Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Al-Qaeda Problem in Columbus

As Sun Tzu noted in his post yesterday, Columbus has a serious Al-Qaeda problem which the local media have treated in pedestrian fashion.

For those of you just joining us, here’s a review:

Iyman Faris was an al-Qaeda operative living in Columbus and being controlled directly by Al-Qaeda operations chief, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who directed the 9/11 attacks. He became a US citizen in 1999, and the following year (as the 9/11 attacks were being organized) traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training in Al-Qaeda terrorist camps. An ABCNews article quotes one of his neighbors:

“Even though this is a state capital, you never think that things like this could happen in Ohio — Columbus, Ohio, of all places.”
Faris pled guilty to two counts of providing material support to Al-Qaeda in October 2003 and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

Nuradin Abdi, a member of the large Columbus Somali community and friend of Iyman Faris, was charged in June 2004 with plotting to blow up a Columbus area shopping mall. According to the indictment, Abdi attended a terrorist training camp in Ogaden, Ethiopia in March 2000. Abdi orginally entered the country as a refugee, and according to US government prosecutors, illegally used his refugee status to obtain travel documents to travel to the jihad camp.

After a number of delays, caused by his claims of mental illness, Abdi’s trial is set for September.

The most recent member of the Columbus Al-Qaeda club is Christopher Paul. A friend of both Faris and Abdi, he was charged earlier this month with planning large scale attacks against other Americans overseas at popular tourist resorts using weapons of mass destruction. For years, Paul has been teaching martial arts at a local mosque, and according to the indictment, he went to Germany in April 1999 for explosives training (remember that 9/11 leader Mohammad Atta was part of the Hamburg, Germany cell). A recent Dispatch article notes that French authorities want to speak to Paul about his connections with convicted Morrocan terrorist Karim Medhi.

Unlike Faris and Abdi, Paul was born in the US and grew up in the Worthington area and graduated from Worthington High School in 1983. He is a convert to Islam.

As Sun Tzu observes, you would think that the Columbus news media would be all over this issue. Think again.