By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
A federal jury in New York yesterday convicted Oussama Abdullah Kassir of providing support to al-Qaeda, nearly two years after authorities extradited him from Europe to face allegations that he built a terrorist training camp on U.S. soil.
Kassir traveled to Bly, Ore., in late 1999, according to prosecutors, to establish a military-style facility at the direction of Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, a fixture at the Finsbury Park mosque in London who has been designated a terrorist by the United States.
At the camp, Kassir taught subordinates techniques for waging jihad, including "how to kill a person by slitting their throat with a knife and how to fight with a knife in hand-to-hand combat," according to the indictment. He left the United States after two months, telling a witness that he was disappointed in the paltry number of people he had been able to attract to the camp, prosecutors said.
Upon returning overseas, Kassir operated for nearly four years what prosecutors say were "terrorist web sites" that offered instructions on how to prepare bombs and poisonous compounds.
Kassir was arrested under an Interpol warrant in 2005 while traveling through Prague on his way to Lebanon. It took U.S. officials two more years to clear the path for his journey into the criminal justice system in New York.
Hamza, also known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, was indicted alongside Kassir. Proceedings to extradite him to the United States to face charges of supporting al-Qaeda and the Taliban are ongoing. British authorities have convicted Hamza of related terrorism offenses.
The Kassir verdict came the same day that prosecutors in Miami won convictions against five men accused of conspiring to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower, a case that twice had ended in mistrial.
Jurors convicted the alleged ringleader, Narseal Batiste, on four counts of conspiracy. One defendant, Naudimar Herrera, was acquitted of all charges.
Experts on national security law had argued that the case, known as the Liberty City prosecution after the downtrodden neighborhood in Miami where the men set up headquarters, was built on flimsy and contradictory evidence. It has been viewed as a test of the government's desire to bring prosecutions in instances in which terrorist plots are in the early stages.