Federal authorities in North Carolina on Monday arrested seven men who they said had trained with high-powered weapons as part of a terrorist conspiracy to wage an Islamic holy war overseas.
The men -- including a father who, authorities said, trained in jihad camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and his two sons -- sought to provide material support to terrorists and to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people overseas, according to a seven-count federal indictment. The indictment did not allege that the group was plotting attacks on U.S. soil.
If convicted, the suspects, all but one of whom are U.S. citizens, could face life in prison.
At least some of the men were willing to die as martyrs, according to the indictment, which described a plot that began in 2006 and lasted until earlier this month. It said that the North Carolina residents had raised donations to support their training and had recruited and radicalized others -- "mostly young Muslims or converts to Islam, to believe . . . the idea that violent jihad was a personal obligation on the part of every good Muslim."
The men also offered weapons training and helped arrange overseas travel and contacts for others seeking to wage holy war, the indictment said.
Two federal law enforcement officials on Monday said the men did not commit any violent acts.
Although the indictment provided few details, it outlined a plan among four of the suspects "to meet up" in Israel, as well as other overseas forays. The conspiracy, according to the government, included other suspects "known and unknown," and its aim was to provide money, training, transportation and personnel to those wanting to fight a holy war against countries friendly to the United States.
David Kris, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's national security division, singled out Daniel Patrick Boyd for conspiring "to recruit and help young men travel overseas in order to kill."
"These arrests today show there are people living among us, in our communities in North Carolina and around the U.S., that are honing their skills to carry out acts of murder and mayhem," said Owen D. Harris, special agent in charge of the FBI's Charlotte, N.C., division, which led the investigation. The Charlotte division includes Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, N.C., where authorities say the men conspired.
The indictment alleged that Boyd, 39, traveled to Gaza in March 2006 and attempted to enter farther into the Palestinian territories with one of his two sons.
A year later, the indictment said, Boyd -- who called himself Saifullah, or Sword of God -- his son Zakariya Boyd and two other suspects went to Israel to wage jihad but returned without success.
Defendant Ziyad Yaghi, according to the indictment, traveled to Jordan in 2006 to "engage in violent jihad." And Hysen Sherifi, a 24-year-old U.S. legal permanent resident, traveled to his native Kosovo in July 2008 to "wage violent jihad," then returned to North Carolina to raise support for Islamic militants, the indictment said.
Daniel Patrick Boyd and the other suspects showed others how to fire Kalashnikov AK-47s and other weapons similar to those used in Afghanistan, authorities said.
Over the last two months, Boyd and some of the others honed their weapons skills on private property in rural Caswell County, the indictment said.
The seven men made preliminary court appearances Monday and are due to appear at detention hearings Thursday in federal court in Raleigh. No attorneys for the men were listed in the criminal filings unsealed Monday.
Authorities would not comment on an unidentified associate of the men who the indictment said left the U.S. on Oct. 7, 2008, "to travel to Pakistan to engage in violent jihad."
The indictment unsealed Monday has highlighted the complexities of the U.S. presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent decades.
Daniel Patrick Boyd once fought in Afghanistan and trained in guerrilla camps there and in Pakistan, the indictment said.
But, it added, he did so between 1989 and 1992 in an effort to fight the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Washington led and financed that campaign against its Cold War enemy with hundreds of millions of dollars in military and intelligence assistance, training and manpower.
The Associated Press reported that Boyd, a drywall installer in Willow Spring, N.C., and his brother had been convicted of bank robbery in Pakistan in 1991 and of carrying identification showing they belonged to the radical Afghan guerrilla group Hezb-i-Islami.