But Timimi said they should do that only if they could not take part in the fighting against U.S. troops, Aatique said.
"He encouraged us to participate in the coming jihad,'' said Aatique, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to aiding and abetting and a gun charge and is serving a prison sentence of 10 years and six months. "He said the battle in Afghanistan was imminent and that the Americans were going to attack.''
Aatique also quoted Timimi as calling the Sept. 11 attacks "legitimate" and saying that the victims were "combatants, not civilians" because their tax dollars fund the U.S. government, which is at war with Islam.
After Timimi stopped speaking, "me and everyone else at that meeting was excited and charged up,'' Aatique testified.
Another government witness said Timimi had implicitly blessed the plan for the men to train by playing paintball. Annandale resident Nabil Gharbieh, one of the founders of the paintball group, said he and other group members told Timimi about the training in 2000.
"He was our respected elder and a person we looked up to,'' Gharbieh said. "He just, I guess, accepted that we were doing it. He didn't say, 'Don't do it.' ''
Later, group members approached Timimi again to tell him the FBI was investigating the paintball games. "He said it was something we had brought on ourselves because we used to meet publicly, in a big group, covered in camouflage gear,'' Gharbieh testified.
After Timimi advised the group to keep playing but be more discreet, Gharbieh said, the games became more secretive.