Terence Jeffrey / December 3, 2008

From Paintball to Mumbai

The defiant words a former third-grade teacher spat at a judge in Alexandria, Va., in April are more poignant now that sources in the Indian and U.S. governments are saying they believe Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistan-based terrorist group, was behind the mass murder in Mumbai, India, last week.

“What government was supposed to be intimidated by my actions?” Ali Asad Chandia asked U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton at the April hearing where the judge reconfirmed Chandia’s 15-year prison sentence, according to The Associated Press. “Do you think the government of India will feel intimidated by a few boxes of paintballs?”

Chandia taught at an Islamic school in the Maryland suburbs before being convicted in 2006 of “providing material support to terrorists.”

In a Jan. 23, 2008, opinion affirming Chandia’s conviction but remanding his sentence to the district court for reconsideration, Judge Blane Michael of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit summarized the government’s case against the schoolteacher.

“Specifically, the government alleged that (LET official) Ajmal Khan traveled to the United States to secure high-tech equipment and other materials for LET and that Chandia provided material support to Ajmal Khan during his trips,” wrote Michael. “The alleged material support included picking up Ajmal Khan at the airport, providing him access to a computer and e-mail at Chandia’s residence, and assisting him in shipping paintballs to Pakistan for LET use in military training operations.”

How many paintballs? “Chandia was found guilty of … helping Khan ship 50,000 paintball pellets from the U.S. to Pakistan,” reported The Associated Press.

Others who (like Chandia) attended the now-closed Dar al Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va. – which is about 11 miles from the U.S. Capitol – did more than ship paintballs.

Judge Allyson Duncan of the Fourth Circuit explained their activities in a Sept. 1, 2006, opinion affirming the convictions of Masoud Khan, Seifullah Chapman and Hammad Abdur-Raheem on terrorism-related conspiracy charges.

“Khan, Chapman and Hammad attended the Dar al Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., where Ali Timimi, a primary lecturer, spoke of the necessity to engage in violent jihad against the enemies of Islam and the ‘end of time’ battle between Muslims and non-Muslims,” wrote Duncan. “Several of the attendees, including Chapman and Hammad, organized a group to engage in activities in preparation for jihad.

"In the spring of 2000, members of the group began simulating combat through paintball exercises and practices at firing ranges,” the judge wrote.

How did this tie-in to LET and India?

“Members of the group had ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the military wing of a Pakistani organization initially founded to conduct jihad against Russians in Afghanistan,” said Duncan.

“One member of the paintball group, Mr. Hamdi, openly discussed wanting to go to fight in Kashmir and ultimately die as a martyr in combat. Hamdi traveled to Pakistan in August 2000 and was admitted to the LET camps,” wrote the judge. “While there, he fired on Indian positions in Kashmir. Upon his return, he rejoined the paintball group and informed the others about LET’s mission to destroy India, Israel and the United States.”

In the summer of 2001, Chapman traveled to LET camps in Pakistan. Then came the attacks of Sept. 11.

“That night, Timimi argued that the attacks should not be condemned,” wrote the judge. “He was thereafter not invited to lecture at Dar al Arqam, and tapes of his speeches were destroyed. However, on Sept. 16, 2001, Timimi met with the paintball group, including Khan and Hammad, at a member’s house. Timimi said that the Sept. 11 attacks were justified and that it was the obligatory religious duty of those present to defend the Taliban against the American troops that were expected to invade Afghanistan in pursuit of al-Qaida. The discussion focused on training at the LET camps as necessary preparation to fight with the Taliban against the United States. Several of the members, including Khan, expressed their intent to train at the LET camps and to fight in Afghanistan after their training was complete. For purposes of their travel, they agreed that Khan would be their ‘emir,’ or leader.”

Khan then traveled to Pakistan, where he trained at LET camps for about six weeks, according to Duncan.

“The evidence reflects that LET broadly disseminated its goals for the destruction of India, America and Israel on its Website and elsewhere,” she said.

In upholding Chapman’s conviction for “conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act” by aiding military action against a nation with whom the United States was at peace, Duncan wrote: “The record contains evidence that Chapman continued to provide support to two members of the group who expressly acknowledged going to Pakistan and firing on Indian troops while there. Sufficient evidence, therefore, supports the district court’s findings and, accordingly, the conspiracy conviction.”

Jihadists allied with LET trained in the suburbs of our capital city. The outgoing administration deserves credit for the vigilance it showed in catching and convicting them. Will the incoming administration show equal vigilance?


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