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Johnston man pleads guilty in terrorist conspiracy

The Johnston County man accused of heading up a terrorist cell pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of conspiracy in the case. He faces up to life in prison.

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NEW BERN, N.C. — The Johnston County man accused of heading up a terrorist cell pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of conspiracy in the case.

Daniel Patrick Boyd, 40, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country. Federal prosecutors dismissed nine other charges against him as part of a plea agreement.

"This case drives home the point that homegrown terrorism is the greatest threat we're facing right now," U.S. Attorney George Holding said after the court hearing. "The radicalization of Muslims here in our own country is very serious threat."

Boyd, who also goes by the Muslim name Saifullah, will be sentenced in May when he faces up to life in prison.

The drywall contractor lived in an unassuming lakeside home in Willow Spring before prosecutors indicted him in July 2009 of plotting terrorism and conspiring to support terrorism. Prosecutors contend he was the ringleader for several people who were charged in the case, including two of his sons — Zakariya and Dylan.

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Boyd's wife, Sabrina, has denied that her husband or sons were involved in any terrorist activity. Family members declined to comment upon leaving the federal courthouse in New Bern on Wednesday.

During an initial court hearing in 2009, federal authorities played audio tapes of Boyd talking about his disgust with the U.S. military, the honor of martyrdom and the need to protect Muslims at all costs. In one, a voice that authorities identified as Boyd, says: "I love jihad. I love to stand there and fight for the sake of Allah."

The FBI has said agents seized about two dozen guns and more than 27,000 rounds of ammunition from Boyd's home. Authorities have previously said the men went on training expeditions in the weeks leading up to their arrest, practicing military tactics with armor-piercing bullets on a property in Caswell County.

Boyd grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and converted to Islam as a teenager. He traveled with his family and brother to Pakistan two decades ago, and prosecutors say they trained in terrorist camps and fought against troops from the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

In 1991, the Boyd brothers were convicted of robbing a bank in Pakistan, but a sentence that included amputations of a hand and foot was overturned.

Daniel Boyd's experiences in Pakistan made him a hero in the Triangle's Islamic community, helping him recruit others, authorities said.

The trials for the others charged in the case – Dylan Boyd, 23, Zakariya "Zak" Boyd, 21, Hysen Sherifi, 26, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 23, Ziyad Yaghi, 22, and Anes Subasic, 34 – are scheduled for September.

It was unclear Wednesday whether Daniel Boyd will have to testify against his sons and the others as part of his plea agreement, but Holding said he already has provided information that could be useful in the cases against his co-defendants.

"I want to know how it's going to affect my son," a woman who identified herself as Yaghi's mother said after Wednesday's court hearing. "My son is innocent. My son just went for a visit overseas because that's where our origins are from."

Defense attorneys have spent recent months reviewing more than 29,000 pages of evidence and 750 hours of audio and video recordings made by the FBI in the case. They also have been gathering statements from witnesses in the Middle East.

An eighth suspect in the case, Jude Kenan Mohammed, 21, is believed to be in Pakistan. A ninth suspect, Bajram Asllani, 29, was arrested in June in Kosovo in connection with charges that he provided material support to terrorists and conspired to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons.


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