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FBI informant says Triangle terrorist cell leader intent on jihad

An FBI informant testified Wednesday that the man accused of heading up a terrorist cell in the Triangle routinely spoke about waging a holy war.

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NEW BERN, N.C. — An FBI informant testified Wednesday that the man accused of heading up a terrorist cell in the Triangle routinely spoke about waging a holy war.

The informant, a Muslim of Moroccan descent who goes by the code name "Jawbreaker," told a federal jury in New Bern that he got so close to Daniel Patrick Boyd that he was with him at the time of his arrest in July 2009.

Boyd pleaded guilty in February to charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country. He is expected to be a key witness in the trial of three other men charged in the case.

Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi face multiple felony charges related to allegations they conspired to attack targets overseas. Sherifi also is accused of plotting an attack on the Marine base in Quantico, Va.

A federal indictment unsealed in 2009 alleges that eight Triangle men raised money to buy assault weapons and conduct training exercises and that they arranged overseas travel and contacts to help others carry out violent acts on behalf of a radical jihadist political agenda.

Prosecutors told jurors Tuesday during the opening day of the trial that it would take time to lay out the complex case, and they began Wednesday by trying to link each defendant to Boyd and showing how intent the group was on engaging in terrorism.

In audio recordings of conversations between Boyd and Jawbreaker that were played in court, Boyd talked about his intentions to attack Quantico. He spoke of how easy it would be to get on the base because it's also a city.

"I did some preliminary reconnaissance, and what I saw was amazing. I saw the residences of all their commanding officers," Boyd said in one recording, adding that Sherifi was in on the plan.

Jawbreaker said Boyd was intensely loyal to Afghanistan, where he traveled in 1989 to join the fight against Soviet occupation. Boyd always wanted to fight non-Muslims, the informant said.

"Every single day, it was about jihad and fighting," Jawbreaker testified.

An FBI search of Boyd's Willow Spring home in 2009 turned up about two dozen guns and more than 27,000 rounds of ammunition.

Defense attorneys noted that the FBI has paid Jawbreaker $110,000 since 2005. He also has obtained his residency card after earlier overstaying a visa and remaining in the U.S. illegally, they said.

Robert McAfee, Sherifi's attorney, also blamed Jawbreaker for thrusting his client and Boyd together. The informant used FBI money to pay for Sherifi to return to the U.S. from Kosovo, where he was living with his wife and child, McAfee said.

FBI agent Paul Minella took the stand earlier Wednesday to show how the three defendants were connected to Boyd.

Sherifi took part in weapons training exercises with Boyd and his two sons in Caswell County in the weeks leading up to their arrests, Minella said.

Yaghi was already being watched by the FBI when he planned a 2007 trip to the Middle East with Hassan, Minella said. The plan was to meet up with Boyd while in Israel, but Hassan was never allowed into that country, Minella said.

Under cross-examination by Hassan's attorney, Daniel Boyce, Minella acknowledged that the government had no evidence of any contact between Hassan and Boyd after that trip. Minella refused to say, however, that Hassan had disassociated himself from Boyd.

Boyce told jurors Tuesday that the FBI tried to turn Hassan into an undercover informant in the case, but Hassan turned them down, saying he didn't know enough about Boyd and his family to help.

Defense attorneys maintain that Hassan, Yaghi and Sherifi weren't part of any conspiracy. The defendants might have made anti-American statements at various times, but that doesn't make them terrorists, the attorneys said.

Boyd's sons, Dylan and Zakariya Boyd, have also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and could testify in the case.

A seventh defendant, Anes Subasic, is representing himself and will be tried after the case against Hassan, Yaghi and Sherifi is finished. Their trial is expected to last five weeks.

Authorities believe another man charged in the case, Jude Kenan Mohammad, 22, is in Pakistan. A ninth member of the group, Bajram Asllani, 30, was arrested in Kosovo last year, but the U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty with that country.


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