Three Ohio men indicted for terrorist plot against U.S. military in Iraq

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Federal grand jury in Cleveland handed down indictments Tuesday against three Ohio men on terrorism related charges, including their alleged involvement in planning attacks overseas to kill U.S. and coalition military personnel in Iraq and other countries.

The three men, Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazlous, all pleaded not guilty. The men were arrested over the weekend in Toledo, the town where they lived over the past year. They are expected to appear in a Federal District Court on Tuesday afternoon.

The indictment does not specify that any attacks were imminent. In a press conference in Washington, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the indictments were intended to stop potential attacks before they could be launched. "We cannot wait until an attack happens," he said. "We will continue to use our criminal laws as Congress intended." He declined to say how far the alleged conspiracy had progressed or how close the group was to attacking American interests abroad or at home.

The three men are accused of having learned how to make bombs and suicide vests, of carrying out Jihad training exercises that included firearms training and target range practice, and conspiring to provide material support, money, training, and communications equipment to themselves and co-conspirators in the Middle East. They are also accused of using a business front to funnel money to co-conspirators in the region.

The indictment said the men recruited others to wage holy war against the United States and its allies. Mr. Gonzales would not say how large a group they had assembled.

One of the men, Mohammad Zaki Amawi, a citizen of both the United States and Jordan, is alleged to have twice threatened to kill or harm the President. He is also charged with distributing information about how to make and use an explosive device, relating to a plot that prosecutors claim to have begun in November 2004.

John Pistole, the deputy director of the F.B.I., described the men as "hiding in plain sight", and said Toledo had been added to a growing list of small towns where groups with roots in the Middle East are alleged to plot actions against the United States.

Mr. Gonzales declined to comment on the controversial use of phone wiretaps before obtaining a court warrant, and how that might have played a role in the case.

Mr. Gonzales noted that the three men could face as much as life in prison, if convicted of the charges.

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