7 arrested in terror plot

Neighbors say the men they knew appeared friendly and unthreatening.

Staff WritersJuly 28, 2009 

  • THE CASE Against The Seven

    According to a federal indictment, investigators built their case around the following:

    The defendants' fundraising for and travel to Israel and Pakistan.

    Their collection of military-style weapons.

    Their training in military tactics on private land in Caswell County.

  • THE allegations

    According to a federal indictment, investigators built their case around the following:

    The defendants' fundraising for and travel to Israel and Pakistan.

    Their collection of military-style weapons.

    Their training in military tactics on private land in Caswell County.

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To those they lived among, seven men accused of an intricate terrorism plot lived simply, quietly and kindly.

To neighbors and friends, Daniel Boyd was a father who stopped his work at noon each day for prayer. Dylan Boyd, Daniel's son, was a college student at N.C. State University who until last year worked as a clinical services technician at WakeMed Raleigh Campus. Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan was a newlywed; his father owns a Raleigh car dealership.

To federal authorities, these men and four others plotted to kill themselves and others in the name of Islam. Their activities, tracked by FBI agents over three years and detailed in federal indictments released Monday, tell of an elaborate scheme hatched in a quiet Johnston County neighborhood and nondescript apartment complexes across Raleigh and Cary.

Those arrested Monday include Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, who was considered the ringleader of the group, and who fought with Afghan Muslims against the Soviets; Hysen Sherifi, 24; Anes Subasic, 33; Zakariya Boyd, 20, and Dylan Boyd, 22; Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 22; and Ziyad Yaghi, a 21-year-old Cary High School graduate.

All but one of the defendants are American citizens. Sherifi, a native of Kosovo, is living in the United States legally.

All seven men are charged with conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people abroad. Each is expected to have a detention hearing this week. Until then, they are being held without bond. They have not been appointed lawyers. Efforts to reach their families were unsuccessful Monday night.

Federal authorities stormed the men's homes Monday and arrested them. Hours later, they stood before a federal magistrate and learned they could spend the rest of their lives in prison if found guilty of the charges against them. At nightfall, federal agents continued to search their homes, taking several vans and dozens of agents to their quiet neighborhoods.

News of the arrests rattled those in the Triangle whom the seven had befriended.

"If he's a terrorist, he's the nicest terrorist I've ever met in my life," said Charles Casale, a neighbor to Boyd and his sons who often chatted with them. Casale said the senior Boyd often invited him and his wife to visit. When the two chatted near the pond that separated their properties, Boyd would excuse himself to pray when the sun reached its noon-day height.

Federal documents released Monday detail a half-dozen trips members of the group made to Israel and Pakistan. Investigators believe the men meant to wage a violent jihad, killing themselves and others in bombings meant to defend Muslims from oppression. All failed, for reasons not specified in federal documents.

A cache of weapons

Investigators say the Boyds stockpiled military-style weapons and trained at a rural site in Caswell County, on the Virginia border north of Alamance and Orange counties. The investigators say that Daniel Boyd split from his mainstream mosque in Raleigh this year over "ideological differences," according to the indictment.

A spokesman at the Islamic Center in Raleigh said he did not know the suspects; an estimated 1,200 people attend Friday services at the center. Hassan and Yaghi both attended Al-Iman School, which shares space with the Raleigh mosque, according to former teacher Samar Hindi. Most recently, Daniel Boyd had been attending Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman, a mosque in Durham.

"In our dealings, we found them to be people of good moral character," said Hisham Heda, board chairman at the Durham mosque.

Federal officials heralded the arrests as a victory and invoked memories of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"These charges hammer home the point that terrorists and their supporters are not confined to the remote regions of some far away land but can grow and fester right here at home," said George E.B. Holding, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. "Terrorists and their supporters are relentless and constant in their efforts to hurt and kill innocent people across the globe."

According to the indictment, the men intended to become mujahedeen -- holy warriors -- and die as shadid, martyrs to the jihad.

Jihad, as a Muslim idea, means to strive or struggle. The "jihad of the sword" is the struggle to defend the faith when it is under attack. Those performing jihad of the sword believe they are defending their fellow Muslims against oppression. The Boyds and their recruits may have targeted Israel as part of a radical belief that all Israeli civilians are to blame for the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel captured in 1967 and has held onto since.

To neighbors in Johnston County, Daniel Boyd was a mild-mannered father who worked as a general contractor.

To U.S. intelligence officials, Boyd is an extremist with long, deep ties to terrorists in Afghanistan. Investigators blame the senior Boyd for "radicalizing others, mostly young Muslims or converts to Islam, to believe in fard 'ayn , the idea that violent jihad is a personal obligation on the part of every good Muslim," according to the indictment.

Daniel Boyd's childhood did not foreshadow his future. He graduated from high school in Northern Virginia and is the son of a U.S. Marine who was stationed at the base in Quantico for a period, according to news reports about Boyd.

After his parents divorced, though, Boyd converted to Islam when his mother married a Muslim man, according to a story in The Washington Post in 1991.

In 1989, Boyd, the high school sweetheart he married, Sabrina, and his brother moved to Pakistan to work with Afghanistan's mujahedeen rebels, who were fighting the Soviet-backed government of Kabul.

A turning point

The Boyd brothers ran afoul of Pakistani authorities, who ordered that the Boyds have their right hands and left feet cut off after being found guilty of robbing a bank. Pakistan's supreme court overturned the convictions. The brothers came home to the United States.

During the past three years, the Boyds settled into a routine at their home in a new subdivision in Willow Springs, a crossroads community in northern Johnston County. Several generations of Boyds often gathered on their back porch, overlooking a pond that backed up to their home.

Their three sons went to West Johnston High School. They chatted with neighbors about vacations and religion.

In 2007, they lost a son, 16-year-old Luqman, in a single-car accident near their home.

Neighbors who watched their family buckle under the grief of Luqman Boyd's death spoke about the possible consequences of the death. They couldn't help but blame the Boyds' troubles on such a traumatic loss.

"That was such a huge blow to the family," said Lorie Sienkwicz, a neighbor who often talked religion with Daniel Boyd. "We're all looking for reasons. That's mine."

News researcher Brooke Cain and staff writers David Bracken, Kevin Kiley and Thomasi McDonald contributed to this report.

yonat.shimron@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4891

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