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Islamic scholar convicted of advocating war on US

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- An Islamic scholar who prosecutors said enjoyed ''rock star" status among a group of young Muslim men in Virginia was convicted yesterday of exhorting his followers in the days after Sept. 11 to join the Taliban and fight US troops.

Ali al-Timimi, 41, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without parole. But the judge left open the possibility that she will toss out some of the counts.

The jury reached its verdict after seven days of deliberations and convicted Timimi of all 10 counts.

Prosecutors said the US-born defendant, who has an international following in some Muslim circles, wielded enormous influence among a group of young Muslim men in northern Virginia who played paintball in 2000 and 2001 as a means of training for holy war around the globe.

Five days after Sept. 11, Timimi addressed a small group of followers and warned that the attacks were a harbinger of a final apocalyptic battle between Muslims and nonbelievers. He said they were required as Muslims to defend the Taliban from a looming US invasion of Afghanistan, according to the government.

While nobody ever joined the Taliban, four of the defendant's followers subsequently traveled to Pakistan in late September 2001 and trained with a militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Three of them testified that their intention had been to join the Taliban and fight in Afghanistan, and that Timimi's speech inspired them to do so.

The evidence included a 2003 e-mail in which Timimi described the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia as ''a good omen" that ''Western supremacy . . . is coming to an end, God willing."

Timimi was convicted of charges including soliciting others to levy war against the United States and inducing others to use firearms in violation of federal law. The firearms convictions require mandatory life imprisonment.

Judge Leonie Brinkema agreed to allow Timimi to remain free on bond pending sentencing in July.

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