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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Three terror suspects apprehended in Toledo

By M.R. Kropko The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Three Muslim men from the Middle East were charged with plotting terrorist attacks against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and other countries.

One of the men, a citizen of both the United States and Jordan, was also accused of threatening to kill or injure President Bush, according to the indictment filed in Cleveland that was released yesterday.

All three men – who lived in Toledo within the last year – were arrested over the weekend, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bauer said.

An unidentified person with a military background helped the U.S. government foil the plot by working with the suspects while secretly gathering evidence, according to the five-count indictment.

“This case stands as a reminder of the need for continued vigilance in the war on terrorism,” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference in Washington.

Charged were Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, the man accused of threatening the president; Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 42, a U.S. citizen born in Jordan; and Wassim I. Mazloum, 24, who came to the United States from Lebanon in 2000. They pleaded not guilty yesterday.

Gonzales and other officials refused to say whether an attack was imminent.

All three men were charged with conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure people or damage property in a foreign country; conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals; and conspiracy to provide or conceal material support to terrorists.

Amawi also was charged with conspiring to distribute information about the making and use of an explosive device and with threatening the president twice.

El-Hindi’s attorney, Steve Hartman, said after an arraignment for his client and Mazloum in Toledo that the charges are overzealous.

“It doesn’t help that he’s Jordanian,” Hartman said. “I think he’s caught up in the Justice Department’s vigorous work.”

The indictment states that the suspects recruited others as early as November 2004 to train for a violent holy war against the United States and its allies in Iraq and in other countries.

The group traveled together to a shooting range in Toledo to practice shooting guns and studied how to make explosives, the indictment said.

Two of the men discussed plans to practice setting off explosives on July 4, 2005, so that the bombs would not be noticed, the indictment alleges. It’s not clear if the suspects went through with those plans.

The indictment also alleges that at least one of the men researched and tried to obtain government grants and private funding for the training.

Amawi was soft-spoken when he entered his plea in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland. He said he was unemployed and was assigned a public defender.

Mazloum’s attorney, Chuck Sallah, said he knew very little about his client or the charges, but noted that Mazloum’s mother cried and buried her face in her hands during the arraignment in Toledo, which she watched with Mazloum’s brother and cousin.

Mazloum, who said he is a senior engineering major at the University of Toledo, operated a car business in Toledo with his brother. The indictment accuses him of offering to use his dealership as a cover for traveling to and from Iraq so that he could learn how to build small explosives using household materials.

El-Hindi, who is self-employed, is accused of trying to get the person with a military background to travel with him in November 2004 to the Middle East as part of the suspects’ alleged plan to establish a terrorism training center. The indictment does not identify the military person, referring to him or her throughout the document as “the trainer” who was a U.S. citizen.

Gonzales said the investigation is separate, but coordinated with the investigation of a Toledo-based group that the government claims funnels money to the militant organization Hamas.

Earlier this week, the Treasury Department ordered U.S. banks to freeze the assets of the group, called KindHearts.

Law enforcement officials later explained that the arrests of El-Hindi and Mazloum in Toledo and of Amawi in Jordan spurred the decision to freeze KindHearts’ assets Sunday.

“Some aspects of them do overlap,” an official said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation is continuing.

KindHearts was connected with the Hamas-affiliated Holy Land Foundation and the al-Qaida-affiliated Global Relief Foundation, a representative from the Treasury Department said. The government took similar action against those groups in late 2001.

KindHearts has denied terrorist ties and has said it is a nonprofit humanitarian organization.

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