paul, 43, a U.S. citizen and resident of Columbus, spent time learning hand-to-hand fighting and how to use grenades and assault rifles at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, according to a federal grand jury indictment. He then joined the terrorist group in Pakistan and told al-Qaida members he was dedicated to committing violent jihad.

The investigation into Paul and his activities spanned four years, three continents and at least eight countries, FBI agent Tim Murphy said Thursday, shortly before Paul appeared before a federal judge.

``The indictment of Christopher Paul paints a disturbing picture of an American who traveled overseas to train as a violent jihadist, joined the ranks of al-Qaida and provided military instruction and support to radical cohorts both here and abroad,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said in a statement.

Bill Hunt, first assistant U.S. attorney, declined to say whether any of the alleged plots were carried out. People whom Paul associated with in Europe have been arrested, he said.

Paul, who was arrested Wednesday outside his apartment, is charged with providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries the most serious penalty of up to life in prison.

In court Thursday, Magistrate Judge Terence Kemp asked Paul if he understood the charges. Paul replied: ``Yes, sir.''

Prosecutors asked that he be held without bond, and Kemp set another hearing Friday on the issue. Paul's lawyer, Don Wolery, declined comment after the hearing.

A friend of Paul's, Hisham Jenhawi, 32, said he found the charges hard to believe.

``I don't think it's even close to his personality to act upon something like that,'' he said at the courthouse. ``He's a very kind person. You would meet him on the street and he would want to hug you with the heart that he has.''

The indictment says Paul traveled to Germany about April 1999 to train co-conspirators to use explosives to attack European and U.S. targets, including government buildings and vacation spots frequented by American tourists.

It does not name specific resorts or buildings that might have been targeted, but gives U.S. embassies, military bases and consular premises in Europe as examples.

Paul later sent a wire transfer of $1,760 from a financial institution in the U.S. to an alleged co-conspirator in Germany, prosecutors allege.

A fax machine in his home contained names, phone numbers and contact information for key al-Qaida leadership and associates, according to the indictment, issued Wednesday.

Paul also is accused of storing material at his father's house in Columbus, including a book on improvised land mines, money from countries in the Middle East and a letter to his parents explaining that he would be ``on the front lines,'' according to the indictment.

Paul's sister, Sandra Laws, answered the door at the two-story, pale green home she shares with her father, Ernest, in suburban Columbus but declined to comment on the case.

No charges are expected against family members, authorities said.

Paul was born Paul Kenyatta Laws. He legally changed his name to Abdulmalek Kenyatta in 1989, then to Christopher Paul in 1994, according to the indictment.

After finishing his al-Qaida training in the early 1990s, he returned to Columbus to teach martial arts at a mosque, the indictment said.

Paul is married to a woman named in the indictment as F. Bashir, investigators said. Authorities seized a letter from Paul's apartment that he sent to Bashir about raising ``little mujahideen,'' or holy warriors.

Paul and Jenhawi, who have known each other about a year, attend the same mosque and their daughters play together, Jenhawi said. Paul's daughter is about 9 years old and is homeschooled, he said.

Two other Columbus men have been charged in federal investigators' terrorism investigation. Iyman Faris was sentenced in 2003 to 20 years in prison for a plot to topple the Brooklyn Bridge. Nuradin Abdi, accused of plotting to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall, is awaiting trial on charges including conspiring to aid terrorists.