Muslim pair sentenced for roles in 'Virginia jihad'

Saturday, April 10, 2004

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Two American Muslims accused of training for holy war against the United States by waging paintball battles in the Virginia woods were sentenced Friday to 15 years or more in prison. Randall Todd Royer, 31, and Ibrahim al-Hamdi, 26, were among nine men who either pleaded guilty or were convicted of charges related to their participation in what prosecutors called a "Virginia jihad network." Two others were acquitted on all counts. The group used paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as military training in preparation for holy war against nations deemed hostile to Islam, prosecutors say. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several members went to Pakistan with the goal of joining the Taliban and fighting U.S. troops.

No members of the conspiracy ever actually joined the Taliban.

Royer, a former spokesman for the Muslim American Society, admitted helping members of the conspiracy join the militant Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

He pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting use of a firearm in a crime of violence and aiding and abetting the carrying of an explosive during commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Al-Hamdi admitted training with Lashkar in Pakistan in 2000 to enhance his ability to join in holy war in Chechnya and other spots where Muslims were waging jihad.

He pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and to carrying an explosive in the commission of a felony. He received 15 years.

Three members of the group who were convicted at trial will be sentenced in June. They face maximum life sentences.

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