Kosovo arrest sheds light on Triangle terror probe
Posted June 17, 2010 7:37 a.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2010 6:09 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The arrest of a man in Kosovo revealed new details into the FBI investigation of the eight Triangle-area men suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in the U.S. and overseas.
Bajram Asllani, 29, an ethnic Albanian and native of Mitrovico, Kosovo, was convicted of terrorism in Serbia and was under surveillance in his home country when he was arrested Thursday following an extradition request from the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He faces charges of providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons.
An April 19 criminal complaint unsealed Thursday alleges that Asllani, who also goes by Ebu Hattab, conspired with eight men charged last July with plotting terrorist attacks overseas and securing weapons and training in North Carolina.
Seven suspects – Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, his sons, Dylan Boyd, 22, and Zakariya "Zak" Boyd, 20, and Hysen Sherifi, 24, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 22, Ziyad Yaghi, 21, and Anes Subasic, 33 – are being held in the U.S. An eighth suspect, Jude Kenan Mohammad, 20, is believed to be in Pakistan. Daniel Boyd and Sherifi are also charged with planning an attack on the Marine base in Quantico, Va.
"People who are plotting to harm America and Americans are no longer a world away from us," said Owen D. Harris, special agent-in-charge of the FBI in N.C. "The FBI and our law enforcement partners are meeting this new and grim reality head-on, because if we don't, the possible impact will reverberate in every corner of our society."
The criminal complaint alleges that Asllani was in contact with the Triangle-area suspects, asked them for money and helped them travel with the purpose of establishing "a base of operations in Kosovo for the purpose of waging violent jihad." Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized by about 70 countries, including the U.S. and most of the European Union countries.
"This case highlights the very real affiliation between foreign terrorists and North Carolina," said Robin Pendergraft, director of the State Bureau of Investigation.
Court documents say that the FBI and state authorities had been monitoring the Triangle-area suspects since 2006 as they looked for a way to attack non-Muslims and perhaps also Muslims of whom they didn't approve. At various times, the documents say, Daniel Boyd and Sherifi mentioned dying as a suicide bomber in Afghanistan or fighting in Iraq, Syria, Palestine or Chechnya.
Sherifi became acquainted with Asllani during a July 2008 trip to Pristinia, Kosovo, documents say. Investigators believe that Asllani recruited Sherifi to help him establish a community in Kosovo in order to launch attacks in the region.
"They could use such a town as a safe haven for their families and to store weapons," the criminal complaint says.
Once he returned to the U.S. in 2009, Sherifi is accused of getting the Boyds' help to raise $15,000 intended for Asllani. Documents say that Sherifi also practiced military tactics with the father and son, and Daniel Boyd told him he intended his weapons to be used in Kosovo and the U.S.
Daniel Boyd said he wanted for himself and his sons to go with Sherifi to Kosovo, and Sherifi sent money to Asllani for travel documents, the criminal complaint says. The North Carolina men were arrested before they could leave.
The criminal complaint also alleges that Asllani sent Sherifi recruitment documents. One such document cited was a video of a suicide bomber attacking a U.S. convoy of vehicles.
U.S. authorities said that Asllani was placed under house arrest by Kosovo law enforcement in 2007 and then kept under surveillance. In September 2009, a Serbian court convicted him in abstentia on terror-related charges and sentenced him to eight years in prison.
The U.S. Justice Department, State Department and government of Kosovo assisted the investigation by the FBI and North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center. A judge with the European Union's Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo approved the arrest of Asllani and a search of his home.
The trial for Sherifi, Daniel Boyd and the other Triangle-area suspects was recently delayed until September 2011 as lawyers comb through 750 hours of FBI recordings, the records on two dozen computers and 29,000 pages.
The arrest of Asllani makes the case even more complicated, said former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce, who represents Hassan.
"It's creating a logistical nightmare for everybody," Boyce said. "How does a judge handle a trial with eight co-defendants and sort out what evidence which of the defendants?"
"Essentially, the indictment has three different conspiracies rolled into one," he continued.
Prosecutors expressed confidence that they will win at trial.
"Through Asllani's arrest, the arm of justice is proven strong enough to reach those who would do us harm," U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding said. "We shall continue in our relentless effort against those aspiring to commit terrorist acts on U.S. citizens, whether here or abroad."