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Charges in Somalian Terror Case Lessened

November 13, 2004|From Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas — New charges were filed Friday against a 19-year-old accused of planning to fight with a Somalian terrorist organization and supply it with night-vision goggles and bulletproof vests.

Mark Robert Walker of suburban Rochester, N.Y., was charged with attempting or conspiring to contribute goods or services to a specially designated global terrorist organization.

The group, Ittihad Al Islamiya, has been listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

The new charge carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years and fine of $50,000.

Previously filed charges of providing support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, which carried a maximum sentence of 15 years and fine of $250,000, were dropped.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Greg McDonald declined comment after the short hearing.

"After reviewing the evidence, the new charge more accurately reflects what the investigation uncovered," said Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

"The conduct alleged is the same."

An El Paso FBI agent said this week that Walker was "not a major terrorist or a threat to us."

William Maynard, an assistant federal public defender in court with Walker on Friday declined comment, but when asked whether Walker's actions were being taken out of context, he responded:

"It may be. I agree with the [FBI] agent."

Walker was arrested Nov. 6 as he crossed from Juarez, Mexico, into El Paso.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the case, after his arrest Walker told a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent that he planned to fight with Ittihad Al Islamiya. He said he didn't intend to fight against the United States or its interests.

The group, which the Treasury Department listed as a "specially designated global terrorist organization" in 2001, wants to remove Somalia's government and replace it with an Islamic system.

The complaint also states that an FBI source identified Walker as an administrator for a jihadist website who was posting communications about his hatred of the United States under the name of Abdullah.

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