By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2007
CHICAGO, April 12 -- An Ohio man is being held without bond on charges that he provided explosives training to al-Qaeda operatives in Germany and once plotted to bomb European resorts and U.S. government offices overseas.
Federal grand jurors in Columbus, Ohio, contend Christopher Paul studied terrorist tactics in Afghanistan in the early 1990s as al-Qaeda was getting its start. He allegedly recruited others in Germany and trained U.S. colleagues to "fight violent jihad outside the United States."
Paul, 43, is not charged with committing any violent acts in the 18 years he allegedly backed anti-American radicals. According to the 14-page indictment, he most recently researched remote-controlled boats and flight-simulator computer programs.
A law enforcement official said Paul once roomed with Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting a plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and launch a simultaneous attack on Washington.
The indictment "paints a disturbing picture of an American who traveled overseas to train as a violent jihadist, joined the ranks of al-Qaeda, and provided military instruction and support to radical cohorts both here and abroad," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein said.
Paul, who was born Paul Kenyatta Laws but twice changed his name, made a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Columbus, where prosecutors asked that he be held without bond.
Federal authorities contend Paul was in his mid-20s when he first traveled overseas in search of training for what investigators termed "violent jihad." He allegedly said he was willing to kill people and destroy property for the cause.
During his travels in 1990 or 1991, the indictment charges, Paul stayed in a guest house in Peshawar, Pakistan, where he arranged to go to an al-Qaeda training camp in neighboring Afghanistan. He learned to use assault rifles, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.
Later, Paul was selected as an al-Qaeda follower for "advanced training in map reading, climbing, rappelling, military history and explosive devices," according to the indictment, which is based in part on the testimony of one of Paul's former colleagues.
One of Paul's tasks in the 1990s was to obtain equipment useful in forging documents, including a currency verifier and a flat-bed scanner. In 1999, he provided explosives training to "fellow co-conspirators" in Germany and helped recruit others, the indictment states.
During a stretch of time ending in January 2000, the three-count indictment charges, Paul conspired to bomb European resorts used by Americans, as well as U.S. government buildings and military bases. A Justice Department spokesman declined to elaborate.
In 2004 and 2005, investigators said, Paul's possessions included such items as a night-vision scope; a balaclava hood; a laser range finder, used for illuminating and measuring the distance to an object; and a fax containing names and phone numbers of "key al-Qaeda leadership."
Authorities also said Paul stored at his father's residence a modified remote-controlled boat, manuals on how to make explosives and a book on improvised explosive devices. He kept locator numbers for a book on booby traps and one called "HomemadeC-4: A Recipe for Survival."
The indictment said that among his belongings was "a letter to parents explaining that he will be 'on the front lines' and where to find out information on 'jihad.' " The Justice Department spokesman noted that Paul is not charged with carrying out any attacks but said the allegations should be seen "in context," adding: "You have to look at the history and be a little bit worried."
Staff writers Bill Branigin and Dan Eggen in Washington contributed to this report.