Terrorist suspect to plead guilty

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Northern Virginia man who wished death over the Internet to the creators of the "South Park" animated satire is set to plead guilty Wednesday in Alexandria federal court to charges of supporting Somali terrorists, according to court records.

In a deal with prosecutors, Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Bristow faces charges of providing material support to terrorists, communicating threats and soliciting crimes of violence. A plea agreement hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady.

A George Mason University dropout who became an Internet propagandist for al-Qaeda under the name Abu Talhah al-Amrikee, Chesser was arrested July 21 after being placed on the no-fly list and stopped from traveling with his infant son from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Somalia. He allegedly told FBI agents that he planned to join the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab, a Qaeda-linked terrorist organization that has committed numerous bombings and attacks in seeking to overthrow the weak, United Nations-supported Somali government.

Court records contained no details of the agreement, but Chesser was initially arrested on charges of providing material support to terrorists and distributing information about the construction of explosives. Prosecutors withheld an indictment until at least Sept. 29, when U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said the court would permit no more extensions in an order under seal.

A court document listing two additional charges was entered Monday, when documents revealed that prosecutors had also charged Chesser's wife, Proscovia Kampire Nzabanita, with making false statements.

Childhood friends who knew Chesser at Oakton High School recalled him as "freakishly intelligent" and a fan of Japanese anime who played basketball and football as a freshman and rowed crew. He became interested in Islam after dating a fellow student his senior year.

U.S. authorities say he turned to radical Islamist ideologies, seeking to become a "foreign fighter" for the Shabab, whose attacks include bombings that killed 76 people watching World Cup games at pubs in Uganda on July 11.

Terrorism analysts said Chesser appeared to emulate at least four other U.S. citizens who have risen to prominent roles in al-Qaeda's network overseas, and who sought to radicalize others.

Chesser created multiple Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts and flooded hard-core al-Qaeda forums and mainstream Islam chat rooms with Internet comments, videos and re-posted texts, authorities said.

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