Prosecutors: Ga. college student was budding terrorist
By Greg Bluestein
ATLANTA, Ga. — A former Georgia Tech student was a budding terrorist who took choppy videos of potential targets in Washington, D.C., hoped to join the Taliban and desperately tried to prove himself to jihadist groups overseas, prosecutors said Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney argued Syed Haris Ahmed, 24, was "one step removed from the bomb-throwers" and bought a one-way ticket to Pakistan in hopes he could join the Taliban. Monday marked the beginning of Ahmed's federal trial on charges he conspired to aid a terrorist group. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Defense attorney Jack Martin countered the allegations were exaggerated against Ahmed, an immature, frustrated student whose idea of paramilitary training was shooting paint ball guns with a friend in the northern Georgia woods.
"We have an equally important responsibly to sort out the real terrorist from those who are childish, those who ever sought out a real conspiracy," Martin said.
Martin has argued that federal investigators have no evidence Ahmed, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, has committed any terrorist act.
But U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, who considers the case one of the most important since he took charge of the office in 2004, has said Ahmed was at the center of a plot to carry out a "violent jihad" against civilian and government targets in Washington and Georgia.
Prosecutors say Ahmed made the videos with Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, a U.S. citizen who grew up in the Atlanta area. Sadequee has also pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled to begin in August.
Federal authorities say they began building a case after the pair hopped a bus to Toronto in March 2005 and met with at least three other targets of an FBI investigation. Authorities say they brainstormed strikes against targets that ranged from military bases to oil refineries, and plotted to disrupt the Global Positioning System satellite network.
A few months later, authorities say they drove Ahmed's pickup truck to Washington and made the "casing" videos of the Capitol, the Pentagon, the World Bank, a Masonic Temple and a fuel depot that they intended to ship overseas. And they were accused of discussing an attack against Dobbins Air Reserve Base just outside Atlanta.
The two are accused of "rudimentary paramilitary training" in northern Georgia in late 2004 and early 2005. And officials said Ahmed traveled to Pakistan in July 2005 to seek out Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group which is linked with attacks in the disputed state of Kashmir.
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