Reporting from Washington — Two cousins from the Chicago area were sentenced to prison Monday for providing material support to terrorists after attempting to carry out a plan to travel to U.S. war zones and kill American soldiers.
Zubair Ahmed and Khaleel Ahmed apologized in federal court in Toledo, Ohio, with Zubair Ahmed telling the judge: "I was caught up in world events. At that time, I was looking at U.S. troops as my enemy."
Zubair Ahmed, 31, of North Chicago was given 10 years in prison and Khaleel Ahmed, 29, of Chicago was sentenced to eight years and four months.
In a sentencing memorandum, Justin E. Herdman, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the cousins "committed a long-term plan to engage in violent jihad on the battlefield against members of the United States military. The conspiracy spanned three continents, involved a number of other co-conspirators, and consumed at least three years of the defendants' relatively young lives."
But defense attorney Terry Gilbert said the cousins were naive, and that beyond an initial trip to Egypt, "nothing ever materialized."
U.S. District Judge James Carr was unconvinced. "You can think what you want about this country," he told the cousins. "But you can't follow up and take action."
The two were arrested at their homes in February 2007. Three years earlier they had traveled to Cairo with the hope of eventually getting to Afghanistan or Iraq. But they returned to the U.S. after Zubair's father, Harris Ahmed, learned of their intentions.
The cousins next discussed firearms training and acquiring a WASR-10 assault rifle, as well as a .50-caliber machine gun and sniper rifles. Zubair Ahmed purchased a handgun. They also joined with co-conspirators in Toledo and met at an Islamic convention in Cleveland with a man who turned out to be an undercover agent.
In a phone conversation, Zubair Ahmed encouraged Khaleel Ahmed not to change his mind.
"Yeah, you can't give up, dude," Zubair Ahmed told him. "Remember what you said? There … there many obstacles that we've got to go through and this is one of them. There's the … obstacles that we still are going through and, you know, it's never going to end."