American Is Charged in U.S. for Activities in Somalia

Associated Press
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

HOUSTON, Feb. 13 -- A former Houston man has been charged in Texas with teaming with al-Qaeda in the East African country of Somalia to fight the internationally recognized government there and establish an Islamic state.

Daniel Joseph Maldonado, 28, also known as Daniel Aljughaifi, was ordered held without bail Tuesday on federal charges of undergoing military training with a terrorist organization and conspiring to use a destructive device.

Arrested in Kenya last month, Maldonado was returned to the United States on Monday night and appeared Tuesday before Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston said.

Intelligence officials have said that significant numbers of foreign fighters went to Somalia last year to support the radical Islamic Courts movement, which was confronting a weak, U.N.-backed government. Ethiopian troops took the capital, Mogadishu, from the Islamic movement in December and scattered the group's fighters. Many appear to have crossed into Kenya.

Maldonado is the first American to be prosecuted on suspicion of joining terrorists in Somalia, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein said in a statement. Four British citizens captured in Kenya after fleeing Somalia were returned to Britain on Tuesday, the Bloomberg news agency reported.

According to the criminal complaint, Maldonado traveled from Houston to Cairo in November 2005. In November last year, the complaint says, he landed at Mogadishu airport and joined with the Islamic Courts movement and elements of al-Qaeda.

The complaint says that in interviews with FBI agents in Kenya, Maldonado recounted being issued an AK-47 assault rifle, military fatigues and combat boots and attending military training camps where members of al-Qaeda were present.

He described spending time with a bomb maker and learning assembly techniques, according to the complaint. He also said he wanted to take part in combat, but did not do so because he contracted malaria.

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