ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Three American Muslims accused of training for holy war against the United States by waging paintball battles in the Virginia woods were convicted yesterday of conspiring to support terrorism.
Prosecutors said the three were part of a "Virginia jihad network" that used paintball games in 2000 and 2001 to train for holy war around the globe. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the group allegedly focused efforts on defending the Taliban.
Two of the defendants were accused of traveling to Pakistan to train with a terrorist group.
Masoud Khan, 34, of Gaithersburg, Md., was found guilty of the most serious charges, including conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to contribute services to the Taliban.
Seifullah Chapman, 31, of Alexandria, and Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 35, of Falls Church, also were convicted on conspiracy counts.
"These convictions are a stark reminder that terrorist organizations are active in the United States," Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said. "We will not allow terrorist groups to exploit America's freedoms."
The defendants waived a jury trial and were convicted by US District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who said she did not find credible testimony by the two defendants who took the stand. Sentencing is scheduled for June. Prosecutors said that Khan traveled to Pakistan just days after the Sept. 11 attacks to train with a terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, and that he planned to use his training alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Khan did not testify during the four-week trial, but his lawyers said their Pakistani-born client never intended to join the Taliban. They said he went to Pakistan to handle legal matters related to his father's death.
Chapman testified that he merely wanted a grueling physical challenge in the rugged Pakistani mountains.
Abdur-Raheem, a US Army veteran, never traveled to Pakistan, but the US government says he aided the conspiracy by using his military expertise to train others for holy war during the paintball games played in the woods near Fredericksburg.
Abdur-Raheem testified that he played paintball for fun and that he was unaware any group members considered the games to be training for holy war.
A fourth defendant had been acquitted on all charges midway through the trial after the judge said she saw no evidence linking him to the conspiracy in a meaningful way. Six members of the alleged conspiracy already have pleaded guilty to various charges.